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our team

A Note on Shared Leadership

Roots Rising is proud to have a leadership structure that reflects our values as an organization: collaborative, caring, and human-centered. Shared leadership stands in opposition to traditional leadership models with top-down structures of power. It reflects a belief that wisdom is not confined to any single individual, and that success comes from the raising up of multiple voices and perspectives. We honor the knowledge and experience held by staff and youth and encourage their participation in decision making and direction setting for the organization. 

Jessica Vecchia

Executive Director, Co-Founder


Why are you passionate about Roots Rising?
I am inspired by the energy, curiosity, and hopefulness of teens. Their bravery, spirit of adventure and capacity to be changemakers never ceases to amaze me.

I love food- it is not just nourishment, but also culture, tradition, and celebration. It transcends our differences and connects us all.

I marvel at nature- her calmness, her ferocity, and the lessons she teaches me of patience, purpose, beauty and resilience.

And I deeply value the power of community: the collective wisdom, the connectedness, the sense of belonging and the upwelling of creativity and care.

Roots Rising weaves it all together. It’s my meaningful work and my source of inspiration.

What experience or expertise do you bring to Roots Rising?
I have my master’s degree in nonprofit management from The New School and have co-founded and led two organizations since 2009: Roots Rising and Alchemy Initiative. 

I have worked in museums, schools, hospitals, and group homes. I have worn many hats in many settings, but the common thread has always been deep, transformative work grounded in community. 

One thing about being outside that most delights you?
Being in nature always leaves me feeling grounded and grateful.

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Erin Kaplan

Development Director


Why are you passionate about Roots Rising?

Roots Rising combines two of my personal passions - youth development and food justice. I have always lived for the moments that I could visit farmers markets, prepare meals with local ingredients and assist children and families in learning about and accessing healthy food. What a dream to be able to do those things for my job.  

What experience or expertise do you bring to Roots Rising?
I received my master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in 2005. While there, I focused my studies on program development, not just how to create them, but how to evaluate and fund them. I have spent my career improving the quality of programs at and increasing the funds for youth focused non-profits. 

One thing about being outside that most delights you?

I love growing my own vegetables and foraging for medicinal plants. The plants and the land are a gift. They continually provide me with nourishment and valuable lessons. 


Lauren Piotrowski

Program Manager


Why are you passionate about Roots Rising?

I believe that creating a personal connection to the natural world is the first step towards building thriving and resilient farms and communities. I am consistently inspired by the endless opportunities for learning when we partner with nature. 

What experience or expertise do you bring to Roots Rising?

I’ve worked over the past decade as a farmer and educator, finding great satisfaction in the responsibility that comes with growing nutritious and accessible food. 

One thing about being outside that most delights you?

Whether pulling a beautiful jewel of a beet from well-tended soil or being chased by a curious steer across a pasture, I believe being on the farm is an exceptional setting to learn to love our planet and ourselves. 


Eileen Rice

Operations Director


Why are you passionate about Roots Rising?

I am passionate about every opportunity to connect more deeply with nature and our food. Roots Rising’s work connects the dots - from our Youth Crews on local farms, to our Pittsfield Farmers Market - Roots Rising makes food, and the community it takes to grow it, more accessible for everyone.

What experience or expertise do you bring to Roots Rising?

I’ve worn a variety of hats in the non-profit world over the past 10 years, and I bring that experience - interwoven with time working on farms and in food co-ops - to my role here at Roots Rising. Here I work to help expand Roots Rising's capacity and impact in the community, one streamlined process at a time.

One thing about being outside that most delights you?

I am most delighted by the small, quiet joys of being outside. From the first bloom of a crocus in spring to the dinosaur call of a red-tailed hawk. It is triumphant, it is simple, it is delightful.


Brennah Brickle

Assistant Market Manager

Farm and Market Crew Alum


Roots Rising Board of Directors

Regina Burgio, Co-President

Susan Kelly, Co-President

Sandra Thomas, Treasurer

Julia Marko, Clerk

Penny Bridges

Ginger Cruz-Rosario

André Lynch

Naomi Mersky

Brian Whitman


Jamie Samowitz



Jamie is the Co-Founder and former Co-Director of Roots Rising. Before leading Roots Rising with Jess Vecchia for six years, Jamie worked as an experiential educator of teens in wilderness and international settings. She has a Master’s of Science in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England, a Graduate Certificate in Place-Based Education from the Teton Science School, and a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from New College of Florida. Jamie is currently on the path to becoming a psychotherapist through a Masters of Social Work at Smith College School for Social Work and also serves on Roots Rising’s Advisory Council.

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