Giving Gardens Mission 

Create, educate, & connect communities through experiences in nature.

Educational Urban Farm & Nature School Programs

Giving Gardens of Indiana is Whitley County’s first Urban Farm. Urban agriculture addresses an inherent issue throughout our current food culture – a disconnection to where our food comes from. By involving children and adults alike in education around sustainable, local agriculture, we can increase the health of our future food systems.

Our farm is here to inspire a love of growing your own food and help build a deep connection with the natural world, by offering an environment where we can educate and impact children who attend our programs, the adults in their lives and the rest of our community as a whole. 

As an organic farm we utilize practices that maintain and improve fertility, soil structure and biodiversity, and reduce erosion, producing nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.

Our educational programs offer children and the community a place to develop a deeper connection to nature and the place we call home! We offer programs for age 0-99+! Nature immersion is for all ages and gives us physical and mental health benefits as well as, inspires awe and wonder in our lives. 

 

Rachel Alexander

Executive Director

Jessica

Jessica Burkett

Educational Director

John Burkett

Farm Grounds Manager

Megan Romary

Preschool Lead Teacher

Meet our team

Executive Director – Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander joined Giving Gardens of Indiana as Executive Director in 2014. She has been an avid gardener for 12 years and is passionate about organic horticulture and growing food in a sustainable manner. She spearheaded the campaign to install a community garden in Whitley County, Indiana, and she takes great joy in managing the garden and volunteers. She loves to visit markets and farms and supporting a local food network. Rachel has completed courses in 3 season gardening at IPFW in Fort Wayne, and courses from Growing Power in Wisconsin on microgreens and composting. Also, she has completed the Market Gardening Masterclass course from La Ferme des Quatre-Temps in Quebec, Canada. Before joining Giving Gardens, Rachel was the gardening committee leader for Whole Health Wellness Center. She is a member of the Three Rivers Fruit Growing Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 sons, listening to live music, and drinking a good cup of coffee.

Educational Director – Jessica Burkett

Jessica has an educational background as a Forest School Director and Forest School teacher, Kamana Naturalist, personal training, yoga teaching, and natural movement, certified in nutrition, and thai yoga practitioner. She is the Outdoor Educator for TROY Alternative School for at-risk youth and currently homeschools her two teenage sons. She joined with Giving Gardens of Indiana as the Educational Director in the summer of 2019. She serves on the Tree Board in Columbia City. She is currently in Naturalist training through Wilderness Awareness School.  Sharing her excitement for the world around us and nature with kids is what she loves to teach most. She is a teacher to the core! 

Jessica has been in love with gardening since her, and her husband were married and has grown something everywhere since (even when traveling in their schoolie!). Her passion for hiking has turned her into a forager and hobby herbalist. Taking care of the natural world and educating others in this area is one of her top priorities. She tries her best to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and share that example with others. Because of this personal mission, she is the “Green Team” co-founder for the Ignite Group for their ultra trail running series, with a mission to help “Green” up the races so that there is less waste generated by the sporting events. That has also led her to be a local food advocate and share the importance of seasonal, local consumption in a sustainable way, because not only is it healthy for you, but it also supports the earth and the local community and families.  Being a part of Giving Gardens as Educational Director is all of her dreams and experience rolled into one!

Her personal website is: www.wildandaligned.com

Preschool Lead Teacher- Megan Romary

My name is Megan Romary and I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I currently live in Columbia city with my boyfriend and we both commute to work. I am working as a public school preschool teacher with a degree in early childhood education from Ball State University. I also have a master’s certificate in Nature-Based Early childhood education from Antioch University. My mom was an engineer and my dad owns an IT business that they both work at together now. I, fortunately, grew up in front of the St. Mary’s river on three acres, with parents who loved nature, and with that much property, there was no shortage of yard work. From the time I was little, my dad loved to show us deer tracks, take hikes back to the river, four-wheeler rides, tractor rides in leaves, etc., with my two little brothers. My mom is an ever-learning Gardner and planner of many tent camping vacations, state park hikes, etc. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how fortunate I was to have two parents who both valued the outdoors. I had a very typical childhood growing up, going to a public school, watching probably too much TV and computer games, but having an outdoor space and experiences of play and imagination with a couple of neighbor kids was, I now realize invaluable and much of the reason I became a teacher and then became obsessed with teaching outdoors. It was grounding and I had a place to go when angry, confused, happy, thoughtful, bored, etc. As farm and forest families you see the benefits and I just want to encourage your impact on your children by valuing nature and taking part in this community. Looking forward to getting to know your children and hope you feel you know me a little better!  Favorite color: Purple Favorite animal: Butterflies and cats and favorite thing about nature: Trees and their ability to heal and grow through adversity! Feel free to let me know your favorites and FYI I also love dogs but if I had to pick one…..sorry! lol

John Burkett- Farm Grounds Manager

John Burkett grew up in Columbia City, Indiana. He has had vegetable gardens most of his life at home. His goal with the urban farm is to show how one can grow food at home for a family or an example of a small market garden on ¼ acre with very low overhead as a career.

Ashley Perry-Assistant Teaching Mentor

“Ashley has an educational background in mathematics, elementary education, and a focus on early childhood development. She spent seven years in a classroom teaching from ages 3 to 15 years old until her oldest was born in 2017. She currently is homeschooling and plans on continuing for all of her children. She has two beautiful girls.

Ashley enjoys being outside foraging or gardening. Her husband and her focus on supporting local small business especially through farmers markets. They recently started an organicly grown homestead with chickens, pigs, and bunnies with plans to add turkeys and a dairy cow. Ashley spends her summers organizing, planning, and gardening her 8,000 square foot garden. She is passionate about heirloom varieties that cannot be found in a local grocery store. They plan on adding a two acre orchard in the future.

Ashley has spent that last year observing the Giving Gardens Farm and Forest program. She has enjoyed watching the structure and focus on nature based learning. She is very excited to join the team and continue with student development outside of the four classroom walls.”

Board Officers & Members:

President: Jeff Bleijerveld

Vice President: Tiffany Herron

Treasurer: Julian Herron

Secretary: Krista Freel

Ashley Buckles

Dan Stauffer

Kay Fleck