Our Staff

Welcome to the Urban Farm at Stapleton’s staff bios. These souls work tirelessly to keep our Farm running, animals healthy and happy, and to bring quality programs to our community and children. We look forward to getting to know you better too.

 

TUFF_staff18[1]Michael Nicks, Executive Director

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I started volunteering at the Urban Farm in aquaponics while my daughter was in horse classes. I benefitted from the knowledge and generosity of Michelle Thomas of GFood4U who had a partnership, at the time, with the Urban Farm. She provided training and supplies for the program. Both this and the aeroponics program have brought in some great volunteers.
The journey from volunteer to executive director was pieces falling into place. I have a strong background in science and the farm was moving toward being an educational campus to teach students. The goal has been to develop all areas of the farm to act as tools to teach with. The animals and farm run 7 days a week, if you are lucky you are only there for 6 of them.  But if you cannot beat them join them, so mucking cow stalls on Sunday is acceptable family time.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have, or did you go?
I have Bachelors of Arts from CU Boulder in Chemistry, a Masters in Environmental Science and Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and my PhD from the University of Colorado in Clinical Science.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
The best noises come right before feeding. The horses are restless and kicking the metal troughs, the sheep and goats are baaing and all the animals are watching you, excited to see their food.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
I enjoy working on my house, gardening, and going to the mountains.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller has always been one of my favorite books. I enjoy the music from the 70s and 80s including Blue Oyster Cult and Styx. One of my favorite movies is the Sure Thing with John Cusack.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?I think some of the most memorable moments at TUF are seeing the people-animal interactions. It is always satisfying to see how people connect to the animals.

What do you love about TUF?
The potential, there is so much that can be done with the people, animals and land.


 

Michelle Crites,  Program Manager

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
As TUF has grown and moved toward being an educational campus, I was brought on as Program Manager. My background is in agricultural education and construction trades, so my job here is to create quantifiable learning targets and establish curriculum for our Storybook Farm, All Around the Farm, and Divergence programs. My teaching experience began at a small non-profit in northern Illinois. HorsePower Therapeutic Riding was a program designed to assist children and adults with both mental and physical disabilities get out on a farm setting and use riding and other horse interactions as therapy. After moving out to Colorado to go to college, I pursued a career in high school agricultural education. I chose to work at TUF because public education wasn’t a great fit for me. I didn’t enjoy teaching crammed classrooms of 40 students at a time with little support from the faculty and community. However, the setup at TUF is much more conducive to meaningful interactions with small groups of all ages and abilities. I am passionate about increasing agricultural literacy in young people.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have? 
I attended Colorado State University right out of high school. I have a bachelor of science in agricultural education and a bachelor of science in equine science. During my junior year I was concurrently enrolled in Aims Community College where I achieve an associate’s in welding for agricultural educators.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
I love the sound of water pounding out of a hose, hitting the bottom of a freshly scrubbed trough, and then easing back to a gurgle as the pressure decreases.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
I am an outdoors enthusiast. I like road cycling, riding my horse, paddling kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, and backpacking and camping. I completed a 2,181 mile backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail between high school and college.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?
I love a good mystery book. Tom Clancy is one of my favorite authors. Super hero movies are probably my favorite right now.  I’m a big fan of bluegrass, jazz, and blues: anything from Ella Fitzgerald, to BB King and Muddy Waters, to the Steeldrivers.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
I am inspired by the new construction going on right now.  Seeing the cleared sheep and goat pen, ready for a new fence was super exciting. Putting the last piece of siding on the new chicken coop seems like it’s signaling a new era out here.  We are right on the cusp of better buildings and better programs.

What do you love about TUF?
I love that this is an accessible place for urban youth to come experience eastern Colorado agriculture.  When I was reading the job description for program manager it hit every single one of my passions in education. One of my friends stopped me while I was reading it aloud and asked “Is this place real?” like there was no way it could be a real place and not some fantasy I made up to fit my ideal career. Let me tell you, it’s real. And get ready, because we’re about to change the face of agricultural education.

