Meet the Design Team

The early design of Frogtown Farm is being led by Rebar, with guidance from the Frogtown Farm Board.  Rebar is a design studio based in San Francisco with experience creating many community farms and gardens, and the team includes a two farmers, a builder, architects, a civil engineer, and landscape architects. More than half of the team members live the Twin Cities. They will be looking for expertise and input from you to shape the design.

See below for descriptions of the team.

Blaine

BLAINE MERKER – Principal in Charge

As principal and co-founder of Rebar’s Art and Design Studio, Blaine combines a passion for the craft of making things with a design activist’s zeal for championing the culture of the commons. He’s worked for more than a dozen years in the urban context as a landscape architect, maker, and advocate while bridging the disciplines of design, engineering and the social sciences to make space for experimentation and play. He has managed the design and construction of a range of projects from temporary urban interventions to complex development plans. His writing was recently published by Routledge in Insurgent Public Space.

JOHN BELA – Resource Principlejb

Principal, ALSA

John is an artist, designer, and innovator with over a decade of experience creating public art, public space, and community participation projects. As a Rebar founder and principal, he led the creation of Park(ing) Day, The Panhandle Bandshell, The Victory Garden, and Showplace Triangle. While at CMG Landscape Architecture in San Francisco, he helped craft the Treasure Island Redevelopment Plan, Mint Plaza, and the Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Plan. John lectures and teaches worldwide and is a senior lecturer at the California College of Arts in San Francisco. John studied Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts, and sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. John is a registered landscape architect in the state of California (RLA 5678).

AntonioANTONIO ROMAN-ALCALA

Antonio Roman Alcala co-founded Alemany Farm, a 3 acre urban organic farm in San Francisco. He teaches a year-long course in Ecological Horticulture and teaches with the San Francisco Permaculture Guild and Institute, and at other local food projects like the Garden for the Environment, the Free Farm Stand and Hayes Valley Farm. After consulting on the programmatic and physical site designs for a new food justice project in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill public housing, he was hired as the project’s manager.

Antonio created a movie, In Search of Good Food, in an effort to explore what constitutes a truly “sustainable” food system. Antonio initiated meetings with local “ag-tivists” in order to found the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance (SFUAA), so that such an alliance could serve as a catalyst for that engaged participation. Antonio has been hired to help facilitate the formation and development of a new California Food Policy Council.

Antonio will provide leadership on the Frogtown Farm organizational structure and Program Design and assist with the Farm Site and Ecosystem design and the Community and Cultural Engagement process.

MollysquareMOLLY REICHERT

Associate AIA

Molly Reichert is a designer and an educator residing in Minneapolis, MN. She incorporates technology in both research and design practice with computational design and fabrication. Her practice engages in an interdisciplinary form, moving fluidly between the disciplines of architecture, art, design, urbanism and our relationships to each of these. She has a unique skill set of  design+build practice, with several years experience in rough and finished carpentry. Molly was educated a Smith College and UC Berkeley and has taught digital design and fabrication courses at UC Berkeley, San Jose State, and the University of Minnesota. She has worked on numerous award-winning public art projects including ‘Borderwall as Architecture’ for WPA 2.0, ‘LakeForms’ for the Minneapolis Creative City Challenge, ‘TonoSauna‘ for the Art Shanty Projects, and ‘Can you Listen to the Same River Twice’ at Northern Spark.

Molly will assist in the development farm and the buildings in the project. She will also serve as the communications manager, coordinating work and processes between all parties.

JOHN DWYERJohn Dwyer square

AIA

John Dwyer is an architect and furniture designer with a passion for the economics of design, the intersections of beauty and performance in the built environment, and the discovery of new architectures capable of catalyzing social and cultural equity. John is the founder and principal of the Minneapolis based architecture and furniture design studio John Dwyer Architect. John is an extensively awarded and published architect. Most recently, he received the 2013 Young Architect Award by the American Institute of Architects and is currently a finalist for the landscape furniture design competition at Battery Park in Manhattan. John is an Adjunct Instructor at the University Of Minnesota College Of Design, a Senior Professor at the Dunwoody College of Technology, and a
licensed architect in Minnesota and Louisiana.

John will provide leadership in the development of the buildings in the project and serve as the local firm of record.

JAKE VOITJake Voit

Landscape Contractor
Project Building and Budget Consultant

Jake is currently a Project Manager and Sustainability Intra-preneur with Arteka Companies with specialties in community facilitation, change management, soil regeneration, irrigation, and landscape installation. He is also Co-founder and Principal of Community Earth where he has facilitated community conversations for Habitat for Humanity, multi-generational projects, sustainability strategy sessions, and multi-sector mediation. He is the Author of the Organic Soil Handbook and most recently a contributing author of Designing Urban Agriculture: A Complete Guide to the Planning, Design, Construction, Maintenance and Management of Edible Landscapes.

