Olivewood Garden’s Staff



Jen Nation

Executive Director

Jen grew up in Iowa where one of her favorite activities was planting and harvesting an annual garden with her family. After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in non-profit administration, she has spent the past 20 years working for non-profits in a variety of roles, most recently with Girl Scouts San Diego. Jen values the importance of building an active, healthy and engaged community and hopes to create long-lasting relationships with not only the National City community, but with anyone who wishes to be a part of Olivewood Gardens. In her free time, Jen enjoys traveling, any and all outdoor activities, exploring farmers markets and the local food scene.


Claire Groebner

Director of Development

Claire Groebner is the Director of Development at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.  She has a B.A. in Sociology – Social Inequalities and Spanish Literature from UC San Diego.  Prior to Olivewood, Claire worked in a number of different departments at UC San Diego.  Claire’s love for people, nature, and food inspired her to get involved in the food justice and farm-to-table movements, and eventually, with Olivewood Gardens.  In her free time, Claire likes to travel (preferably on foot and with a backpack on), dance, garden, and cook homegrown meals.


Hope Zabronsky

Director of Programs

Hope Zabronsky is the Director of Programs at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Originally from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area, Hope’s affinity for the outdoors brought her to Vermont, where she discovered a passion for locally grown food and pursued a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont. Hope also holds a M.S. in International Agricultural Development and Participatory Education from UC Davis. Hope brings seven years of experience within the environmental nonprofit sector and has national and international experience working with communities on sustainable food systems, agricultural equity, economic development, and environmental education initiatives. In her spare time, Hope enjoys cooking, hiking, traveling, and exploring local farmer’s markets.


Leonard Vargas

Gardens and Facilities Manager

Leonard is the Gardens and Facilities Manager at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.  He brings more than two decades of professional growing experience in San Diego County, and has been gardening since he was about 2.  He most recently managed operations for Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall and has overseen growing at Miramar Wholesale Nurseries, HerbThyme Farms, and other local nurseries.  For many years, he managed the urban farm onsite at San Pasqual Academy in Escondido for their resident students.  Leonard is excited to work with students and families here at Olivewood.  He is happiest when his hands are in the soil and looks forward to inspiring and empowering our community to grow both food and flowers.


Jacqueline Ante

Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach

Jacqueline Ante is the Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Born and raised in Tijuana, Jacqueline moved to California in 2002 after getting married. With a love for drawing, she worked as an architectural designer prior to her arrival at Olivewood. Through her two children, Legolas and Aureo, she was introduced to Olivewood and the Cooking for Salud® program when Patty Corona was giving a presentation at Lincoln Acres Elementary. The presentation made her realize the importance of health, especially for her children, leading her to sign up for Cooking for Salud®. Graduating in the 10th generation, Jacqueline has devoted her time to the gardens as a volunteer. As Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach, Jacqueline plans to help by keeping volunteers and interns engaged and for longer terms.


Angelica Gastelum

Schools Coordinator

Angelica Gastelum is the Schools Coordinator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. A San Diego-Tijuana native, Angelica has over 10 years of experience in Marketing. She has most recently volunteered her time in her children’s school and local church. She loves cooking, reading and traveling. Angelica is a Kitchenista® graduated from the 7th Generation, and is honored and thankful for the opportunity to call Olivewood Gardens, ‘work’ and to be part of such a dedicated staff that share a passion for healthy and sustainable programs. In her spare time she loves hospitality and connecting with friends and family.


Monica Lim

Account Coordinator

Monica Lim is the accounting assistant at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She graduated from SDSU with a B.A in International Business with emphasis in Latin America. Prior to Olivewood, Monica worked as an International Customer Service Specialist.  Monica got involved in Olivewood Gardens as  a volunteer, thanks to her mother who has inspired her to follow in her footsteps by graduating from The Cooking for Salud® program in the 10th Generation. This inspired Monica to become involved in the community by teaching others the tools to help them be healthy eaters and lead by example.

In her free time, Monica enjoys volunteering at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, cooking with Grandma & spending quiet time with her husband and her yellow lab, Cali.


