Meet Our Team

Plant the Seed employs fun and accessible facilitators to coordinate our garden programs!

Susannah Fotopulos is the founder and director of Plant the Seed. She sees sowing, preparing and sharing food as a powerful tool for starting cross-cultural conversations and growing together in community. Susannah grew up on a 72-acre farm in rural Tennessee, where her family raised a 3-acre vegetable garden and shared bountiful harvests with neighbors, learning early the important role fresh food plays in building community. She entered the nonprofit world as an AmeriCorps member and started an award-winning service-learning program for children ages 4-12 at Hands On Nashville. She believes everyone has a right to fresh, affordable, culturally-relevant foods and that young people are capable of effecting meaningful change in their diet, their lives and their communities.

Sarah Warren is Plant the Seed’s Operations Manager. She and her husband David have lived in the Sylvan Heights area of Nashville over the past eight years. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Service Management from Cumberland University and brings experience within HR, Operations and Administration from the social service and non-profit fields. Throughout all her different professional roles, she has enjoyed fulfilling her passion, which is connecting with and serving others. She enjoys excursions, making things with her hands, reading and outdoor activities. She is excited to be a part of a team of passionate individuals, who are cultivating community through the exploration of the world around them and their relationship to that world.

Mechelle Kneidinger, Garden Programs Coordinator Explore! Community School

Mech (“Meesh”) comes to Plant the Seed with a background in sociology, farming, and outdoor education. Her love for facilitating outdoor experiences comes from her own fascination with the worms that poop and the ground that feeds us. It is Mech’s belief that every human deserves the opportunity to connect to the wonder and beauty of the land if they so desire, and that outdoor experiences have the capability of growing empathic, thoughtful, and resilient young people. Other interests include: cooking with friends, dancing, and social justice work.

Holly Jennings, Garden Programs Coordinator at Cambridge Early Learning Center, Antioch

Holly was born and raised in Western Kentucky on the same farmland her family has lived on for generations. From a young age she was a part of growing and preserving food, and those early experiences in the field and in the kitchen helped to shape the passions that brought her here to Plant the Seed. She graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Organizational Communication and moved to Nashville in 2004, where she has been active since in both the non-profit and food worlds. She first became involved in urban gardening and food security work in 2008 when she started a small community garden with a group of friends to serve the children she was working with in James A. Cayce Homes in East Nashville.  This work was instrumental in shaping her views on poverty, food security and social justice.  She hopes her work with Plant the Seed with will empower more young people through education and a connection with the earth and their food. When she’s not in the garden, she enjoys spending time with her beloved dog, Bear, and cooking delicious meals for all the people she loves.

Leila Mzali, Garden Programs Coordinator at Ross Early Learning Center

Leila comes to Plant the Seed after recently obtaining her M.Ed at Vanderbilt with a concentration in food justice.  She is passionate and intrigued by the potential of food to heal, define identity, and interrupt cycles of power and oppression.  Drawn to her position at PTS by her love of food, children, education, and social justice, Leila is excited to teach, learn, and grow.

Charlotte Pate, Garden Programs Facilitator at Casa Azafran Early Learning Center and Whitsitt Elementary

Charlotte has lived her life on highway I-40 bouncing between North Carolina towns and Nashville, her first and current home. She sees the garden as a space where young people can build community, critique the systems around them and cultivate wonder. She studied Anthropology at UNC-Asheville and she has been involved environmental education, farming, and community garden projects since 2012. She spends most of her time in Southeast Nashville at the Paragon Urban Farm and eating baleadas.

Michael Verla, Garden Programs Facilitator at Davis Early Learning Center and Bordeaux Library

Michael believes in the transformational power of collectively growing and sharing food. He is amazed by the living systems within the garden, and looks for opportunities to share this wonder with others – especially through engaged, embodied learning. He sees this as one of many ways to build equitable, resilient communities in support of a more just society. Michael is excited to bring his background in community development, farming, and facilitation to Plant the Seed. He loves playing in the dirt, hiking, and finding new recipes to share with friends.