Questions and answers about Ryan Thayer | Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden is thrilled to announce that Ryan Thayer has joined as the first Executive Director of Spaces of Opportunity.

Spaces of Opportunity is a 14-acre incubator farm, allotment garden, and on-site farmer’s market in South Phoenix that provides affordable access to healthy eating and active living.

Spaces of Opportunity is in one of the many food deserts in the valley. Food deserts are areas where nutritious and affordable foods are not readily available. Since its launch, the initiative has provided countless families with access to vegetable, fruit and wellness programs.

To support the mission of Opportunity Spaces, the Garden created a leadership role for the initiative to transform a food desert into a food oasis with the help of gardeners, farmers and farm workers.

Meet Ryan Thayer, originally from the Bay Area, where he and his family have lived for six generations. For more than 10 years, he has worked in favor of equitable food systems. He earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and affairs from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in urban affairs from the University of San Francisco. Ryan will start as executive director of Spaces on October 17. Learn more about him, the role, and his previous work in the Q&A below.

Q: Tell us about your background. What interested you in Opportunity Spaces?

A: I join Spaces of Opportunity after more than a decade supporting the work of just food systems across the Bay Area. I started my career in food systems working in grocery stores in high school and as a landscaper for my brother’s company all through college. Since then, I’ve worked as a senior community food justice organizer for a low-income housing developer, a policy analyst for an Alameda County Board of Supervisors poverty food security initiative, and, most recently as Nutrition and Wellness Program Manager. for Marin County, California. I believe that our relationship with the land and our food can be used as a lens to build healthy communities and maintain socio-political equity.

Q: What are your responsibilities as Managing Director of Opportunity Spaces?

A: As Executive Director of Spaces of Opportunity, I will be responsible for the overall management and direction of the organization. Previous years of hard work by community members and local organizations have established a solid foundation. Together with the garden board and those who care for the land, I intend to strengthen the organizational structure, the long-term sustainability of the organization and the depth of impact within of the local community. I will serve as a leader in ensuring that we have the resources and capacity to realize the Opportunity Spaces vision.

Q: What do you expect from your new role?

A: I am thrilled to connect with the earth and the groups that care for it. For years I have wanted to get involved in an organization focused on agriculture and plant growing that also builds and strengthens community. I look forward to learning from the land and exploring how my skills and the direction of Spaces of Opportunity can complement each other.

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