Our Staff

Laura Plaut – Executive Director

Once upon a time, a woman gave birth to a child, and began tLaura Plaut o see the world through his eyes. She saw the sugary cereals, brightly wrapped candies, and processed breads and cookies that the storeowners placed so cleverly right at her son’s eye level, and she wondered: how could healthy food compete with this? Was there a way to get her son as excited about fresh fruits and vegetables as he was about Fruit Loops and Pop Tarts? Could she teach her son that eating well was not only the right thing, but also the fun thing?  And thus was born Common Threads. One mom’s passion for helping her own kid learn to make happy, healthy food choices turned into a conviction that all kids can and will make healthy food choices if grown-ups would just do a better job of making good choices available at home and at school.

This mom’s name (if you hadn’t guessed) is Laura, and she is so very proud to serve as the Executive Director of Common Threads.   Laura holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language and Culture from Amherst College. Prior to founding Common Threads Farm, she chaired the Education Program at Prescott College, served as an Instructor and Course Director for the North Carolina Outward Bound School, directed the Fort Miley Ropes Course in San Francisco, served as the Education and Service Learning Coordinator for the East Bay Conservation Corps; and led international service-learning programs for teens in China, Thailand, and Costa Rica.

Contact: laura (AT) commonthreadsfarm (DOT) org

Julia Gray, Program Coordinator

Julia grew up in the middle of the woods on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. A close connection with the natural world was developed while exploring the beaches, forests, and farms in this rural setting. She attended Western Washington University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and a Minor in Fine Art. For the past nine years, Julia has supported the integration of garden education into public schools in Portland, Oregon. She worked as a garden educator at an elementary school for five years, which led her to pursue the Master’s of Arts in Teaching program at Lewis and Clark College. Julia is certified to teach Middle Level Science and English Language Learners. Most recently as the Teacher Outreach Coordinator for Growing Gardens, Portland-based nonprofit organization, Julia focused on teacher professional development and collaboration with teacher teams to support the use of school gardens as outdoor classrooms. Julia returned to Bellingham together with her family and is delighted to join the Common Threads team.

Contact: julia (AT) commonthreadsfarm (DOT) org

Jessica Moerman, Operations Manager

JessicaJessica developed an interest in food production and nutrition during her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia, where she volunteered as a classroom tour leader at the UBC Farm. Her interest continued as she and her husband turned their rental yard into a food garden and enjoyed fresh harvests just outside their back door. Prior to coming to Common Threads, Jessica served as the program director for children & youth services for a nonprofit in Vancouver, B.C.. Jessica also holds a Master of Arts in Community Development. She spends much of her time now caring for her two children and cooking seasonally inspired meals for her family. Jessica is exited to go work every day because she loves being surrounded by so many people who also believe in the importance of healthy food.

Contact: jessica (AT) commonthreadsfarm (DOT) org

Renae Keep, Development and Communications Coordinator

Renae and her family garden avidly, keep bees, and practice sustainable living. Raised in the woods outside Seattle, Renae studied Communications at Fairhaven College, Systems Theory at Schumacher College in England, and History at graduate schools in France. She earned a Master of Arts in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington, as well as a certificate in Fundraising Management. She has served as adjunct faculty at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA, and at the College of Social Justice and Community at UC Santa Cruz. She currently serves as a consultant for the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, in addition to her part-time work as Development and Communications Coordinator for Common Threads Farm.

Contact: renae (AT) commonthreadsfarm (DOT) org


Alyssa Stewart, AmeriCorps School Farmer

After graduating with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado, Alyssa transplanted to Montana. There, she practiced living sustainably in a small space while working a variety of seasonal jobs, including trail work with a Conservation Corps and wildlife work for the Forest Service. After a particularly cold winter spent at a ski area in North Idaho she decided to move to Kauai, where she spent six months volunteering on an organic farm. Alyssa fell in love with farming and has since spent time on farms in New Mexico and Oregon. She is excited to join the Common Threads team and share the joy of gardening with the next generation.  When she’s not in a garden, you may find Alyssa reading in her hammock, backpacking, or hunting for various natural objects (raptor feathers, antler sheds, seashells, and sharks teeth are her favorites)!

Amy Blom, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Amy grew up in Marietta, Georgia and cultivated a passion for gardening in her family’s small backyard plot.  She studied biology and urban studies at Wheaton College outside of Chicago.  During college, she was able to participate in experiential learning programs in Chicago and in Colombia that helped her appreciate how malfunctioning food systems lead to poor nutrition and health issues in both urban and rural contexts.  Amy is excited to work as a food educator for Common Threads, teaching kids about sustainability, food production, and nutrition and learning more about these topics herself.  When not working, you might find Amy exploring local trails by foot or bike, tucked in a coffee shop drawing, or in the kitchen attempting to create a new black bean cake recipe. 

