Our Staff

Lucy Spence – Agriculture Program Director

Lucy began working at RISE in the middle of 2020. She started as the Program Coordinator where she worked with the vegetable incubator farm program and then moved on to being the Program Director to oversee the goat farm program. Before coming to work at RISE, Lucy graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Zoology and a minor in Spanish. She then went on to serve for a year and a half in the Peace Corps doing Sustainable Agriculture Systems work in Panama alongside subsistence farmers and teaching everything from creating rain barrels to baking banana bread. In her free time you can find Lucy experimenting in the kitchen, trying to grow the largest luffa squash possible, or exploring trails with her dog.

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.

Yussuf Yussuf – Transportation Specialist

Yussuf is from Somalia, but lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for many years. He farmed in his home country since he was a boy. Yussuf enjoys growing corn, beans, squash, lettuce, swiss chard, and collard greens. He is also a farmer with SyRAP and farms a plot of land with his family at Salt City Harvest Farm. Yussuf helps bridge the barrier that many SyRAP farmers face in getting to and from the farm each week as the Transportation Specialist.

Jacob Gigler-Caro – Salt City Harvest Farm Director

Jacob is a music maker, caretaker of plants, lover of stillness, and so much more. Jacob has been growing food in different capacities over the past 14 years, first finding his love for food in Chicago community gardens. Since then, he has worked alongside communities in California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina growing food and managing farms at a variety of scales. He is on a continuous quest to share what he has learned with others; with the intention of breaking down stereotypes, bringing people together, and deepening our relationship with the cosmos. 

Jay Regmi – Salt City Harvest Farm Manager

Jay is a Deaf man who was born in a remote village of Nepal. He worked at not-for-profit organizations in Nepal and volunteered to help Deaf children and those with disabilities in rural areas in Nepal.  Jay worked to help families access traditional farming, raise cattle, and collect fodder.  He is also a cycling enthusiast and social worker. In 2015, a massive earthquake struck Nepal.  After that disaster Jay has been actively involved in distributing relief supplies and building houses for victims. In 2017,  Jay moved to Syracuse, NY, and is currently working as a Farm Manager at Salt City Harvest Farm and Deaf Advocate at Hopeprint.

Rick Rarick – Matthew 25 Farm Manager

Rick received his Bachelors of Art in Elementary Education from Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland, and his Masters in Elementary Education from Walden University.  He is a former Elder at Christ’s Chapel and served as the Chairman of the Property Committee.  He enjoys so many aspects of the farm—from the plowing, disking and planting of the crops to the harvesting of thousands of pounds of fresh food.  He especially enjoys working with the various volunteers that come out to the farm.  Whether it is a church, school, fraternity, business or family group, each one brings something unique to the farm while they are helping out.  No two days are ever alike, which makes his job as manager interesting and challenging.  When he is not farming, he enjoys playing golf and is an avid sports fan.  He resides in LaFayette with his dogs Belushi and Minnie.

Monu Chetri -Interpreter, Nepali Sign Language (NSL)

Pashupati Neopaney – Interpreter, Nepali

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