Taylor Garcia

Development Coordinator

Taylor has long been an advocate for healthy lifestyles and body consciousness. Intrigued by how complicated our food systems seem to be, as well as the food service industry, Taylor graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s in Food & Nutrition. Taylor’s love for creating connections with people and promoting social equity sparked her interest in the nonprofit sector. In her free time Taylor surrounds herself with music, friends, vegan food, the outdoors, and finding beauty in the simplest of things. 


Jeni Barajas

Environmental Education Specialist

Jeni is the Environmental Education Specialist at Olivewood Gardens. She is a San Diego native. She attended San Diego State University where she got her BFA in Public Administration. She worked for years in the mortgage industry while volunteering for nonprofits she had a passion for on the side. With support from her family, she left the corporate world to chase her dreams of making the world a better place in the non-profit sector. She has grown food her whole life- as a child, gardening with her family…as an adult, to provide garden knowledge to her two children, to grow food for her own family, and to grow food to donate to her local food pantry. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, camping, and leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.


Patty Corona

Cooking for Salud® Coordinator

Patty is the Cooking For Salud® Coordinator at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She grew up between Tijuana, Santa Veronica Ranch in Tecate and summers at her grandmother’s ranch in San Pedro, Jalisco. She obtained her B.A in Foreign Trade and Customs at Universidad Iberoamericana del Noroeste in Tijuana. After a year as a volunteer at Olivewood, the Children’s Home Society of California offered her an intensive training about a nutrition curriculum in Spanish, which helped to open the doors to National City community. After becoming a Kitchenista® of the 1st Generation of Cooking for Salud®, Patty was highly motivated to have a higher and deeper impact in the community and became a Resident Leadership Academy facilitator. She found her real passion in the combination of teaching about nutrition, cooking and leading the Kitchenistas® to become a driving force in the community. Patty loves to eat, cook, drink wine, coffee, talk and be surrounded by the Kitchenistas® family. She also likes to travel around Mexico, hiking, connecting with her indigenous roots, and checking things off her bucket list. She really enjoys to spend time at home with her son and daughter as well as laying on the carpet with her jerky dog licking her face.


Rebecca Howat

Nutrition Educator

Bio coming soon!


Ellyse Briand

Adult Nutrition Educator

Ellyse has worked within the greater San Diego food community since she moved here in 2015. Originally from Massachusetts, Ellyse has always loved food and large gatherings surrounded by the promise of good food. She holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in Psychology but found her real passion was growing food and sharing it with the community. The relationship Olivewood has to the land, the kitchen and the larger community was something she hadn’t seen in San Diego since arriving. Volunteering to teach a fermentation class with the Olivewood Kitchenistas®, she realized that all of her passions were coming together beautifully at Olivewood. Now the Nutrition Educator for the Adult Programs she can share her knowledge of healthy eating and living while continuing to have a positive impact through food.


Rocina Lizarraga

Special Projects Coordinator

Rocina works at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center as Special Projects Coordinator, overseeing transit, equity justice and community outreach efforts in collaboration with the San Diego Association of Governments. She is also a 9th Generation Kitchenista®, gardening support staff and a recently elected National School District Board Member trustee. Rocina loves adventures with food, cooking, dancing, sewing, new cultures and friends. She had a wonderful mother and very loving grandparents that taught her the main principles in life: courage, respect, kindness and showing the best of you. Born and raised in Mazatlán, Sinaloa in northwest Mexico, she learned many different ways to adapt to a new life, language, culture and lifestyle when she came to the United States. In her free time she enjoys outdoor adventures like bikes, hiking, picnics and beach outings with her family. She also loves all kinds of music that touches your soul and makes you move with a smile on your face.


Adan Teposte

Gardener Support Staff

Adan is one of the Gardeners at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.  He migrated from Mexico in 1980, and after working for many years in the manufacturing industry in Los Angeles, he moved to San Diego where he gained experience in gardening.  Adan has seen the transformation of the Walton family home gardens into the extensive Gardens we have today, for he has been part of the working team for 11 years! He loves going to the beach in his free time.


Octavio Rodriguez

Garden Support Staff

Octavio works as one of the garden support staff at Olivewood. He is a National City native and graduated from Sweetwater Union High School. He currently attends college at City College. In his free time, Octavio likes to spend time with his family. Octavio was a volunteer at Olivewood before joining the staff team.