Farmshare Austin Staff

Andrea Abel
Executive Director

Joining the Farmshare team in January, 2017, Andrea has had her hands in the dirt and her heart in food and agriculture for most of her life. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. After moving to Austin in the late 1980s, Andrea received a Master of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin where she wrote her professional report on The Definition and Regulation of Organic Foods.

Andrea has focused on creating community sustainability in a variety of nonprofit and government positions, whether through ensuring access to health care, telling a story, increasing food security, improving environmental and public health in the U.S.-Mexico border region, wildlife conservation, or protecting farmworker health.

She is a recipient of the Betsey K. Cooke Grassroots MVP Award from the National Association of Community Health Centers, served for six years on the Sustainable Food Center board of directors and was appointed by EPA Administrator Carol Browner to the National Advisory Committee on Trade and Environment and by Governor Ann Richards to the Governor’s Commission on Women.

Farmshare brings together Andrea’s ardent passion for achieving food security by tackling social determinants of health and community-driven problem-solving in a fiercely collaborative setting involving all levels government and civil society.

Taylor Cook
Operations Director

After earning my Master’s degrees in Economics and Public Administration from the University of Montana in 2008, I moved to Austin to pursue a career in healthcare policy. Shortly thereafter I began volunteering at farms and farmer’s markets to learn more about local agriculture and support businesses that work to make healthy sustainable food more widely available.

Since returning to Texas (I am originally from Fort Worth) my dual interests in healthcare policy and food have continued to be nurtured in my personal and professional life. Working for the State of Texas I had the opportunity to write grants, develop new programs, manage federal funds, and earn my credentials as Project Management Professional. I also continued to volunteer with local growers, have been an active food blogger and member of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, and am now completing my graduate certificate in Public Health from the University of North Texas.

My interests and skills have converged in Farmshare Austin and I am happy to work for an organization that takes a comprehensive approach to supporting new farmers through Farmer Starter. I am also excited to help Farmshare Austin play a critical role in making the food system more prosperous and healthful across the community.

E. Ray Gard
Farm Educator

E. Ray grew up on a ranch in New Mexico before moving to Texas where he earned a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture Development from Texas A&M. After serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador he earned his Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University.

E. Ray’s diverse experiences in agriculture and agricultural education have taken him around the world from Ecuador to Syria, Honduras, and France. Most recently he worked at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville where he was the Program Manager for a community-wide obesity and hypertension intervention program focusing on lifestyle changes. We are very excited to welcome E. Ray to our staff and look forward to integrating his diverse experience and passion for sustainable agriculture into our programs!

Ben Swisher
Farm Manager

I grew up in Austin, Texas, always an outside and hands-on learner. All my uncles have ranches outside Austin and I was lucky enough to spend time on them, as I was growing up. I only got interested in farming after high school and then learned about Farmer Starter, launching my start into the farming world. After the pilot program I worked my way up and have been able to learn more about the need for more fresh produce in Austin.I’m currently the Farm manager for Farmshare Austin.

Carolina Mueller
Food Access Manager

I love food. After graduating with my B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Rutgers University in New Jersey, I worked for the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market, a program run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agency. We ran three Farmers Markets a week in addition to other programs.
In the summer of 2014, I moved to Austin to work for Sustainable Food Center. I enjoyed helping to connect community members, organizations and schools with classes and programs offered by SFC. I started farming in September of 2015 with Urban Roots as an apprentice and then worked at Joe’s Microgreens.

I believe that healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food is a basic human right, and hope that I can be a resource as we work to make our food system more equitable!

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Farmshare Austin is an equal opportunity employer. We will not discriminate and will take affirmative action measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This policy and others are included in our Employee Handbook.