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 new Operations Manager.  She has lived in the Sylvan Heights area of Nashville over the past six years and served as an HR Coordinator with a community non-profit.  She brings ten plus years of experience from the social service and non-profit fields. Before working directly in Human Resources, Sarah worked as a Service Coordinator to families with children with special needs, a Child Advocate at a family shelter and a Business Manager for a counseling center. Throughout all these roles, she has enjoyed fulfilling her passion, which is connecting with and serving others.  She completed a Master’s Degree in Public Service Management from Cumberland University and enjoys excursions, making things with her hands, reading and outdoor activities.  She is excited to join a growing 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 Facilitator

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.

Leila Mzali, Garden Programs Coordinator

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 in her new role as Garden Programs Coordinator at Ross Early Learning Center. 

Anita Peebles, Garden Programs Coordinator at Casa Azafran Early Learning Center

Originally from Michigan, Anita is a 2014 graduate of Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, where she studied Religion and Environmental Studies. She is currently an Masters of Divinity candidate at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, where she focuses on religious social justice education. Plant the Seed is a great fit for her because of her ongoing passion for educating children and increasing nature literacy in the next generation. Anita believes that food and gardening are gateways to understanding both an individual’s history and a community’s history–she believes what and how we eat constitutes a lot of who we are and how we form our values. She is dedicated to providing each child she meets with the opportunity to take ownership over their local food system and to think critically about what food is culturally relevant to them. Some of Anita’s favorite things are: watching the seeds on her windowsill sprout and grow, using her grandmother’s pie crust recipe to make delicious pastry, and being a part of making that “Aha!” moment happen when young folks experience their food in an empowering way!

Sarah Stell, Garden Programs Assistant

Sarah came to Plant the Seed through the 2015-16 cohort of the Belle H. Bennett House at the Scarritt Bennett Center, a year-long fellowship program that focuses on social justice work and spirituality. In the past, Sarah has taught garden classes at Ross Early Learning Center and Whitsett Elementary with Plant the Seed, and is now facilitating at Explore Community School. In addition to facilitating classes, Sarah prepares class content, sets up supplies, and helps with garden maintenance. Originally from Texas, Sarah came to Nashville to attend Belmont University where she graduated in May 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. Sarah begins her Master’s of Divinity at Vanderbilt this fall. During her free time Sarah enjoys being outside, hanging out with friends, eating ice cream, and reading.

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.

Monica McDougal, Garden Education and Outreach Intern

Monica recently moved to Nashville to complete the Belle H. Bennett Fellowship, a year-long fellowship program dedicated to social justice work and spirituality. Born and raised in Eastern Kansas, she recently graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. At Washburn, Monica received a B.A. in Mass Media with an emphasis in Public Relations. Monica considers social justice to be her calling and believes strongly in using her gifts, resources, and time to help make a positive impact on the world.