Our TGP Team
Our team is a dynamic group of people whose passion is bringing gardening to our community. With our range of expertise, we are able to support TGP’s mission of growing healthy produce for those in need, while also providing valuable educational opportunities.
I joined the Greenhouse Project as Executive Director in 2019 after a 30 year career in law and banking compliance, including the most recent 15 years working in Community Reinvestment and Community Development for banks. During that time, I worked with and got to know many nonprofits with various missions, but quickly discovered a passion for those dealing with healthy food access, food insecurity issues, and promoting small farmers and local growers. I have a law degree from Santa Clara University and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Oregon State University. My wife and I live in Carson City and have two grown children, and in my spare time I’m usually either working in my garden or on a bike ride.
Originally from a small town in Western New York, I moved to Carson City in 2001. As a kid, I remember helping both of my grandfathers in their gardens, delivering fresh vegetables to neighbors in a red wagon. I never forgot those roots and have always enjoyed getting my hands in the soil. After a 15-year career as a librarian, I became Site Manager for The Greenhouse Project in order to help members of our community live healthier lives, and to promote the local food system.
Born and mostly raised in Nevada, I discovered a passion for growing food while traveling in Central America in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. After a 14 month work study on a ranch in Costa Rica and year long internship on a small farm in Virginia, I returned to northern Nevada in 2015 with a desire to become involved with our local, regenerative food system. I was lucky enough to take over management of The Greenhouse Project’s Foothill Garden in its infancy in 2017 after serving with AmeriCorps in 2016. When I'm not in the garden I enjoy hiking, hunting mushrooms, live music, and spending time with my dog and cat.
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, I moved westward to teach science at an outdoor school after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2019 with a degree in Ecology. I landed in Carson City in 2021, and after two terms as an Americorps member with TGP - where I gained my first real experience growing food - I joined the team! I love getting kids outside, connecting with community members, and teaching about the natural world. When I'm not at TGP you can find me caring for more plants and animals at Miss Me Not Farm, hiking in the hills, cooking for friends, or out on a long canoe trip.
My name is Ellie Larkin and I am from southern Utah. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in biology last spring then moved to Nevada to work at the greenhouse project. I love the desert and learning about the plants that grow here! I also love riding bikes and hiking.
Hi I’m Madison, I like to cook and eat, so it's essential to me to be involved in the sustainable food cycle. After traveling, I've come back to the Carson Valley and am enjoying being a more active community member!
Hailing from Phillipsburg, New Jersey, I am a Navy veteran and graduate of Fresno State University. I work as the 4-H Youth Development Coordinator for Douglas County, and am married with 3 young-adult children. We all share a love for camping, art, music and gardening.
Find Out How You Can Become an AmeriCorps Member Here.
Karen Abowd is President and Co-founder of The Greenhouse Project now more than 13 years strong. She has lived in Carson City since 1981 as a wife, mother of three children and “Nini” to four grandchildren. An active community member, she generously gives her time to various organizations and projects that enhance Carson City, serving 8 years as an elected official, 18 years as an active youth mentor for her church, and continues to serve on the Arts and Culture Commission and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
Her diversified business experience stems from decades in the restaurant business with her husband as owners of Café at Adele's and successfully working 30 years in the field of interior design. Her passion for gardening and advocating for the food insecure combined with her knowledge this is a mission vital now and for coming generations, drives Karen’s dedication to The Greenhouse Project organization.
Cheryl Lane Rotter proudly serves as Vice President of The Greenhouse Project’s Volunteer Board. She enjoys sewing, golfing, skiing, and spending time with her adult children and grandchildren. Family is everything to her. She is married to a local civil engineer, Mark Rotter.
Mark has volunteered countless hours for The Greenhouse Project and was instrumental in the building and planning of The Greenhouse Project sites. They raised two children in Carson City, and along the way volunteered with various youth sports and a local church teaching and giving back. They have 5 grandchildren living in Reno and San Rafael. Cheryl grew up in Carson City graduating from Carson High School and the University of Nevada. Attending college was made possible with scholarships and work study.
As the daughter of blue-collar working parents, she knows how challenging making ends meet can be. The Mission statement of The Greenhouse Project “ Growing, Giving and Teaching” is near and dear to her heart, as her parents often worked two jobs to make sure the family had what they needed. The mission of growing food for those who need the extra help is important and a critical need in Carson City.
Vicki’s love of gardening, growing food and helping out in the community is what brought her to the Greenhouse Project two years ago.
Vicki was born and raised in Toronto and came to Nevada by way of travels and time spent in British Columbia and California. She and her husband and two children settled in Dayton Nevada 29 years ago.
“One of my favorite past times has always been my home garden, I love to grow flowers and veggies, giving away most of what I grow because it was simply too much for one person! I learned about the Greenhouse Project through a friend and initially started as a volunteer in the greenhouse. I was then approached and asked to serve on the Board as Treasurer. Now, living in Carson City brings me closer to friends and the volunteer work I enjoy!
For me, the Greenhouse Project is an all-around win-win. We strive to teach what is important – how to grow food!, We grow food and donate it, providing a necessary service to the community’s food insecure. And when you have a passion for gardening, teaching and helping, well it’s such a worthwhile fixture in my life.”
Public Officer/Public Relations
Karel Ancona- Henry
Karel Ancona is a retired journalist and editor who came to The Greenhouse Project by way of interviewing musicians who were performing at Concert Under the Stars, A Benefit for TGP in the organization's infancy. This work continued long after leaving journalism, and Karel has served on both TGP's Action Committee and Board of Directors.
She has written two books and is now a partner in and serves on the board of directors of Reliable Blends, farms hemp and is restoring a 1908 farmhouse. She is Grandma to Scarlet and Arlo and Mom to Marshall and Emily and various furbabies.
