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.
Jen Nation – Executive Director
Jen grew up in Iowa where one of her favorite activities was planting and harvesting an annual garden with her family. After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in non-profit administration, she has spent the past 20 years working for non-profits in a variety of roles, most recently with Girl Scouts San Diego. Jen values the importance of building an active, healthy and engaged community and hopes to create long-lasting relationships with not only the National City community, but with anyone who wishes to be a part of Olivewood Gardens. In her free time, Jen enjoys traveling, any and all outdoor activities, exploring farmers markets and the local food scene.
Leonard Vargas – Gardens and Facilities Manager
Leonard is the Gardens and Facilities Manager at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. He brings 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.
Claire Groebner – Interim Director
Claire Groebner is the Interim Director 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.
Callie Brust – Director of Programs
Callie is the Director of Programs for Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She has her Masters in Public Health and is also a Registered Dietitian. Over the last 7 years, Callie has worked with non-profits in Atlanta, Georgia and locally with the San Diego Food Bank to implement nutrition education and food access programs. She has experience developing science-based nutrition curriculum and teaching classes for kids, families, and older adults. Callie is grateful for the opportunity to support all of the wonderful Olivewood Garden programs and cultivate community partnerships. In her spare time, Callie enjoys connecting with friends over new foods, watching college football, and adventuring around San Diego with her husband.
Cristina Juarez – Garden Supervisor
Cristina is the Garden Supervisor at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She 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.
Angelica Gastelum – Schools Coordinator
Angelica Gastelum is the Schools Coordinator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. A San Diego-Tijuana native, Angelica has over 10 years of experience in Marketing. She has most recently volunteered her time in her children’s school and local church. She loves cooking, reading and traveling. Angelica is a Kitchenista and is honored and thankful for the opportunity to call Olivewood Gardens, ‘work’ and to be part of such a dedicated staff that share a passion for healthy and sustainable programs. In her spare time she loves hospitality and connecting with friends and family.
Patty Corona – Cooking for Salud Coordinator
Patty is the Cooking For Salud Coordinator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She grew up between Tijuana, Santa Veronica Ranch in Tecate and summers at her grandmother’s ranch in San Pedro, Jalisco. She obtained her B.A in Foreign Trade and Customs at Universidad Iberoamericana del Noroeste in Tijuana. After a year as a volunteer at Olivewood, the Children’s Home Society of California offered her an intensive training about a nutrition curriculum in Spanish, which helped to open the doors to National City community. Once she became Kitchenista from the 1st Generation, Patty was highly motivated to have a higher and deeper impact in the community and became a Resident Leadership Academy facilitator. She found her real passion in the combination of teaching about nutrition, cooking and leading the Kitchenistas to become a solid group in the community. Patty loves to eat, cook, drink wine, coffee, talk and be surrounded by the Kitchenistas family. She also likes to travel around Mexico, hiking, connecting with her indigenous roots, and checking things off her bucket list. She really enjoys to spend time at home with her son and daughter as well as laying on the carpet with her jerky dog licking her face.
Rebecca Howat – Nutrition Educator
Jacqueline Ante – Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach
Jacqueline Ante is the Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Born and raised in Tijuana, Jacqueline moved to California in 2002 after getting married. With a love for drawing, she worked as an architectural designer prior to her arrival at Olivewood. Through her two children, Legolas and Aureo, she was introduced to Olivewood and the Cooking for Salud program when Patty Corona was giving a presentation at Lincoln Acres Elementary. The presentation made her realize the importance of health, especially for her children, leading her to sign up for Cooking for Salud. Graduating in the 10th generation, Jacqueline has devoted her time to the gardens as a volunteer. As Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach, Jacqueline plans to help by keeping volunteers and interns engaged and for longer terms.
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.
Rocina Lizarraga- Community Outreach Assistant
Angelica Bastida Cazares – Admin Assistant
Angelica Bastida Cazares is 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.
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 the beach in his free time.
Reyna Rodriguez – Garden Support Staff
Reyna is one of our Garden Support Staff here at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She is born and raised in National City and participated in our first internship collaboration with Sweetwater High School (2016). She is currently attending San Diego Mesa College and planning on transferring. She helps out anywhere she can in the gardens and always has a friendly smile. Reyna enjoys adventuring and exploring San Diego with her friends or family in her free time.