The Team

the team

The New Garden Society is run by horticulturists, landscapers and farmers who seek to expand green industry opportunities for our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated neighbors. 

Renee Portanova, Co-Founder and Director


Renée Portanova is a horticulturist and environmental educator. Currently, she serves as the Horticulture Manager at The Esplanade Association. There, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, she helps to manage the Charles River Esplanade, Boston’s premiere park located in the lower basin of the Charles River.  She holds degrees in Psychology, Conservation Biology and Environmental Education from Manhattan College, Columbia University and Lesley University, respectively.  Renee received her Organic Land Care Professional accreditation through the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and UMASS Green School Landscaping Management certification in 2010. Renée's teaching experience includes a breadth of horticultural topics, to various communities. Her pedagogical approach is both political and scientific, emphasizing the importance of horticulture in our society and personal lives.  She brings proficiency, through extensive field work, and her passion for teaching/learning to every "classroom" setting. Renee's field experience includes "best practices' in land management in the following settings: specialty cut flower farm, fine gardening, orcharding and ecological restoration.  Co-founding and directing The New Garden Society is an ideal synthesis of her passion, education and expertise.  Originally from Long Island, NY, Renée currently resides in Jamaica Plain, MA with her family.

Erika Rumbley, Co-Founder and Director

A North Carolina native, Erika Rumbley has found her home in the Northeast for over fifteen years. These days you'll find Erika in the greenhouses of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum growing ornamentals including the beloved cascading nasturtiums. Erika is a graduate of Vassar College, with an Honors BA in Environmental Studies and is the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Helen Dwight Reid Fellowship for service on The Crow Indian Reservation. Since her first apprenticeship in 2005, Erika has grown cut flowers, fruit and vegetables on farms in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Her most formative experience as a grower was serving as the Greenhouse Manager at Langwater Farm from 2014-2017. 

Photo Credit: Mario D'Amato

Photo Credit: Mario D'Amato

Lisa Lee, Administrator

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Lisa Lee provides administrative, fundraising and programming support to TNGS. She has a background in plant biology, organic farming and organizing in solidarity with vibrant movements for self-determination in Central America. She got her first taste of people organizing to create a better society in the temperate rainforests of Oregon and that seed blossomed into a full-fledged passion in the complex political environment of tropical El Salvador. She is thrilled to channel her love for the plant world in service of the incarcerated community of her home state of Massachusetts.

Erin Espinosa, Development Associate

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Erin Espinosa is an organic vegetable farmer with experience in garden education and non-profit administration. As the Development Associate, she works to build resources and funds that sustain the transformative work of The New Garden Society. Erin also currently serves as the Assistant Manager at Upswing Farm in Ashland, Ma. Recently, Erin moved from North Carolina where she earned a B.S in Environmental Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. There, she developed a strong belief in rebuilding local food systems. This belief has translated through previously held positions in the non-profit sector that focused on topics such as food access, community organizing, sustainable agriculture, and consumer education. Now residing back in her home state of Massachusetts, Erin looks forward to demonstrating her passion for growing wholesome food and horticultural therapy with The New Garden Society.


The New Garden Society's strategic vision and activities are guided by professionals from the fields of vocational training, horticulture, social work, public health and higher education.  These generous individuals lead our work in collaboration with the team, with ongoing feedback from our students.


Kristina has earned her graduate degree in Clinical and Community Psychology in Germany, and currently works as a mental health counselor at a psychiatric group home in Brighton. She recently completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training and is experienced in mindfulness and meditation practices. This year she began volunteering with a local non-profit organization, offering free yoga classes to people living with poverty and trauma in Boston.

Andrew Balon

Andrew is a practicing arborist/horticulturalist serving the greater Boston area. He has over 18 years of experience in horticulture, agriculture, and organic farming. 

