Lexington Community Farm Coalition (LexFarm) is a non-profit certified organic farm at 52 Lowell Street in Lexington, MA, next to the Arlington Reservoir. We are committed to increasing access to organic produce for households of all income levels. LexFarm provides hands-on education to foster connections to farmland, farming, and each other, through workshops, education partners, our CSA, and volunteer programs.
LexFarm was founded in 2009 in an effort to preserve the Busa Farm upon its sale to the Town of Lexington. LexFarm is currently starting its eighth year of production on five acres. Produce is sold through a summer CSA, fall CSA, flower CSA, and farm stand. We aim to donate 10% of what we grow to food insecure community members through local food rescue organizations.
In 2021 farm production will focus on improving yields through better irrigation, increased efficiencies and improved soil health. In addition, LexFarm will be focusing on increasing our farmstand income, and growing fundraising. In 2021, the organization will also focus on additional ways to support food insecure community members such as offering subsidies for CSA. LexFarm intends to explore ways to support BIPOC area residents, such as selling food items from Black-owned businesses and encouraging community members with diverse backgrounds to run for Board positions.
LexFarm began in May 2009 as a grassroots organization founded by three neighbors concerned about the fate of the 7.9 acre Busa Farm upon its sale to the Town of Lexington. The Town had initially chosen to use the land for soccer fields and affordable housing, but thanks to tremendous community support, in March 2012, the Lexington Town Selectmen decided most of the land would be dedicated to a community farm, with approximately half an acre devoted to affordable housing. In July 2013, LexFarm’s proposal for a community farm, operated in cooperation with Community Farms Outreach, won the bid for a 10-year lease of the property. LexFarm, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, opened its farm stand on April 19, 2014, and is now a valued part of the fabric of the community.
(Click on a name for a bio)
Susan Schiffer, President
Sue, a Lexington resident since 1993, professionally was a biology researcher in the biotechnology industry for 22 years. Since then, she held leadership positions on a number of Lexington non-profit boards. Sue became hooked on cooking farm-to-table dinners for her family when the Lexington Farmers’ Market started over 14 years ago. Since summer 2014, Sue has served LexFarm as a Board member and a member of both the Development and the Communications Committees, served as VP for two years and as President for 3 years. She looks forward to using her prior non-profit leadership experience, communications skills and connections to other organizations in Lexington to continue to help develop this exciting community resource. When not volunteering for the farm, she creates jewelry at the LexArt, as a member of the Metalworking Guild.
Mark Gabrenya, Vice President
Mark has lived in Lexington since 1996. He has been on the board of directors since March, 2015 and a member of the property committee. Much of his work for the farm is focused on improving and repairing the infrastructure and cleaning up the property. His red Prius is always loaded with tools and he’ll never turn down a donation of a straight 2 X 4. He is also the owner of Brite Harvest Farm — a controlled environment agriculture hydroponic farm inside a shipping container. It’s the big green and white box located behind LexFarm. When he’s not at the farm he’s an avid cyclist and a tour leader for Adventure Cycling Association
Mary Rose Scozzafava, Vice President
Mary Rose is an attorney and longtime resident of Lexington since 1993. She is an avid gardener, and works to bring sustainable practices into her own gardens. She is currently a Senior Fellow at The Conservation Law Foundation, where she works to support New England farmers and the local food system. Mary Rose also works with the Lexington’s Conservation Commission and Conservation Stewards to maintain and oversee conservation restrictions on town-owned conservation lands. Mary Rose is completing her fourth year on the LexFarm board, where her principal responsibilities have been on the communication committee helping with CSA sales and marketing and supporting farm events. On the Executive Committee, Mary Rose looks forward to applying her legal, conservation and farm experiences to help LexFar mmeet its mission of sustainable agriculture, community involvement and education.
Patrick Johnson, Treasurer
Pat and his family moved to the Mt. Gilboa neighborhood in Arlington in the Summer of 2018 and quickly fell in love with the farm. Pat is passionate about the natural world and conservation. He worked as a field biologist studying songbirds for 5+ years before receiving a MS in wildlife management. He now works for National Grid Ventures where he is helping to develop projects that deliver reliable, clean, and affordable energy for consumers. He is a CFA Charterholder and an MBA graduate.