Angela Moran, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Angela is a Pacific Northwest native who recently graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelor of Science in Marine and Conservation Biology. She believes food can be used as a powerful tool to help foster connections in three ways: with the environment by learning about the biological processes that cultivate our plates; with others through sharing time and food during meals; and with one’s self by providing and preparing the necessary nutrients to thrive. Angela has been inspired by works such as Barbara Kingslover’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. Her curious and adventurous nature have led her to become an experimental chef, voracious reader, and avid runner.

Anna BeebeAmeriCorps School Farmer

Anna was born in Kingston, Washington, and spent much of her youth in Curacao, Argentina and the Czech Republic. She came back to the United States to attend college at the University of Washington and earned a B.S. in Public Health. Anna’s passion for health, nutrition and cooking transformed and grew especially after becoming a full season UW farm student staff member. A Mary Gates Leadership Scholarship helped to fund her work to connect food systems education and recreation programming on campus. Her leadership on and off the farm aims to build community and a sense of place through engagement with food systems. Anna hopes to teach and inspire kids to connect the dots between what is on their plate and individual, community, and environmental health.

Blair Sando, AmeriCorps School Farmer

Blair is part of a big family raised in small-town Ohio. After studying International Development and Horticulture at the Ohio State University, Blair farmed her way through South Carolina, Nepal and Vermont. Her love of teaching comes from time spent at Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus, Ohio where she led English and employment classes. Blair confirmed her passion for sustainable agriculture while exploring the food systems of the Low-country. When her hands aren’t in the dirt, Blair loves to eat good food, travel, read, and go camping with her dogs, Tupelo and Doug.

Bree Farmer, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Bree grew up in the high desert of the Southwest and is eager to make a new life for herself in the forests of the Northwest. She started delving into sustainable food systems including food security and waste at Arizona State University where she majored in Business and Sustainability. Establishing a farm to fork program at an elementary school district and new food pantries for her university gave her experience for ways to improve the equity of our system and environment. Bree is passionate about nature and outdoor sports.  Bellingham is a great place to take advantage of some of her favorites.

Carlos Morales, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Carlos was raised in Columbia, SC.  He first fell in love with the outdoors as a boyscout.   Carlos studied audio engineering at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida and worked in the service industry for 10 years. Working on numerous types of cuisines over the years sparked his interest in food, and when he opened his own restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, he was introduced to the local food community. Meeting people from many different countries, Carlos quickly gained an immense passion for feeding the community with local, sustainable ingredients inspired by recipes from all around the world. He is especially excited to share his love for food with the future generations. Carlos enjoys composing music, hiking, and camping and is looking forward to furthering his education in agriculture and sustainability. ​

Claire Engelen, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Claire grew up in Minneapolis, MN and is a recent grad from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology, Environmental Studies and Spanish. As an undergrad, she worked in one of the university’s many greenhouses and discovered her love for getting her hands dirty and working with plants. Claire has worked as a horticulturist intern for a local botanical garden in Madison and is excited to direct her attention to more food based gardening and learn more about sustainable agriculture in action. In her free time, Claire loves biking, reading horror novels and trying new food.

Clara Vannice, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Clara was born and raised in Olympia, Washington where her love and respect for the environment was cultivated early on through the example of her mom. Clara spent her childhood summers and vacations on her grandparent’s farm in rural Eastern Washington where she developed a romantic love for farm life and appreciation for all of nature’s gifts from her grandfather. In 2013, Clara left her Olympia home and began studying Urban Horticulture and Non Profit Management at Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies. Clara’s degree allowed her to spend time learning at various farms in the Bellingham area, to volunteer at an aquaponics greenhouse in San Antonio Del Mar, Mexico, and to intern in the Common Threads office! In June of 2017, Clara graduated Western Washington University with her Bachelor of Arts and a minor in Sustainability Studies. In her free time, Clara loves to drink coffee on her porch, watch movies, go for walks, and care for her plant babies.

Gabriella Mednick, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Gabriella is a recent graduate of Syracuse University, where she majored in International Relations and Citizenship & Civic Engagement. With her second major, she studied political ecology and community food systems. With the goal of reducing fresh food waste and hunger in her Central New York community, Gabriella established a university-based gleaning program in collaboration with the local food bank and CNY farms. In addition to her passion for food justice, ugly produce, and nutrition, Gabriella is an artist who aspires to use photography as a tool to document ecological and food system issues. She is beyond excited to be joining the Bellingham community, and for the opportunity to share her knowledge of food as a Common Threads service member.

Marit Olson, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Marit Olson was born and raised in Montana and studied Sociology (among other things) at the University of Montana. Prior to coming to Common Threads, she spent a year serving with Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in Woodburn Oregon with After School and Summer Programs. In her free time she likes to listen to and play music, explore the great outdoors, dig in the dirt, swing dance, toss a frisbee, or contemplate the meanings of life. She is excited to be serving as a Food Educator with Common Threads this year.

