The Mission of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is to empower students and families from diverse backgrounds to be healthy and active citizens through organic gardening, environmental stewardship, and nutrition education. Our Vision is to reconnect students and families to the natural environment through food, education and community engagement.
Leonard Vargas - Gardens and Facilities Manager
Leonard brings to Olivewood more than two decades of professional growing experience in San Diego County, and has been gardening since he was about 2. He most recently managed operations for Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall and has overseen growing at Miramar Wholesale Nurseries, HerbThyme Farms, and other local nurseries. For many years, he managed the urban farm onsite at San Pasqual Academy in Escondido for their resident students. Leonard is excited to work with students and families here at Olivewood. He is happiest when his hands are in the soil and looks forward to inspiring and empowering our community to grow both food and flowers.
Cherianne Kestner - Nutrition Program Director
Cherianne Kestner is the Nutrition Program Director at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Cherianne spent 11 years working as a teacher and coach in Chicago Public Schools before making the move to sunny San Diego in July 2015. She brings to us her experience in curriculum writing, teacher mentorship, and nutrition education. While working on Chicago’s South Side, Cherianne observed the effects of poor nutrition habits on student performance in school. She worked with leadership to establish school wellness policies, and she introduced nutrition and movement programming into the curriculum. With a personal passion for sports and fitness, Cherianne is excited to bring her skills and love of healthy food to the Olivewood Gardens community. In her free time, you’ll find Cherianne running, swimming, cooking, or watching Chicago sports.
Cristina Juarez - Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach
Cristina grew up in Mexico and migrated to San Diego as a teenager, where she obtained her BA in Sociology from SDSU. Passionate about social issues, she conducted research for the San Diego State University Research Foundation and has been a community organizer for many years, getting young adults involved in different projects. She is interested in creating and supporting spaces where people can build community while they learn and pass onto others how to live loving, healthy lives. Cristina enjoys traveling, spending time with her nephews, and playing music with her friends.
Adan Teposte - Gardener Support Staff
Adan is one of the Gardeners at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. He migrated from Mexico in 1980 and, after working for many years in the manufacturing industry in Los Angeles, he moved to San Diego where he gained experience in gardening. Adan has seen the transformation of the Walton family home gardens into the extensive Gardens we have today, for he has been part of the working team for 11 years! He loves going to beach in his free time.
Claire Groebner - Development Coordinator
Claire Groebner is the Development Coordinator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She has a B.A. in Sociology – Social Inequalities and Spanish Literature from UC San Diego. Prior to Olivewood, Claire worked in a number of different departments at UC San Diego. Claire’s love for people, nature, and food inspired her to get involved in the food justice and farm-to-table movements, and eventually, with Olivewood Gardens. In her free time, Claire likes to travel (preferably on foot and with a backpack on), dance, garden, and cook homegrown meals.
Corrie Madueño - Schools Coordinator
Corrie Madueño is the Schools Coordinator at Olivewood Gardens. Corrie studied Spanish and Sustainability Studies at Point Loma Nazarene University where her passion for food justice blossomed. After graduation, she served as a Food Corps Service Member at the San Diego Unified School District and gained experience from one of the country’s most progressive Farm to School programs. Being a part of Olivewood Gardens is a dream come true for Corrie, and she is so thankful to be a part of such a supportive team. Corrie is looking forward to partnering with others in the community to improve the health of San Diego and beyond.
Robin King Novara - Nutrition Educator
Robin King Novara
King Novara is the Nutrition Educator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Prior to Olivewood, she taught in China, Japan and Guatemala. Living internationally kindled her love of culinary arts by exposing her tantalizing new flavors. Robin
is excited to combine her passion for educational equity with her love of cooking. She is grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with local communities on achieving their nutrition goals. Originally from Wisconsin, Robin
is enjoying San Diego's year-round growing season.
Ethan Cole - Garden Educator
Ethan Cole is the garden educator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. He grew up in Connecticut and went to the University of Vermont with a major in Ecological Agriculture and minor in Anthropology. He has participated in multiple research projects, most notably constructing an indigenous Abenaki agro-forest style farm for the public to come view in St. Albans, VT. In his spare time he enjoys hiking and camping.
Angelica Bastida Cazares - Admin Assistant
Angelica Bastida Cazares it the Administrative Assistant at Olivewood Gardens. She has a Bachelor Degree in International Business from Universidad Iberoamericana of Tijuana, Mexico where she was born and raised. Angelica worked in Mexico for several years in the logistics and import-export industry before she moved to the US in 2009. Since then, she decided to change careers and became a certified Pilates instructor where she discovered a passion for helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle. Her business experience, her desire to help others and her enthusiasm for healthy cooking makes Angelica a perfect addition to the Olivewood team. When she is not in the Gardens, Angelica is spending time with her husband and two boys, teaching Pilates or spending time in the kitchen trying out new recipes for her family.
Reyna Rodriguez - Garden Support Staff