Sheila Chen Lawrence, Clerk
Sheila, her husband and two young children are Lexington residents and neighbors to the farm. Sheila and her family are passionate about environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture: taking action by reducing their personal carbon footprint, and participating in charitable activities in support of climate change mitigation. Some of her most vivid childhood memories involve hiking the mountains in her native Taiwan with her family, participating in the clean up of trails and public lands. She is excited to be a part of LexFarm, and for her children to grow up in such proximity to where their food is grown. Previously, Sheila had been a long-time Waltham resident, and a member of the Waltham Fields Community Farm. Sheila is Partner and Senior Client Advisor at Ballentine Partners, LLC, a wealth-management firm in Waltham. Sheila provides strategic advice to clients on philanthropy, estate planning, investments, estate planning, tax, and risk management. Sheila serves on the Boston board of Thrive Scholars, a national education non-profit that helps highest-achieving low-income minority students attend and graduate from top colleges and launch successful careers. Sheila also is a member of the Community Advisory Board of WBUR.
Lisa and her family have been a part of the Lexington community since 2015. Since then she has been an active member of the community serving as Treasurer for Yes for Lex, Co-Coordinator for the Maria Hastings School Big Back Yard Program, active PTO volunteer as well as a LexFarm CSA member and avid seedling buyer for many years. While her husband is the green thumb in the family actively expanding the family’s garden and perennials year by year Lisa’s passion for 20+ years has been local food, health and the environment. As biology and environmental studies major at UC Santa Barbara she was fully immersed in the need for sustainable agriculture early on. She has since honed her skills working as an operator for the local food start up Fresh Samantha, earned her MBA at MIT Sloan to learn the finance side on Wall Street and in corporate America, worked with a company in Buhar India on leveraging rice husk waste to produce electricity, ran a local food start up Red Apple Lunch focused on providing healthy locally sourced lunches to schools and camps and now runs Food rEvolution a mission based shared kitchen space in Stoneham focused on supporting food startups with a focus on under-represented ownership, plant forward ingredients, local sourcing and minimizing waste. Lisa strongly believes in the importance of local food in terms of the social, environmental and personal health of a community and is thrilled to become a part of LexFarm to have her passion and experiences come to life and help add value in her community.
Eric converted his sunny Arlington front yard into a three-season vegetable garden several years ago and hasn’t looked back. His passion for local, sustainably grown food led to his becoming a LexFarm “farm founder,” gardening teacher for Arlington Community Education, and board member of SeedMoney.org. He’s also a regional grain and artisan bread enthusiast, and mills his own flour at home – including some wheat he grew last year in his front yard. Eric provides technology and digital marketing support for the LexFarm website and other online platforms. He is a member of the Arlington Select Board and a Town Meeting member. Professionally, he is a program director and consultant for technology-focused efforts in the nonprofit, health and public sectors. He lives in Arlington Heights with his husband and about 100 pounds of unmilled whole grain.
Sarah and her husband moved around the corner from the farm in 2017. Honing a green thumb since she was a child, Sarah enjoys gardening from the spring witch hazel to the winter hellebore. She eagerly awaits summer’s Pick Your Own flower and veggie options and supports the CSA. Sarah works as a Nurse Practitioner and is passionate about the role that a plant-based, local diet has on promoting wellness. Additionally, she feels the farm’s commitment to food access and serving as a community resource to all helps address key social determinants of health. As a former strategy and operations consultant, Sarah looks forward to helping optimize farm processes and growth in support of its strong mission. In her free time, she is an outdoors enthusiast and visiting all 63 US National Parks tops her bucket list. In the meantime, until travel resumes, she enjoys neighborhood walks with her Goldendoodle puppy while admiring the farm’s beauty and bounty throughout the seasons.
Mark and his family have lived in Lexington since 2005. His love for all things mechanical brought him to volunteering for maintenance and building projects on the farm. He has since been excited to learn about the history of the Farm dating back to the 1642 land grant. The tenacity of the Busa family maintaining the land as a farm in the 1900’s as other farms in Lexington (formerly known as Cambridge Farms) succumbed to market pressures inspires him to help keep the farm working as a farm. The LexFarm seedling sale has been inspirational in expanding the crops in his family’s backyard garden!
A Lexington resident since 2006, Tharshini’s interest in farming started when she began visiting the farm for dirt play, and other activities with her son. Her passion developed and she and her son started a small backyard vegetable garden which they manage together during the summer. Increased interest in farming and living healthy led her to join the CSA and they have been enjoying the fresh produce for the past 4 years. Pick your own is one of their favorite parts of the CSA. By profession she is an accountant and manages her husband’s company along with her own clients. She is also committee co-chair of the Science Fair at Maria Hastings Elementary School and a Room parent for her son’s class. She also volunteers at Lexington Kids PMC ride which is another noble cause she and her family support.
Jill Melendez Young
Jill, a Lexington resident for 13 years and mom of three little girls who love the farm, has a long interest in sustainable organic agriculture. In addition, she is interested in soil health and its effects on nutritional quality. As a kidney physician, she appreciates the emerging role of a more whole foods diet in stabilization of kidney disease. Jill also works with patients who have food insecurity as part of her job and is interested in the role of small urban farms in alleviating food deserts. She also loves to garden on her tiny plot and each year challenges herself to see if she can fit more dahlias in than last year.
