Teachers & Designers

All Backyard Abundance designers and teachers are certified in permaculture design or have a similar background and education.

Amy Bouska

Amy Bouska is an Urban Conservationist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Land Stewardship-Division of Soil Conservation.  She has nineteen years experience working with soil and water conservation issues.  She is a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) and Certified Inspector in Sediment and Erosion and Control (CISEC). She has undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Geography and a Master’s of Science in Urban and Regional Planning, all from the University of Iowa. Amy and her husband and four children live in Iowa City.

Jason Grimm

Jason GrimmAs the Food System Planner with Iowa Valley RC&D in Amana, Jason coordinates the Linn-Johnson Local Food Task Force. The Task Force is local and county governments, health authorities, schools, producers, non-profit organizations, food processors and developers who are working to build a sustainable food and agriculture system in the Linn and Johnson corridor.

Local food system planning was Jason’s focus during his undergraduate education at Iowa State in Landscape Architecture & Environmental Studies. In 2008 Jason received an ISU Dept. of Landscape Arch. Barbara King Scholarship and a University Honors Project Grant to fund his senior thesis Food Urbanism that he termed based on his interests in urban planning and urban food systems. His research, how food relates to the organization of a city and how it becomes infrastructure that transforms the urban experience, included research on urban agriculture in London and interviews with officials and local producers in Ames and the surrounding counties. His research awarded him with a 2009 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) President’s Award for academic excellence, and an ASLA Certificate of Honor.

Today in addition to his food system planning work with the Task Force he reads, writes and gives many presentations about the potential and importance of urban agriculture.  Jason and his wife live in the Iowa City area where they are heavily involved in many other organizations and work heavily with their family's small farm south of Williamsburg.

Jennifer Kardos

Jennifer KardosAs the Co-Director for Backyard Abundance, Jennifer Kardos specializes in curriculum and social garden design to transform gardens and landscapes into engaging outdoor classrooms and play spaces. She is also enthusiastic about therapeutic horticulture. She imparts that by tending and nurturing the earth thru growing healthy food and habitat, we ultimately nurture and heal ourselves and our communities. She holds an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, Masters in Education and is working toward a Certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She prefers to spend her play time digging in the dirt or hiking a trail, often with her three children.

Mary Kirkpatrick

Mary Crooks is a Master Gardener and certified Permaculture Designer. She is in the process of implementing an ecological landscape design in her yard which includes native prairie, food-bearing trees and shrubs, edible ground covers and habitat for wildlife. She recently retired from a career in family life education with Iowa State University Extension. Her passions include gardening, her volunteer work with Backyard Abundance, family and working with organizations that seek to restore the earth to health.

Liz Maas

Liz MaasLiz Maas is a restoration ecologist and co-owner of Transition Ecology, LLC in Iowa City.  She graduated from the University of Iowa, majoring in Biology and Environmental Science and went on to earn a Masters degree from Iowa in Geoscience (’04). In addition to her consulting work, Liz teaches environmental science as an adjunct instructor at Kirkwood Community College. She is passionate about improving biodiversity and the local food movement. Liz, her husband Ryan, and two daughters are usually found outdoors, with muddy boots and big smiles.

Fred Meyer

Fred MeyerFred Meyer founded and co-directs Backyard Abundance, combining his enthusiasm for growing food, his fascination with the natural world, and his sincere desire to help people live fulfilling lives. He has organized dozens of engaging, experiential events demonstrating how to use nature’s principles to design resilient landscapes in residences, parks, schools, and businesses. He is a certified Permaculture Designer, certified Teacher of Permaculture, Master Gardener, Master Conservationist, and Toastmaster.

Roxane Mitten

Roxane MittenRoxane Mitten is a Permaculture Designer. She is active in Earth Source Community Gardens in its demonstration and educational components. Inspired by her Permaculture Design Course from Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in 1997, she co-created an intentional community and practiced dryland permaculture in southeast Montana for 3 years, where she also engaged what she thinks of as a transition from "monocrop" livelihood, to one that was a resilient and diversified livilihood through produce growing, beekeeping, massage therapy, restaurant chef, carpentry, pluming and other trades, and other rural activities of the region. From this experience, along with her more urban experience in biomedical and astrophysics research, she brings an multidimentional perspective of life's patterns that melds with permaculture philosophy. She is interested in strategies for urban practices in resiliency. She has always found her deepest sense of interconnectedness experienced while working in nature's settings.

Melissa Sharapova

Melissa SharapovaMelissa Sharapova is a certified Permaculture Designer and certified Teacher of Permaculture. She specializes in designing with perennial plantings and is experimenting with them on her one acre urban homestead. Melissa is also passionate about natural building and is certified in green building and sustainable design from Living Routes, University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has managed greenhouses and founded a five-acre organic homestead in Connecticut. Melissa is committed to mentoring youth in food production and nature connection. She lives and gardens with her three children in Ely, Iowa.


Tom Wahl

Tom Wahl

Tom Wahl was born and raised in Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University in 1984 with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. For the next 16 years he worked for various government agencies in wildlife research, wildlife management, forestry, and park management. He and his wife, Kathy Dice, bought Red Fern Farm in Louisa County in 1986. Tom quit his off-farm job in January 2001 to work on the farm full time. Tom and Kathy grow high value tree crops including chestnuts, heartnuts, persimmons, pawpaws, Aronia berries, and also operate a small tree nursery.