Meet our 2021 Team Players

Joining NFFTT this summer are Jessica, Molly, and Maddy who will work hard to help us put fruit to good use, engage as many people as possible in the harvest, become stewards of our Urban Orchard, and reconnect people to where their food comes from! Keep reading to learn all about our new team members and what they’re most excited about this season.

Reintroducing Jessica Akiwi – Program Manager

Despite many pivots last year, Jessica supported the team as the Picking Assistant through a bountiful season, and is elated to rejoin the NFFTT team in the capacity of Program Manager! Jessica is excited to engage and inspire more tree-owning residents to share their fruit, expand the NFFTT community, grow and support Toronto’s Urban Orchard, and sustain resilient food practices through the Picking Program and beyond.

Why NFFTT? Jessica’s work as a coordinator in different food organizations including food cooperatives, food banks, and farmers markets in the GTA and internationally over the past 10 years lead her to NFFTT in 2020. Way to go, Jessica!

Jessica’s Work Ethic is Unmatched – Jessica strives to strengthen and develop relationships with all community members! Building bridges to create opportunities and partner with local organizations and residents! As a nature enthusiast dedicated to facilitating sustainable food systems, she thrives in the intersection that is her work and passion. With so many opportunities abound she is thrilled to work, learn, and grow with all partners! This might be in-between her facilitating fruit picks, enjoying local farmers markets, trekking through urban and backcountry parks, gardening, and any other spirited adventure she’s on!

What fruit season are you the most excited for? Grapes galore! Specifically red concord, but any and all will do!

Meet Molly Lalonde – Picking Program Assistant

Molly is very excited to work with Not Far From The Tree this fruity season. Before joining NFFTT, Molly completed her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at McGill University, further exploring her passion for the environment and grassroots movements through an academic lens. Molly has a diverse professional background – after graduating, she has been a science educator at a museum, a landscaper, and even a tree planter! Currently, Molly is working to complete her Masters degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto.

Why NFFTT? Molly adores working with the local community and she believes that small-scale grassroots work like what we do at NFFTT is one of the most effective ways to make a real and lasting change. As an avid gardener, Molly is also passionate about local food production and food sharing as it brings communities together while increasing food security and access to fresh, local produce for everyone!

Plant Powered – Molly loves working on different personal art projects – currently, pottery and ceramics. You can catch her out on a hike or camping, as she’s a huge outdoors enthusiast! Molly is keen on learning more about herbalism, especially in regards to our relationship with the plants that grow all around us. Molly currently tends to 20+ houseplant babies, which have been keeping her company while working from home!

What fruit season are you the most excited for? I am really excited to try gingko, elderberry, and pawpaw! I’ve never tasted any of them before.

Meet Maddy Simpkins – Communications Assistant

Maddy received her undergraduate degree in Environment and Urban Sustainability from Ryerson University. As both a creative and nature-loving person, Maddy is deeply passionate about visual storytelling, especially as it relates to environmental education, food security, and sustainable community building. Previous to joining Not Far From The Tree, Maddy spent 3 years working within the Sustainability Department of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and helped coordinate their EcoSchools program, curriculum and community-based environmental education geared towards elementary and secondary students. Since moving to the Queen West area earlier this year, Maddy has begun volunteering with Toronto’s Community Fridges network, and is also a new committee member of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust. 

Why NFFTT? Maddy Simpkins couldn’t have DREAMED a more perfect job opportunity if she tried, and she is incredibly honoured to be working with NFFTT as this season’s Communications Assistant. Maddy is excited about creating impactful designs that encourage hands-on, ecologically-minded community engagement in the Greater Toronto Area. From her own practical gardening and tree care experience to her desire to share best practices with plant lovers from all backgrounds and experience levels, Maddy’s goal is to help foster an accessible, supportive community of shared knowledge on the wonders of growing and harvesting healthy, local food for yourself and for others! 

Always On The Go – Maddy enjoys biking around the city and finding underrated parks to picnic at. During the pandemic, she took up quilting and has since made 3 hand-stitched quilts for her friends and family! Maddy can often be found tending to her many indoor and outdoor plants, admiring her craft supplies, hosting virtual Powerpoint/skill share nights, and giving stick-and-poke tattoos to her closest pals.

What fruit season are you the most excited for? In terms of what I will eat the most, definitely peaches and plums! But I’m also very struck by the enigmatic pawpaw fruit and would love to give that a try for my first time this year.

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