 


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 Evelyn Alton,  Administration / Master Gardener / Community Garden

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
Initially, I was looking for riding lessons for my granddaughter and came across The Urban Farm.  I liked that it was a non-profit organization.  I was also delighted to discover the 4-H program and the opportunities for kids with the farm animals.  Having grown up on a farm and experiencing 4-H as a kid, it brought me back to my roots.
Being retired has opened new avenues to explore, from the desk to the outdoors.  I was able to assist the Farm in their transition with data collection, reporting, and office practices.  I also became a Colorado Master Gardener upon retirement, this has been very useful and satisfying; working with gardeners in the community garden, growing plants for the annual plant sale, guiding Tomato Girl in her adventures, and sharing information on gardening.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have, or did you go?
I have a B.A. in Child, Family & Community Services and Social Justice  (double major) from University of Illinois and an M.S. in Educational Administration, Higher Education from Southern Illinois University.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
It’s not a noise, but quiet. When the animals have eaten and snuggled down, the sun is setting, there is a peace that falls across the Farm.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
Gardening, reading, hiking,  traveling, total solar eclipses, friends and family.

What is your favorite book / movie / music? 
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; movie:
drama, suspense. I find most all movies enjoyable.
Blues, especially the 1930-1050s.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
Spending time with new friends.

What do you love about TUF?
It’s potential.


 

TUFF staff46Andrea Linzmeyer,  Equestrian Program Director

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I first came to the Farm when I was 10 years old with my mom to volunteer. At the time I was riding at a competitive show barn but my mom wanted me to meet other horse-crazy kids! When I graduated from school at CSU I was invited to come and teach jumping at the Farm and board my horse Tipz! From there opportunities kept coming along and I’ve been here ever since!

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have, or did you go?
I went to Colorado State University and got a bachelors degree in communications and a minor in business.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
My favorite farm noise is the sound of all the horses happy healthy and eating.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
Outside of horses and the Farm I really enjoy spending time with my two dogs Heffer and Coco.

What is your favorite book / movie / music? 
My favorite book is anything from the black stallion series.
My favorite movie is Elf or the Grinch (with Jim Carey).
My favorite music is anything hip hop or R&B.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
I have a lot of memorable moments at TUF, but the best and most recent one was at the mulch giveaway, watching the TUF kids work hard to sell baked goods and raise money for a new horse for the program!

What do you love about TUF?
What I love most about TUF is the kids and the people who give countless hours to help keep us going! Without them we wouldn’t be here! The kids are the reason we are here and make this job so rewarding!


Amy Marrs, Sheep and Goat Program

Why did you choose to work for/volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I first came to the Farm when my daughter, Monica, was 5 years old for horses. Monica quickly fell in love with sheep.  We were soon owners of a sheep and that was just the beginning.  I     had no livestock experience.  I was so out of my comfort zone I began to immerse myself in everything I could learn.  Learning with and watching my daughter grow  into a wonderful person was an experience I wanted to give to others kids.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have? 
I have a masters in chemistry from the University of Nebraska.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
The lambs.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
I love to go to workout, garden, and work on my house.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?

 
I don’t have a favorite book, my favorite author is Isabelle Allende. My favorite movie is The Professional. I like all music except for jazz.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
My most memorable moment at TUF was watching Nyla and Ashley win grand and reserve champion goat showmanship.

What do you love about TUF?
I love that inner city kids can come and experience agriculture.  I find endless joy watching them learn and grow into amazing ambassadors for the agriculture industry.


 

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Chelsea Moller, Sheep and Goat Support

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
When I was a kid, my mom and I came to The Urban Farm and knocked on the front door and stuck our foot in the doorjamb to prevent it from closing after someone exited; we have never been away since. We faithfully come to the Farm every Saturday to clean pens or weed gardens. I enjoyed the hands on involvement with all the animals and especially fell in love with the Farm’s llama Poncho. I learned all there was to learn about llamas working with Poncho and met very interesting llama people.

