Our Staff

Anna Zoodsma – Agriculture Programs Director

Anna has a Masters in Food Studies from Syracuse University, and is currently teaching a course in Food System Ethics at Tompkins Cortland Community College. Prior to this role, Anna worked as a researcher on projects examining the impacts of farming on New American mental health and on the intricacies of the H-2A Temporary Agricultural VISA program. Additionally, Anna has experience working with non-profit based farms in both Central New York and Colorado, including locally at Salt City Harvest Farm. In her free time, Anna enjoys cooking, reading, and cross-country skiing. She is excited to join an excellent team working towards making food sovereignty a reality among the RISE community and beyond.

Jessie Smith – Agriculture Program Coordinator

Jessie is a nature and music lover from the Buffalo, NY area. After studying Environmental Biology at SUNY-ESF here in Syracuse with a focus on plant ecology, she became an Agroforestry Volunteer with the Peace Corps in Guinea. There she developed a passion for sustainable agriculture and local, equitable food systems, where her love of plants and people often intersect. Before joining RISE in the fall of 2021 to oversee SyRAP’s vegetable farming logistics, she also completed a year of service with AmeriCorps working for a similar refugee agricultural program in Des Moines, IA as the Economic Development VISTA. Jessie enjoys hiking, playing her guitar, snowboarding, reading, and rock climbing, and you can find her singing no matter where she is or what she’s doing.

Manika Gautam – Agriculture Community Coordinator

Manika is from Nepal. She joined SyRAP as a farmer when the program started in 2017 but has been farming for her whole life.  Now as community coordinator, her role aides in the efficient communication with farmers which is essential to keep the program running smoothly.  She also takes care of the two SyRAP community gardens on the Northside of Syracuse.  Manika has her own farm plot at Salt City Harvest Farm and grows a variety of vegetables.

Charles Madlock – Urban Agriculture Coordinator

Charles is a graphic designer and entrepreneur with a background in artist development and business marketing from Jackson, Mississippi. He became interested in farming as an adult living in Erie, PA where he had several friends with home gardens. Growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and watermelons in the backyard started his love of farming and now he is on a mission to get the tools of farming into schools and homes. Before joining RISE in the fall of 2021, Charles participated in Groundswell pilot BIPOC Farmer Training program, which immersed him into Ithaca’s food system for six months. He looks forward to enhancing food security, educating others about agriculture and connecting with the community. Charles spends his free time gardening, taking care of his plants, reading or exploring the great outdoors.

Bernard Randrianarisoa – Assistant Program Coordinator & Educator

Bernard is a woodworker, and enjoys nature, farming and knitting. He is originally from Madagascar where he mostly worked on sustainable farming and forestry programs for different organizations. In addition, Bernard has been involved in a few international development projects where he: provided technical support to the Botanical Garden of Quito in Ecuador to improve its agricultural practice, developed curriculum on micro-farming training programs for multiple Vocational Training Centers in Senegal through the Farmer to Farmer Program, and initiated the revitalization of the coffee program in the South Kivu Region of DR Congo. He temporarily taught wood technology and related fields for SUNY ESF, SUNY Morrisville and Utica College. Bernard mainly spends his free time gardening, hiking and crafts making.

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Ahmed Abdirahman – Market Manager

Ahmed is originally from Somalia, and spent time in Georgia and Arizona before moving to Syracuse in 2011. He initially connected with RISE when it was still known as the Somali-Bantu Community Association (SBCA) to get support in finding new work after his move. Ahmed was one of the first farmers as SBCA evolved into RISE and SyRAP was born. He began farming at Salt City Harvest Farm but now maintains a larger plot at Matthew 25 Farm where he primarily grows a type of African corn that is hard to come by in the United States. He also grows a variety of other vegetables on a smaller scale. As Market Manager, Ahmed coordinates with farmers on a weekly basis throughout the growing season to consolidate their harvests and run the SyRAP stand at the CNY Regional Market.

Xinyuan Shi – CCE Urban Agriculture Educator

Xinyuan is the Lead Educator for SyRAP through a partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension Onondaga and oversees the curriculum farmers receive . She received her Bachelor of Science in environmental science and sustainability. Prior to joining the team, Xinyuan has worked with agricultural systems in a variety of capacities as a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Zambia and an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer serving in rural Ohio. She has a passion for permanent agricultural systems and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in agroforestry through the University of Missouri. Outside of work, you can find her trying new recipes or biking around Central NYS. 

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