A Letter from our Executive Director: Stepping Aside this Fall

A Letter from our Executive Director: Stepping Aside this Fall

Our ED, Courtney Leeds, on the Candy Lane Farm. Photo by Meaghin Kennedy.

Our ED, Courtney Leeds, on the Candy Lane Farm. Photo by Meaghin Kennedy.

After five of the most fulfilling years of my life, I’ve decided to move on from my role as Executive Director of Schoolyard Farms this fall.

This transition comes at a good time. Schoolyard Farms has spent the last five years building its capacity, refining its programs and rooting itself in the community. Now we are ready to dive deeper into our existing partnerships and expand our programs, helping even more kids live healthy, productive lives.

We’ve accomplished a lot in five years
Five years ago, Justin Davidson and I had some big ideas about how we could improve school food, increase kids’ health and strengthen the local food system. With a lot of ambition and heart, and little to no resources, we started Schoolyard Farms.

That first year, we brought one class out to the Candy Lane school farm. We had eight CSA members, mostly family and friends, and no staff. In 2016, we taught 1,178 students where their food comes from, how to grow it and cook it; broke ground on our second school farm at New Urban High School; harvested over 6,000 pounds of produce for 50 CSA members; sampled Oregon-grown fruits and vegetables to 700 students at three schools each month; hosted 15 field trips with neighboring schools, making the school farms accessible to 450 more students per year; provided summer camp to over 60 youth; and had 109 volunteers donate 1,595 hours to help build a healthier community. 1 in 4 of the students we worked with went from liking vegetables “a little” to “a lot”.

We plan to accomplish more in the next five years, and beyond
I will continue to serve as the Executive Director until a replacement is in place in the fall of this year. We will begin searching for a successor now and accept applications until the right candidate is found. We are broadcasting our search far and wide and are committed to finding a leader from a diverse finalist pool. Preference will be given to candidates rooted in the Pacific Northwest with demonstrated ability to lead and grow a small organization.

I plan on staying onboard through the transition and then in a part-time or volunteer capacity beyond that. Also in the fall, I’ll begin pursuing my Masters in Public Health at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health in order to advance Schoolyard Farms’ good work through program design and evaluation. I’m excited about the next phase of leadership at Schoolyard Farms.

You’ll find more information about the Executive Director position and how to apply here.

Thank you for all you do each day to contribute to a more flourishing and healthy environment for our kids. It has been my distinct honor to have worked alongside you in this collective effort, and I look forward to more of the same throughout this transition.

All the best,
Courtney