Ping, a Lexington resident since 2000, is a software engineer and an avid gardener, gardening in her backyard for more than ten years and in the Lexington community garden for the past four years. She is passionate about organic and heirloom gardening. During Lexington’s 300th anniversary celebration, she won first prize for the tastiest slicing tomato in the vegetable growing competition. She cares deeply about the environment and sustainability. She has helped high school students participate in the annual Charles River clean up and volunteers at the Lexington seed library where she got connected to LexFarm. Raised in China, Ping missed lots of the Asian vegetables she grew up with which motivated her to start her own vegetable garden after moving to Lexington. While gardening, she also learned a lot about ecosystem and environmental issues. She believes that we need to return to the basics, get connected with nature, and take care of our environment before it is too late.
Pam and her family have lived in Lexington since 1998. Pam enjoys her backyard garden, growing vegetables, herbs, flowering plants and even a peach tree. She has volunteered in the schools and community organizations and was recently elected to Town Meeting. Pam has been a member of LexFarm’s CSA since its founding. She marvels at the possibilities and challenges that come with organic farming and appreciates the local food source and preservation of historic farmland. Pam helped LexFarm become a SNAP-authorized retailer, increasing access to organic produce for people of all income levels. More recently, she led a committee exploring expansion of the farm stand. Professionally, Pam is an energetic and thoughtful leader, lawyer and team player with a passion for work that empowers people. Developing and expanding programs that impact health and wellbeing has defined her career.
Beth Toolan, Executive Director
I am a naturalist and environmental educator, a social justice activist, an avid reader, and an amateur gardener. I live in Salem with my family and our black cat, Bast. My daughter, Aurora, just turned 18 and is making plans for college. My adult son, Julian, lives in Florida with his family and is expecting his second child in the spring. I have worked as an Environmental Educator in Maine, taught at a daycare center on an island, directed services at a Rape Crisis Center, spent 16 years working for the Girl Scouts, and, most recently, was the Executive Director of the Waltham Partnership for Youth, where I raised money, developed partnerships, and created programming focused on youth leadership development, substance use prevention, violence prevention and anti-bullying and prosocial skill development. I also teach at Northeastern University, in the Leadership and Communications departments. In my free time, I like to travel with my family – our most exciting trips have been to Mexico, Portugal, and Morocco , bake bread, knit socks, and write. I hold a BS Education from Hartwick College and an MS in Leadership from Northeastern University. I learn something new every day, and I like to juggle, roll sushi, play guitar, and tell stories and corny jokes, especially ones about elephants.
Allison Ostrowski, CSA Manager
Allison in grew up in rural Vermont. An aunt and uncle lived down the road on “the old family farm.” Early spring meant gathering sap during sugar season and summer meant haying and picking wildflowers and raspberries. Farming as a career began for Allison after experiencing joy in harvesting crops and being physically challenged to get a job done while volunteering with the Boston Area Gleaners. The following summer she continued pursuing her dreams at Waltham Fields Community Farm.
In 2018, Allison joined the team at LexFarm as an Apprentice under the tutelage of Elena Colman. Allison is looking forward to growing healthy food for the LexFarm community and is interested in expanding the food access program so that it reaches more households as CSA Manager.
Emmy Smela, Field Manager
Emmy started her farming journey in 2012 with a permaculture apprenticeship in Loveland Colorado. After her first season, she was hooked and dove head first into her study of agriculture and land restoration. Emmy moved to Boston in 2016 and spent the next two years running the Roslindale Farmers’ Market and farming in Belmont. In 2018, Emmy joined the LexFarm team as Assistant Grower, where she got a crash course in running a fully operational non-profit farm under the wings of LexFarm’s gifted farmers.
Looking to the future, Emmy will focus on expanding LexFarm’s low-till practices as well as mastering weed suppression. Her favorite part of the week at LexFarm are pick-your-own days, when the fields come alive with people and conversation. Emmy believes LexFarm not only provides access to fresh local vegetables, but is also a meeting place for community to grow and thrive for future generations.
Miranda Lachman, Assistant Grower
Bio coming soon!
Chamara Sandaradura, bookkeeper
Chamara and his family live in Ashland, MA, and are originally from Sri Lanka. Chamara is passionate about education and non-profits. He is very excited about bringing his wife and sons to the farm, teaching his sons to appreciate nature, and exposing them to the farming environment. Chamara currently works at Framingham State University and has a Masters Degree in Business.