Rob fettig

Rob is a clinical social worker and worked for the Department of Mental Health for sixteen years. He recently started working for the Rose Kennedy Greenway as a Horticulturalist and Volunteer Assistant.

christopher b. logue

Christopher is passionate about prison reform and social justice. He currently works in legal services where he advises and trains non-profits in legal, management, and financial matters.

brandy henry

Brandy has a background as a clinical social worker, working with patients with severe mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system. She is currently a PhD candidate studying Social Policy, focusing on the intersection of criminal justice and mental health policy. 

sarah ard

Graduate of the University of Vermont with a Plant and Soil Science degree and presently pursuing a Masters in Occupational Education, Sarah has worked in the nursery industry for 8 years.  Currently, she works at Minuteman, teaching vocational horticulture to grades 9-12.

Hadas Yanay

Hadas is a horticulture educator, and brings years of experience in educational programming in the field of sustainable agriculture to TNGS. As a volunteer horticulture educator and administrative assistant for TNGS, she is dedicated to finding ways to support and empower individuals through sustainable agriculture and food access.

Matthew DelSesto

Matt is currently in the Sociology doctoral program at Boston College and is a horticultural therapist.  He previously studied horticultural therapy at The New York Botanical Garden and interned with the Horticultural Society of New York's GreenHouse program at Rikers Island correctional facilities in New York City.

Jonna Iacono

Jonna serves as the Director of the Scholars Program and Office of Undergraduate Research and Education at Northeastern University. She earned her PhD in Early American Literature and Cultures at Brown University and graduated with honors from Princeton University. Iacono guides students through the process of conceptualizing, designing, and realizing undergraduate research projects, experiential learning opportunities, and fellowship applications. Her students have applied for and earned a number of nationally competitive fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholarships.


Hadas Yanay

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With a certificate in Permaculture Design and Yoga Teacher Training, Hadas is interested in the role of horticulture as a rehabilitative tool, which led her to become a volunteer horticulture educator with TNGS.  In previous roles, she has apprenticed and facilitated educational programming related to sustainable agriculture on farms in Israel, India, New York, and Cuba, and most recently, worked towards converting municipal and commercial spaces into urban farms in the Boston metro area. As an educator, she is committed to sustainable agriculture, food justice advocacy, and health and social equity issues, and is excited by TNGS's efforts to reach those incarcerated through horticultural vocational training. Today, Hadas is dedicated to finding ways to support and empower individuals through sustainable agriculture and food access.


Sara Riegler

Sara Riegler is an organic vegetable farmer and agriculture educator, with a passion for the intersection of social justice, mental health, and local food production and access. She started farming as an apprentice on farms in Vermont and Massachusetts for three seasons.  On Long Island in Boston, she became an assistant manager at Serving Ourselves Farm, a production farm that provided vocational training and rehabilitation programs for homeless adults and court-involved teens.  Following the closure of Long Island in 2014, she went on to become the farm manager at Littleton Community Farm.  During her two years at Serving Ourselves Farm, she discovered her deep passion for cultivating therapeutic working environments for at-risk populations and the joy that can be found in working as a team to improve health for others.  Farming and horticulture proves continuously to be a source of therapy and connection for her, and she is passionate about introducing others to this work. 

Laura Quincy Jones

Laura Quincy Jones is a Somerville-based teacher, artist, writer, community organizer, and gardener.  She has spent most of her professional career teaching literacy in inner-city high schools in Boston, MA and Oakland, CA, where her passion and commitment is to helping students open doors for themselves.  Her students have been her greatest teachers, and energetic inspiration.  In 2011, Laura decided to follow her curiosity to learn more about the real origins of good food as a gateway to broader social issues.  She lived and worked on organic farms and rural and urban homesteads throughout Australia and Japan, learning and sharing from expert farmers.  She taught environmental education at a community environment park in Melbourne for seven months.  Further international travels have taken her to Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Siberia and Russia, and Berlin. Laura holds degrees from Brown University (BA), Cambridge University (MPhil), and Tufts University (MAT).