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Courtney Leeds steps down as executive director to work toward a master's degree in public health at OHSU-PSU

While many farms close out the growing season and settle in for the winter, this fall will be a time for new beginnings at Schoolyard Farms as Courtney Leeds steps down as executive director and Krista Basis takes her place.

Krista BasisLeeds will work toward a master's degree in public health at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health in order to advance Schoolyard Farms' good work through program design and evaluation.

Five years ago she co-founded Schoolyard Farms, which partners with public K-12 schools to build working farms on underused schoolyards to teach kids where food comes from and how to grow and cook it, so they can grow up to be healthy food citizens.

Schoolyard Farms has two active sites: Candy Lane Schoolyard Farm, 5901 S.E. Hull Ave., in Jennings Lodge; and New Urban Schoolyard Farm, 1901 S.E. Oak Grove Blvd., in Oak Grove.

Changes in store

"As the co-founder and first executive director of Schoolyard Farms, it has been my distinct honor to contribute to a flourishing and healthy environment for our kids, and I can't wait to see how Schoolyard Farms grows and matures in the coming years," Leeds said.

"Krista brings more than 15 years of nonprofit and business development experience to Schoolyard Farms. She moved to Portland four years ago knowing that the Northwest and the Portland community were the right fit for her and her family."

Leeds added: "As Schoolyard Farms transitions into its next stage of development, Krista's demonstrated ability to lead and grow an organization will strengthen and expand our work.

"Schoolyard Farms has spent the last five years building its capacity, refining its programs, and rooting itself in the community. Now we're ready to dive deeper into our existing partnerships and expand our programs, helping even more kids live healthy, productive lives," Leeds said.

Background in farming

A native New Englander, Basis spent many of her early years helping her father on his urban farm in Dorchester, Massachusetts. As a child, she learned that she had a strong connection to the land through her parent.

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Basis was a community development Peace Corps volunteer in St. Vincent, working with the Save the Children Fund.

She attended the School for International Management, and went on to work as a recruiter and recruitment coordinator for the Peace Corps. She also was a volunteer coordinator for the Denver Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and director of communications and special events for the Webb-Waring Institute at the University of Colorado Denver.

Most recently, Basis was the development manager at March of Dimes in Greater Oregon and Southwest Washington.

"Her passion is to connect people to causes that they love, and foster community support through volunteerism and fundraising," Leeds said.

"It's important, now more than ever, to share the joy of farm and garden-based access to children and adults; especially the most vulnerable and underserved," she added.

Building on good foundation

"I'm most looking forward to getting to work with the staff members, board, volunteers and community who make up Schoolyard Farms," Basis said. "Building on the solid foundation created by Courtney Leeds and deepening and expanding on that vision, we can grow the organization together while staying true to its roots," she said.

Basis said her experiences in development and as an entrepreneur have best prepared her for the executive director position at Schoolyard Farms.

"The board members and Courtney were searching for someone with more of a development background to help the organization continue to improve their offerings in a sustainable and long-term way. That's where I can really help the organization grow," she said.

Community support

Basis hopes to meet members of the community at the fourth-annual Farm to Table Dinner, a benefit for Schoolyard Farms, held from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9, at The Village Ballroom in Northeast Portland.

"We also have lots of fun opportunities for the community to volunteer for Schoolyard Farms," Basis said.

As for future plans, Basis said the "current strategic plan will have us focus on diving deeper at our current partner schools, building up community awareness and engagement, and strengthening our programs for the next couple of years.

"We'll begin to explore expansion only after this is complete," she said. "I'm thrilled to be part of such a passionate group of staff, board members, volunteers and community. I look forward to helping Schoolyard Farms fine-tune and organically grow the organization in the years to come."

Work the farm

What: Fourth annual Farm to Table Dinner, a benefit for Schoolyard Farms

When: 6-10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9

Where: The Village Ballroom, 704 N.E. Dekum St., Portland

More: Visit schoolyardfarms.org/events for information about the event.

Website: Visit schoolyardfarms.org for more about Schoolyard Farms.

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