At the Archibald Bush Foundation he managed the InCommons initiative, a culture shift movement whose mission was to inspire, support and connect community-powered problem-solvers to create a resilient region powered by community who in the face of tough problems, people see each other as the solution.

As the Sustainability Manager for Cagwin & Dorward, a top 25 Landscape Contracting firm in the US, he led the transformation of this 400 employee, 55 year old, $30 million conventional company into an Environmentally Responsible pioneer who received the 2009 national PLANET (Professional Landcare Network) Award for Sustainable Business. The World Café was an essential process to empowering staff to co-create, collaborate on new initiatives, and to create a learning organization.

Rhonda sqaureRHONDA PIERCE

Civil Engineer, Pierce and Pini
Civil Engineer

Rhonda Pierce is a licensed professional civil engineer, president of Pierce Pini + Associates (PPA) and has over 20 years of civil engineering design experience. PPA is an environmentally-conscious civil engineering firm who specializes in site design and stormwater management. Rhonda Pierce started PPA ten years ago and has flourished as a small, woman-owned company during the last decade.

PPA professional services include design of site layouts, grading, drainage, public and private utilities, storm water management, erosion control and pavements and roads. PPA also provides project management, construction administration and contract administration services for all types of construction projects in addition to coordinating with surveyors, geotechnical engineers, wetland specialists and assisting with procurement of city, county, state, federal and watershed district approvals and permits. PPA has experience working on B3, LEED, Green Building Design and Living Building Challenge methodology and implements sustainable design practices on all their site design projects.

Each project in a densely urban environment has various stormwater management parameters that include regulatory requirements, sustainability goals, geology, surficial and underground infrastructure constraints, construction cost, operations and maintenance and corresponding O+M cost, aesthetics, appeal and public perception.

Rhonda leads these efforts at PPA and brings a creativeness and sensitivity to each project on which she works so the final design meets expectations.

Courtney sqaureCOURTNEY TCHIDA

University of Minnesota, Horticulture
Food Systems Expert, Local Urban Farming Consultant

Courtney Tchida is the Student Program Coordinator for MISA and Farm Manager for Cornercopia Student Organic Farm at the University of Minnesota. The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) is a unique partnership between the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota Extension, and the Sustainers’ Coalition, a group of 5 community-based nonprofit organizations. Courtney’s responsibilities at MISA include managing and coordinating Cornercopia Student Organic Farm, coordinating the graduate and undergraduate minors in sustainable agriculture at the University of Minnesota and coordinating a seminar series.

Cornercopia Student Organic Farm is a student program of MISA which grows and markets over 90 different crops that are certified organic from 2.34 acres on the St. Paul Campus. In addition to Cornercopia Courtney also has an M.Ed in Agricultural Education (2007) and a B.S. in Environmental Horticulture (2002) both from the University of Minnesota. Courtney has also received training and certification in Permaculture Design, SPIN (Small Plot Intensive) Farming, and Biointensive farming. Courtney has presented numerous times at regional and national conferences on a variety of topics related to organic agriculture.

Courtney is a member of the Teacher’s Guild with the Permaculture Research Institute for Cold Climates. Through PRI she has taught and mentored urban agriculture certificate participants. Courtney served on the city of Minneapolis’s Urban Agriculture Plan Technical Advisory committee. Courtney is active with the Hamline Midway Neighborhood Local Food Working Group and Local Food Resource Hub.

ELI LIEBMANEli

Intern

Eli Liebman is currently a junior at Macalester College. While at Macalester, he studies applied math and ecology. Last summer he participated in University of Michigan Biological Station’s Summer Research Experience of Undergraduates (REU) studying the dynamics of carbon storage in a northern Great Lakes forest. He is interested in climate change and the socioeconomic changes necessary to mitigate its impacts, such as developing alternative food systems that challenge the engrained paradigms of world-wide food production. With Frogtown Farm, Eli facilitates community outreach and communication. He also conducts research about the viability of different visions for Frogtown Farm.

CAROLINE DEVANYCaroline Devany

Trained as a geographer, Caroline Devany is interested in gardening as a tactical practice that people use to negotiate their connection to urban place.  She began collaborating with Frogtown Farms three years ago as a student at Macalester and has since become an advocate of community- managed green space.  She currently coordinates an inter-generational community garden in Frogtown and recently installed a Pop-Up Orchard for Open Streets University Avenue. Caroline will support Rebar in connecting with some of the people and places she has become familiar with through her work around green space in Frogtown.
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