The Urban Farm gave me a place where I could learn how to speak in front of a large group of people with confidence and how to share my knowledge with others. Even as a kid I could see how beneficial it was for me as well as my friends. I knew then that this was a place I wanted to work to ensure that it would continue helping others as it helped me. My journey has at times been a rough one, there were times that I wanted to call it quits but then I would see one of my students and I would know that this is where I need to be.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have, or did you go?
I first attended Community collage of Aurora where I received my Associates degree in Liberal arts. That degree allowed me to attend Colorado State University where I received my Bachelors degree in Fine art with a Fibers concentration.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
My favorite farm noise has to be the sound of a sheep trying to talk and eat at the same time.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
What hobbies outside of the farm? Do those exist? Just kidding; when I am not at the farm I enjoy playing Quidditch with the Colorado Quidditch Denver team. Quidditch is a co-ed full contact sport that I learned how to play when I attended Colorado State. I also enjoy working on my fiber art and being an active member of the Rocky Mountain Weaver’s Guild.

What is your favorite book / movie / music? 
I am not a big reader but when I do read I like science fiction and fantasy novels. I enjoy authors like J.K. Rowling, Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchet. As for music I like anything with a good beat and one of my all time favorite movie is Never Ending Story.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
This is a difficult question to answer I have so many memorable moments that they all combine to make a wonderful life filled with both good and hard memories.

What do you love about TUF?
I love that TUF gives kids a place to belong where they can be unique and figure out who they are.


 

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Meri Moller, TUF 4-H Organizational Leader

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I have been volunteering at The Urban Farm for 14-17 years. I’m not counting. I got started because my daughter was looking for fiber-producing animals because she had learned to spin. While other people worked with my child, I cleaned the building, worked on fences, and did other odd jobs. I became the goat and sheep leader because I figured out a simple difference between goats and sheep: goats say “Maaa” and sheep say “Baaa;” I knew nothing else about the animals. But also, there were kids at the Farm that didn’t care for the horses, we had a need for other Farm animal programs, and we were invited and supported by The Adams County 4-H club to participate with their livestock fair. Someone had to be the leader. And at that time I was the most knowledgeable.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have, or did you go?
I went to college at UNC in Greeley for teaching but did not graduate. After many different jobs and experiences I finally landed a job with the City of Denver. I retired from there in 2009.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
Not so much a noise as a sight. I love to see the sheep as they run off to eat weeds when I let them out of their pen. It always makes me laugh.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
I am on the board of the Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild and dabble in weaving. I enjoy painting (mostly rooms), reading, and enjoying my home and family. I travel vicariously around the world through travel logs and conversations with others.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?
I’m reading “The Storks Nest”. My favorites are the trilogy of books by Conrad Richter

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
Gosh, there are so many, I could write a book. I love to watch the kids grow and come into their own through the interaction with the animals. I like seeing the adults do this, too.

What do you love about TUF?
The Urban Farm is a very special place and not for everyone. I am never there that I don’t learn something about myself. I like how volunteering there, whether its cleaning bathrooms or working with the kids, makes my heart sing.


 