Member at Large
Andrew (AJ) is the new Super Intendant for the Carson City School District. He has lived in Carson City for 8 years and grew up in Wisconsin where his grandmothers made sure he understood the importance of healthy soil and growing amazing gardens. In his spare time he chases 3 kids that attend Carson schools and enjoys growing rare varieties of heirloom tomatoes that most people have never heard of.
Member at Large
June James grew up in Southern California and graduated from California State University Long Beach. She moved to Carson City Nevada in 1979 with her husband. Their two sons were born and raised in Carson City. June worked in Carson City as a Teacher, Youth Counselor, Juvenile Probation Officer and Deputy Chief.
June helped with the expansion of the garden at the Carson City Juvenile Detention Facility. After retiring from Carson City Juvenile Services as the Deputy Chief in 2010 she began helping with the Greenhouse Project.
She enjoys gardening, sewing, skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, biking, traveling and being grandma to five grandchildren.
Member at Large
Steve grew up in the California Central Valley participating in 4H from a young age. Going so far as showing rabbits on a national level.
Steve is a certified sommelier who has worked in some of the top restaurants in the Bay Area and northern Nevada. He is passionate about knowing your farmers and where your food comes from.
Member at Large
Candi Ruf (Robles) is the Career and Technical Education Coordinator for the Carson City School District and Department Chair for CTE at Carson High School. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno. Ms. Ruf has been in education for twenty years and has taught elementary, middle school, and high school. This is her fourth year as the CTE Coordinator and her fifth year as a board member for The Greenhouse Project.
Candi also has a fifteen-year business background in the retail nursery industry. She has been a Carson City resident for thirty years. Candi enjoys reading, concerts, travel, her beloved Labrador, and of course, gardening.
Member at Large
John began his professional career in entertainment in 1978 when, at 17 years old, he left his parent’s Italian delicatessen in Rhode Island, to begin touring with famous rock bands: Boston, Sammy Hagar, The Jefferson Starship, Loverboy and REO Speedwagon – first as crew member, then as stage and production manager. John gained additional international experience as the Site Coordinator for large stadium shows for Frank Sinatra.
As Karen Abowd developed the concept of the Greenhouse Project (TGP) in 2008, it became evident that they would then have their chance to co-produce live concerts together. “As fundraiser events for the TGP, they were fortunate to have 12 annual, successful “Concert Under the Stars” events ranging from 300 attendees to the 2019 “Sold Out” concert event with over 1,600 paid attendees. These have contributed to raising nearly $300,000!
It would only be natural for John to join the TGP board in 2020 to assist, where possible, in new and exciting fundraising event ideas and participate in the general operations of the organization.
Member at Large
Lisa K. Taylor
Lisa Taylor is the Assistant Professor and Extension Educator for the University of Nevada Reno-based here in Carson City. In 2017, she completed a doctoral degree in International Agricultural Education from Oklahoma State University. She provided training and conducted research in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda with 23 agri-entrepreneurs, including a compost producer responsible for generating products used to enrich the soils of smallholder farmers throughout Uganda, among many others.
Taylor earned a Master of Agriculture, Vocational Education certification and two Bachelor of Science degrees from Colorado State University. Her roles have included serving as an executive director of a national non-profit women's organization, a state coordinator and national trainer for the Applied Biology/Chemistry and a Texas Tech Prep Consortium Director based in Dallas, Texas.
As UNR's Carson City Extension Educator, she manages Carson City's Community Garden, which celebrated its 20th year in 2021. She teaches nutrition, fall prevention, and home ecology classes and supervises four staff members responsible for 4-H, youth development, school nutrition education, and Hispanic outreach programs.
Member at Large
Jonathan Steele is a Certified Public Accountant who operates a small firm in Carson City Nevada. Jon is a native Nevadan and was raised in Carson City. He received his education from California State University, Fresno, earning a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. In addition to his time volunteering for The Greenhouse Project, he is also a Board of Director for Greater Nevada Credit Union where he serves as board secretary. Jon and his wife currently have four children and two grandchildren all located in Northern Nevada. Seeing the changes in Carson City from the time he was a boy to now raising two teenagers, he believes its important give back to Carson City and keep its community thriving.
Member at Large
Jo Kilpatrick reached out to the Greenhouse Project to volunteer and learn more about gardening but was soon recruited to fill the position of board secretary. She has worked as a legal secretary/bookkeeper/office manager with her husband Charlie Kilpatrick in his legal practice for more than 30 years, raised her family in Carson City, has 5 grandchildren, and also enjoys hiking, running, golfing, traveling and gardening.
“Carson City is very special to me and I truly enjoy being able to work with an organization dedicated to helping our community. I strongly believe we should all give back and that a healthy community is a thriving community. It’s my honor to support the Greenhouse Project in its mission of growing, giving and teaching”.
Member at Large
Kayleen Mahlberg is the Associate Administrator of Operations for Carson Tahoe Health. She has worked for Carson Tahoe Health the last 17 years. Kayleen was born in St. Helena, California and moved to Elko, Nevada in 1991. Upon completion of high school, she moved to the Reno area then to Dayton where she has lived for the past fifteen years. After her children got a little older, she went back to school and continued her education from Great Basin College, Elko, earning a degree of Bachelor of Applied Science-Management in Technology in 2012. She continued her education, earning a Master of Business Administration from Western Governors University in 2017.
Kayleen was on the Carson Tahoe project team for the creation of the Foothill Garden. This was her first connection with the Greenhouse Project and immediately knew what a genuine and worthwhile organization it was for the community of Carson City. For the last 24 years, she has raised her two children in the area. She enjoys spending time with her partner Justin, family, camping, traveling, sports, and gardening.