Meet our Team...

Asha  Vitlacil

Asha’s love for plants began in early childhood. By the age of six she adored planting seeds in little cups and watching them grow, and by age 8 she was winning ribbons at the county fair for her cactus and succulent arrangements. After finishing her degree in Communications at UCLA, Asha began studying permaculture and getting involved in environmental campaigns while working at a medical start-up. In 1998 she founded the Unity Garden Collective, a volunteer organization that planted organic gardens for low-income individuals and communities. This led to over a decade in nonprofit management and international aid work before she founded Rhizome Urban Gardens in 2013.

Today Asha specializes in teaching people how to grow their own food organically in urban areas. She loves the idea of edible landscaping, food sharing, and the art of making places beautiful in ways that promote the ecological well-being of the land and community.

Spira Leena

Spira specializes in backyard vegetable production in urban areas. Spira’s education started in the swamps and pine forests of northern Florida, growing up with gardens, chickens, and other backwoods homesteading.

Spira studied permaculture at the Merritt College Horticultural Department and received his certificate in 2011. His passion is designing gardens that produce a maximum harvest of organic food with minimal input, while supporting natural ecosystems. Spira is an avid beekeeper and seed saver, and loves to teach others how to save and plant seeds.

Julia Beitel

Julia is  happy to be carrying on a family tradition through her work in landscaping.  She is an accomplished stone mason and has a wide breadth of experience in the field. She enjoys visualizing designs that balance the aesthetic and the practical, and that tread lightly on the environment. 

Originally from the East Coast, Julia has called San Francisco her home for the last seven years, and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Environmental Studies. Since graduation, she has worked as a project leader for Rhizome. Her work includes everything from stonework, patios, installations and maintenance, all of which she infuses with a creative touch. 

Olivia Kurz

Olivia loves plants and started gardening as a child alongside her mother, who worked as a landscaper. She’s passionate about houseplants and loves creating indoor jungles. She has worked in numerous community gardens and urban farms in New York City and the Bay Area.

After graduating magna cum laude from Columbia University with a BA in Comparative Literature, Olivia earned her Master’s Degree in Museum and Childhood Education at Bank Street College of Education in 2014. Pursuing her passion for nature, she worked as science, nature, and gardening teacher in elementary schools and botanical gardens for 7 years. She loves reconnecting young children with nature. Her move to California led her to explore permaculture, birding, herbalism, succulents, and native plants. She’s passionate about restoring healthy ecosystems, pollinators, and organic practices, and joined Rhizome Urban Gardens in 2018 to help bring those things to people’s backyards.

Veronica Giessler

Veronica completed her Bachelor of Science in Botany and Biology in 2019 at SF State University, then joined Rhizome to apply what she had learned in the classroom toward creating healthier ecosystems. She has an eclectic background ranging from working as a Lab/Field Research Aid in plant function, ecology, identification and greenhouse set up, to volunteering at the Human Society tube-feeding seas lions at the Marin Mammal Center.  She has extensive knowledge of inside and outside plant collections from all over the world. In her own words "plants are my passion and I'd love to make the city I live in a more beautiful and sustainable place." :)

Nicholas Roark

Nick, a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, found his green thumb as a member of the produce department at Whole Foods, where he "realized his passion for plants and cut greens." He further developed his green thumb as the Assistant Grounds Keeper at the Chuck Gorica Golf Course where he found that he had a love for tree trimming and plant maintenance. He joined Rhizome Urban Gardens in 2019 to further refine his skills in plant care and sustainability. In this spare time, Nick frolics with his 5 year old daughter and tends to his own "jungle" at his home in the Sunset.

Aja Mathews

Aja recently graduated with a Masters degree in Ecological Landscape Design from the Conway School in Western Massachusetts, where she learned to assess and (re)design landscapes to encourage and sustain healthy ecosystems, and to foster the relationships between communities and their commons.


Aja has experience in outdoor education, farming, wilderness stewardship, and international community development. During her Peace Corps service in Nepal, Aja worked with her counterparts to design and establish a vegetable nursery which supplies the local community with low-cost seedlings and provides village families with opportunities for income-generation. She enjoys all things plant related, ecstatic dancing and leisurely mornings with tea. 

Lindsey Hack

Lindsey discovered her passion for plants as a college student in Costa Rica, where she learned about the incredible diversity of native bees, and the flowering plants they pollinate. After graduation, she continued her studies of plants and pollinators in California as a research assistant at UC Davis. She moved to Berkeley in 2017 to help restore native plant landscapes in the open spaces of the Bay Area, where she became enamored with the Bay’s amazingly complex plant landscapes. Lindsey loves working outdoors, where she can get her hands dirty and smell the lovely plant smells. Her specialty is in establishing pollinator-friendly, drought tolerant flower gardens.

No plants were harmed in the making of this website.