Priyanka Anand, AmeriCorps Outreach Coordinator

Priyanka graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with a degree in Advertising + Marketing Communications. She was born and raised in Eastern North Carolina by a family who appreciates delicious, home-cooked meals. That, plus volunteer experience with Edible Schoolyard NYC, led her to work in food education, serving as a Food Educator with Common Threads during the 2016-2017 school year. Priyanka is thrilled to return to the organization in a supportive role, and looks forward to continuing and building on her work from last year!

Rebeca Bonilla-Myers, AmeriCorps Food Educator

Rebeca first fell in love with the outdoors as a child growing up in Santa Cruz California. She loved climbing trees, playing in the mud and scouting out samples at the local farmer’s market. In college she channeled that love of dirty hands and organic produce into work in her college garden co-op. Her love of gardening, permaculture and sustainability has only grown from there. Rebeca is joining the Common Threads team after a year teaching English with public school students in Colombia. While in Colombia, she helped create an environmental awareness group at her school – educating students about nutrition, leading nature hikes, and volunteering with local community “huertos”. She believes strongly in the educational power of gardens, and is very excited to be joining the Common Threads crew in Bellingham!

Our Board of Directors

Olivia Yates O’Donnell, President

Growing up on a small farm in Eastern Washington, Olivia has always had a deep appreciation for where our food comes from and for those who produce it. She was introduced to Common Threads Farm as a Western Washington University student looking for volunteer opportunities, and  first got involved feeding Common Threads’ chickens and turkeys (back in the day!)   Her current role on the Marketing team at Whole Foods Market reconnected her with Common Threads Farm and the opportunity to serve on the board.   In her spare time Olivia loves to cook, walk her Mastiff Enzo, travel with her Husband and spend time with family and friends.


Jennifer Wright, Treasurer


Jennifer Wright, a CPA with Metcalf Hodges, first met Common Threads when she enrolled her two young children in our Farm Camp programs in 2012. A recent transplant from Florida, Jennifer has wasted no time in putting her number crunching talents to work on behalf of several local nonprofits.

Jennifer and her family take full advantage of all the Pacific Northwest has to offer. They enjoy hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kiteboarding, and snowboarding. If they’re not on the trails, you will find them exploring Bellingham’s many local food, art, and music venues.

Jennifer holds a Master of Taxation and a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in accounting from Florida Atlantic University.

Beth Auerbach, Secretary

Beth is a recent transplant to Bellingham. She and her husband are thrilled for the opportunity to put down roots in this wonderful community and raise their two children between the mountains and the bay! An avid “networker,” Beth wasted no time reaching out to learn more about Common Threads Farm.  She has a range of professional experience, including as an environmental consultant, community outreach liaison, director and lead instructor of a rock climbing program, organic farmer at 9,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, preschool teacher, and horse trainer, along with many years in the customer service and hospitality industries. Her formal training includes a BA in conservation biology and environmental education and an MS in landscape planning & ecological design. She is the founding owner of SHED – Sound Habitats Ecological Design, a small Bellingham business that specializes in sustainable landscape design, garden maintenance, and ecological restoration.

Brian Pahl, Member At-Large

Brian Pahl fled the cars and concrete of southern California and graduallyMan with mountains in background moved north until he landed in Bellingham in 2000. Currently the Technology Integration Teacher on Special Assignment for Bellingham Public Schools, Brian previously taught at Sunnyland Elementary for several years and enthusiastically advocated for Common Threads Farm to bring a garden and cooking classes to the school. He grew up thinking green beans, corn, and peas came from cans and that spinach could only be served as a heaping, mushy, tasteless mound of green. At some point he realized that vegetables actually came out of the ground and that when he ate them raw or cooked just right, they were heavenly. Today, Brian spends as much time as he can in the garden with his 2 daughters, teaching them how to appreciate, tend to, and prepare the fruit and vegetables that they grow for the family.

Kayla Schott-Bresler, Member At-Large

Originally from northern California, Kayla has been living in the Northwest since 2009. During the day, Kayla is a Public Health Analyst with Skagit County Public Health, where she manages the Housing, Homeless Services, and Community Development division. Previously, she managed policies and programs at affordable housing and public health nonprofits in Oregon and Washington. Kayla has always been interested in work that advances public health, environmental stewardship, and creative approaches to education and is thrilled to support Common Threads Farm. In her free time, she likes swimming in Whatcom County’s beautiful lakes, hiking, and cooking for friends and family.

Candace Kessel, Member At-Large

Candace Kessel is a chemical engineer at BP Cherry Point refinery. She moved to Bellingham from Houston, Texas in October 2015 and quickly learned that the weather is much wetter and cooler but that it’s a whole lot prettier here! Candace enjoys helping young people develop life-long skills that can be used in and out of the kitchen.  In her spare time, Candace enjoys cooking, baking and exploring all the new outdoor adventures and local food the Northwest has to offer.



Our Volunteer & Interns

In the 2016-2017 school year, over 100 volunteers contributed 3500+ hours to Common Threads Farm. Volunteers – your tireless hard work is so appreciated, THANK YOU!