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About Us

Founded in 2006, Backyard Abundance is a leading educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit residing in Johnson County, Iowa.


Through hundreds of classes, presentations, tours and consultations, we’ve helped thousands of people create and experience environmentally-beneficial landscapes that grow nourishing food, beautiful wildlife habitat and healthy people.



Backyard Abundance helps people deeply connect to the natural world and feel mentally, physically and spiritually healthy by nurturing resilience within themselves and our local ecosystems.

We accomplish this mission by working with nature’s powers of growth and transformation, offering experiential, restorative education and developing spaces where all beings feel safe, held and interconnected.



We envision the growth of resilient, caring and safe communities where everyone has easy and equal access to nurturing spaces to connect, grow, heal and learn.

These nourishing landscapes grow an abundance of food, medicine and materials, clean water and prevent erosion, purify air and regulate greenhouse gases, provide wildlife habitat and encourage biodiversity, cycle nutrients and build soil.

People readily integrate their innate skills and knowledge into regenerative ecosystem processes to foster harmony, diversity and stability. Emotional, physical and spiritual needs are simultaneously nurtured, helping everyone feel whole and interconnected.



Everyone wants to feel connected to their community and improve the health of the environment, but when faced with monumental societal and environmental challenges, the task seems too large and understanding how to proceed can feel overwhelming.


In addition, most people long to regain the immersive relationship they had with nature as a child, to feel her unconditional love, delight in the wild aliveness of interacting with kindred species, and experience the timeless wonder that now only comes in fleeting moments.


In recognition of this anxiety and disconnection, Backyard Abundance was founded to help align everyone’s unique interests and gifts with the rhythms of nature, to grow personal wellbeing while harmoniously improving the health of our local environment. Along the journey, we will realize that we are Earth expressed in human form, and tending our internal garden is required in order to tend the wider world.



No other Iowa organization teaches people how to take small steps that transform the outdoors into spaces that demonstrate our ability to thrive in harmony with nature.

Deep and lasting satisfaction comes from the daily observation of personally-made environmental improvements. This personal connection with a landscape evokes a strong desire to share actions and knowledge, quickly spreading this mission in a positive, grassroots way.

Our Team


Mandy Dickerson

Mandy Dickerson is a trained herbalist and certified yoga and meditation teacher. She guides regenerative practices which build outer and inner resilience.


Her company, Plantchanters Garden, nurtures and circulates plants and herbal knowledge, and crafts home remedies and tasty herbal foods. Her work aims to inspire deeper connection with the plant world and closer listening to the land.


Jen Kardos

Jen Kardos is the wellness director for Backyard Abundance, a certified health and wellness coach (NBC-HWC) and works as a licensed mental health therapist (tLMHC) for Peacewise Family Therapy in Iowa City. She also holds a professional certificate in horticultural therapy.

Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer is the director and founder of Backyard Abundance. He has organized hundreds of engaging, experiential events demonstrating how to use nature’s principles to design resilient, beautiful landscapes at residences, acreages, churches, parks, schools and businesses.


He is a certified permaculture designer, certified teacher of permaculture, master gardener and master conservationist. In addition to teaching and designing landscapes with Backyard Abundance, he teaches permaculture gardening classes at the University of Iowa.


Emelia Sautter

Emelia is owner and foundress of Good Medicine, a forest therapy practice located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is a certified nature and forest therapy guide.


Her heart’s work is a juicy mash-up of spending time with the land and providing opportunities for humans to connect with self and with our nature relatives. She believes that Forest Therapy helps us fall more wholly in love with ourselves and with the world around us.

Annie Ventullo

Annie Ventullo

Annie is the operations manager for Backyard Abundance. She is a clinical psychotherapist and death doula.


She applies a social justice and holistic lens to her work. Her practices borrow from a variety of resources including ecopsychology, nature wellness, resilience theory, and empowerment perspectives to aid communities and their individual members in creating lifestyles that are ecologically sustainable and psychologically healthy.

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