tuff_staff341Caroline Batorowicz, Poultry Program

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I volunteer at TUF because the animals need us and we need them more than we think. In 2010 my oldest son joined TUF 4-H and through him I was introduced to the world of poultry. I did not grow up on a farm but I always wanted to live on one and the chickens fascinated me. I decided to become more involved, first by helping out by taking care of the birds and then by becoming a 4-H poultry project leader and eventually club leader. I have been managing the poultry flock at TUF for the last few years and in 2016 I stepped down as the TUF 4-H leader. I have also been involved in leading field trips, marketing, and social media and website updates. My journey has been one filled with laughter and tears, sadness and joy, freezing toes, and sweat and poo covered clothes, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have, or did you go?
I received  a Master’s degree from University of Illinois at Chicago in Architecture and worked in the field for 10 years before finding my true calling, i.e., farming and educating the public about our food industry.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
Cock-a-doodle doo, of course, and the silence of the City at dawn.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
My faith, my family, and activism are my passions. I am active in my church community and American Heritage Girls. I also enjoy singing, photography, sewing, canning, recycling, and all the things that come with running a home. I dabble in showing chickens and take my kids to various poultry shows.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?
My favorite books are about mystic saints, such as Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, they are beyond inspiring. Favorite movie genre is definitely Sci-Fi, Doctor Who is probably #1, with Chinese martial arts movies close behind. Favorite music is Christian but I really enjoy Country and 30s to 50s jazz from Billie Holiday to the Crooners. You can also see me shake it to Euro Dance music from the 80s.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
Yikes, that’s a tough one. There are so many great moments related to kids and animal interactions, kids who have never seen a goat and they think it’s a dog, or kids who are more fascinated with the farm cat than anything else. On a personal note, I really enjoyed “Howling at the Moon” with the other farm matrons. There are few things better than the Farm at night.

What do you love about TUF?
I “love” being able to be me. The animals don’t care what you look like in the morning and they don’t care what you know or don’t know. The Farm brings out your true self and it doesn’t need you to impress anyone. I “love” helping those who cannot help themselves, our dumb friends, and I love the 4-H kids who have touched my heart in so many ways. Volunteering at TUF doesn’t come without challenges but it’s these tough times that teach you how to persevere, help you to grow, and let you see what is truly important vs. what we think is. TUF lets you see what you’re capable of and how to keep going when sometimes you just want to stay in a warm bed during a blizzard. The Farm has taught me more than I could ever learn from a book. It has taught me the value of human and animal life. We may know where food comes from but we don’t always know how this “food” is treated before it lands on our table. At TUF we place great value on animals while they grace our lives with their presence. We thank them for their sacrifice so that we may thrive. I “love” that the Farm is also full of opportunity; it has a lot of potential and it is waiting for those with talents and heart to help it grow. I have been blessed by the Farm and I’m happy to use my talents to help this organization to continue being a gem in the City.

Thank you Urban Farm


Deborah Venor, Equestrian Support /Volunteer Odds n Ends

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I didn’t even know that this fabulous Farm existed less than 10 minutes from my house. When I was getting ready to retire, I was looking for something to do with animals, especially horses, and children. I came one Saturday morning and was put to work immediately helping with a birthday party and pony rides. That was 5 years ago and I have been volunteering ever since. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with the wonderful staff and the other volunteers at the Farm. My journey still continues!

What is your favorite Farm noise?
Actually, I like the Farm when it is quiet. All the animals have been fed and are resting. Walking among quiet animals just kind of puts you out into a countryside where there is no hustle or bustle. However, there is nothing like a friendly “neigh” from a horse when you approach and they are happy to see you.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
My family is very important to me so I am fortunate that my daughters live close and we get together often. One of my passions is traveling and I have been fortunate to be able to travel over the last couple of years to Belgium, Paris, Peru, and Costa Rico. I look forward to many more traveling experiences.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?
I love to read good mysteries. I’ve read several series of books by the same author that take the main character from one book to the next and love the excitement. I am reading a series now by Susan McNeal that takes place in wartime England with Winston Churchill and spies. Fun reading! I am old fashioned and still love the old musicals with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and so many lovely lady dancers. I do like the new movies but they just don’t make them like they used to. I enjoy ALL types of music. Yes, even Country!

