Mission: SEEAG educates students about the farm origins of their food from field to table while cultivating visceral connections to the surrounding farmland and its contribution to nutritional well being.
Mary Maranville – Founder & Executive Director
Mary Maranville founded Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture (SEEAG) in 2008. Even with California’s rich agricultural heritage, children don’t make the connection between the acres of farmland around them to the food on their tables. This education program helps make that connection; providing kids with field trips to local farms brings the message home even further.
“Today as a grown woman I realize being raised on a dairy farm in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York was such a rich and lovely privilege. At the same time I had no idea the importance and value of how hard my father worked putting food on household tables. When I came to Ventura County 15 years ago and saw all the amazing local agriculture and farms, it inspired me and made me nostalgic. In 2008 I witnessed a local elementary school farm field trip in Santa Paula. Then and there I knew I could make a difference educating school children about the origins of their food and farming. Now, after providing over 10,000 kids with free field trips, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think and appreciate my father. He truly loved being a farmer and now I understand why. Farming was part of him; it was not a separate entity-the farm was him and he was the farm. It was not work to him; he loved the animals and growing things.”
Gretchen Heine – Donor Relations & Nutrition Education Program Manager
Growing up on a farm in Central Oregon, Gretchen developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. The farm provided her with the opportunity to explore nature, become involved in 4-H with her pigs and horses, and help her family with the daily chores necessary to run a farm. Upon graduating from college with a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Community Development, Gretchen pursued a career in corporate social responsibility. In her free time, she volunteered with a variety of nonprofits, including teaching a garden program to elementary students, before transitioning her career to full-time work in development and program management. Gretchen is thrilled to be joining the SEEAG team and utilizing her passion for agriculture and education.
Erica Gross – Development Director
Erica Gross joined SEEAG in January 2014 as the Development Coordinator. She received her BA from Harvard University in Government and Spanish, and spent 8 months of her junior year in Barcelona. Upon graduating, she spent the next 6 months interning with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jerusalem. Erica developed an interest in food systems and food justice while spending a year in France teaching and working on organic farms. She is deeply passionate about improving the food system; was recently recognized for her leadership work as Co-Chair of the Campaigns Committee of Bend the Arc Southern California (a social justice organization); enjoys cooking and traveling; and speaks French and Spanish.
Erica, now as the Development Director, is thrilled to be a part of the SEEAG team and to help the organization achieve its mission of educating people about the sources of their food and creating conscious consumers that make healthy food choices.
Lisa Emmert – Education Coordinator
Lisa is excited to assume the role of Education Coordinator, and leads the agriculture and nutrition education classroom presentations throughout Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. While a student at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico), Lisa had the opportunity to work with the Network for a Healthy California. She worked with the schools of Butte County, teaching students the importance of healthy living, including nutrition and exercise. The experience energized Lisa, and led her away from a path in clinical nutrition toward one in community nutrition education. Lisa obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Education from CSU Chico.
Born and raised in Ventura County, Lisa is proud to be an educator working in her hometown and surrounding region, where she connects children’s knowledge about food to the rich heritage of agriculture in our community.
Kyra Rude – Field Trip Educator
Kyra Rude manages Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc., which produces and markets supplies for biological pest control.
After earning degrees in Biology and Chemistry at Purdue University, Kyra moved to Ventura to take an entomology internship at Rincon-Vitova Insectaries. For 10 years she has been learning about organic methods of farming and gardening. Kyra is excited to educate children and younger generations about sustainability. Discussions about insect lifecycles and predator-prey relationships with visual aids and live insect demonstrations make the principles of biocontrol easy to understand.
Caitlin Paulus – Development Assistant
Caitlin is currently a senior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and will soon graduate with a degree in Agricultural Communication. She is thrilled to be back at SEEAG after completing an internship during the summer of 2016, and is excited to help promote agricultural education. Caitlin was born and raised in a small town in Northern California, where she first developed a passion for nature, the environment and agriculture. During her time at Cal Poly she has interned at a distinguished sustainable agriculture university in Costa Rica, attended several industry and leadership conferences, and has written multiple articles for the school’s agricultural magazine. Caitlin aspires to use her background in agriculture and passion for youth education and empowerment to aid in SEEAG’s mission to help educate people about the farm sources of their food.
Chris Sayer – Farm Lab Consultant
Chris Sayer is the manager of Petty Ranch, which is home to SEEAG’s Farm Lab. Petty Ranch is a commercial producer of citrus and avocados, as well as the site for an experimental orchard that includes figs, apples, apricots, pears and persimmons.
Petty Ranch was engaged with “sustainable agriculture” long before that was a commonly used term. Beneficial insects have been part of the farm’s pest control program since the 1930’s. More recently, Petty Ranch has been known for their early adoption of microsprinkler irrigation and soil-building practices.
As the fifth generation of his family to manage the ranch, Chris served as a Navy pilot earlier in career, and was educated at Northwestern University. He is the Farm Advisor and a contributing writer for Edible Ojai and Ventura County. Chris has also been engaged in a variety of community and agricultural organizations, and currently serves on the boards of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, Associates Insectary and Citrus Mutual Water Company.