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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 a licensed mental health therapist (tLMHC) and certified functional medicine health and wellness coach (NBC-HWC, FMCHC) in private practice in Iowa City, Iowa. She is a lifelong gardener and holds a professional certificate in Horticultural Therapy.


Over the past decade, through her work in therapy, health coaching, and as the Wellness Director at Backyard Abundance, she has taught classes and worked one-on-one with people suffering from physical and mental health concerns who are seeking new solutions. Her favorite approach is to connect them more deeply with nature, and nurture other lifestyle factors that can reconnect them with their aliveness and innate ability to heal. She asserts that nature reflects the wisdom and soothing of our nervous systems that we are all seeking during these stressful times.


Emmie Klever

Emmie Klever holds a Wild-harvested Mushrooms Certification from Iowa State University and currently studies Anthropology and Sustainability at the University of Iowa.


She discovered a love of foraging in her hometown of Iowa City three years ago. Immersing herself in the abundance of the land ignited a passion for environmental stewardship, community resilience, and food sovereignty. By sharing her ever-expanding knowledge of gardening and local ecology, Emmie hopes to empower her Iowa City neighbors to forge deeper connections with the land, their food, and each other.


Autumn McConeghey

Autumn is a native plant enthusiast with a background in public health. She envisions a world where nature is a seamless part of human spaces and advocates for inviting native plants and wildlife into our lives.

She values a holistic, systems-thinking approach to individual and community wellness. Autumn believes in fostering community and individual resilience through suburban biodiversity, the growing and sharing of food, and cultivating meaningful connections with nature.

Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer is the director and founder of Backyard Abundance. He is a certified permaculture designer, master gardener, master conservationist and wilderness guide with extensive experience across hundreds of landscapes, including residential areas, educational institutions, mental health care centers, spiritual organizations, farmsteads and businesses.

Fred’s practical and accessible guidance has made him a sought-after landscape designer and educator. Through engaging, experiential activities, he demonstrates ways people can enrich landscapes with beauty, functionality and sustainability while fostering a harmonious connection with the natural world.

In addition to leading Backyard Abundance, Fred teaches permaculture gardening at the University of Iowa, equipping students with hands-on skills to create organic, high-yielding gardens.


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 a clinical psychotherapist and death doula who 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 help communities and individuals create lifestyles that are ecologically sustainable and psychologically healthy.

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