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
As a tour guide for 5 years, I have met many a youngster with wide eyes and little screams of joy when they first pet a goat or see a cow close up. However, my most memorable would have been this past year when Gina and I had a group of disabled adults (over the age of 25). At some of the pens, it was hard to keep their attention but when we got to the horses it was a different picture. I called Yogi, our new draft horse who at the time was not real familiar with tour groups, to see if he would come over to the fence. He was a rock star! Not only did he come over, he placed his head over the fence so that each adult could gently pet him. They were all very timid but Yogi was wonderful. The last woman to pet Yogi was very scared but she gently touched his nose and was so excited she began to cry and then hug everyone and everyone hugged everyone. It was very special to see the joy and know that something we all take for granted, petting a horse, could arouse so much tenderness and emotion.

What do you love about TUF?
The kids!! The staff and volunteers who help as much as they can to keep the Farm going and the experiences like above that make you think about how lucky we are to have a little bit of wonderfulness in the middle of a city.


Gina Dunn, Equestrian and Garden Support /Volunteer Odds n’ Ends

Why did you choose to work for / volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
I have always loved horses. I ride whenever I get a chance. When I first came to the Farm, I wanted to take riding lessons which I did for three years. To help with my knowledge of horses, I started helping with the beginner classes. I loved helping young people learn about horses and master their fear/riding challenges. I also have a degree in Early Childhood Education and taught pre-school for 20 years. I also have a certificate in Floral Design.

What is your favorite Farm noise?
My favorite farm noise is horses nickering.

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
My hobbies are floral design, gardening, guitar, singing, and ( if I could) more riding opportunities.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?
My favorite book, there are so many. I generally like epics. The longer the better. I loved the “Bicentennial ” series by John Jakes. My favorite movies are also epics like Laurence of Arabia, Ben Hur, Gone With the Wind. I love all music, except improvised jazz, it just doesn’t give me joy! I have a love of old “cowboy” music that I inherited from my dad.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
Most memorable moment at Urban Farm was my 60th birthday party in the indoor arena with Rudy Grant and the Buffalo Riders playing and farm animals in attendance!

What do you love about TUF?
I love having farm animals that I can interact with just 10 minutes from my home!


Mariah Ehlert, Newsletter Gal and Occasional On-Call Photographer

Why did you choose to work for/volunteer at The Urban Farm and what has your journey been like?
The Farm offers so many potential paths, and I was looking for creative ways to explore my nutrition degree and be involved with a nonprofit. It has been really fun getting to know the different aspects of the Farm, from the volunteers to the staff, to all the programs and events, and of course the babies born on the Farm.

Where did you go to college and what degree do you have? 
I went to school in Minnesota. I have an undergraduate in Liberal Studies, a Masters in Nutrition Therapy, a certificate in Digital and Graphic Design, and few hundred art and photography classes, workshops, and mentors (it’s a long list). And I even taught horseback riding one summer at a YMCA camp in MN. 

What is your favorite Farm noise?
I love the crunch the hooves make in straw and dirt, and the ‘snuffs’ of the animals sniffing me, or their environment. 

What are your hobbies / passions outside of the Farm?
Hobbies and passions: learning, I’m an avid reader, class taker, new-stuff tryer. I love to play board games, knit, bellydance. I love to hike, especially with my two border collies. My full time gig is as a Portrait Photographer, in a gorgeous renovated old church studio, on a mission to create incredible portraits to last generations. You can check out my work & get a free consultation as a TUF newsletter subscriber HERE. Or email me.

What is your favorite book / movie / music?

 
There’s no way I can pick my favorite book. But one of the most fun fiction ones I’ve re-read even is Ready Player One. Movie: Star Wars. Music: I love a ton of types, and hate few, if any. It really depends on my mood. The Hamilton musical soundtrack is incredible.

What is your most memorable moment at TUF?
Definitely being able to crawl into the pens and photograph some of the new babies! FarmFest is a blast too.   

What do you love about TUF?
I love the community at the Farm, and how everyone works so hard to create incredible experiences for kids and adults. And of course, I’m a big cheerleader for growing food and eating well!