Incubates Advisory Committee

The duties of committee members include: advise on Incubates strategic plan; disseminate information to committee members professional networks; serve as occasional mentor for businesses in Incubates Network; create opportunities for ongoing community collaboration and action.

Ashley Kremser

Ashley Kremser has been on the CitySeed staff since 2011. She served as a member of the New Haven Food Policy Council till 2018, and has been instrumental in the creation and promotion of a state-wide initiative led by CitySeed and in partnership with UConn Extension. This campaign has documented over 2 million dollars in procurement of CT Grown products and has secured over 1000 individuals and 231 businesses as partners or pledges to the campaign.

Ashley has over 11 years experience in the non-profit sector with 8 years experience working with organizations that work to improve the Connecticut’s agricultural economy and landscape. She also has vast experience in both coordination and supervision of events from concept to execution.

Prior to working with CitySeed she oversaw an accreditation program at Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association (CT NOFA) and coordinated numerous events and conferences that saw anywhere from 50 – 300 people.

Azhar Ahmed

Azhar came to America from the Sudan after emigrating first to Egypt to finish her education. In Egypt, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, took courses to teach Arabic, first aid, religion, and sociology, and worked as a Nubian Community Organizer to help design summer courses for children.

Inspired by a dream of her late father, Azhar created her first business venture Kumi’s Dream, a delivered hot food service to the homeless in the cold winter months. After graduating from CitySeed’s Food Incubator Program, Azhar opened her own pop-up Sudanese cuisine called Kandaka, New Haven’s first Sudanese food business. Azhar has been a continuous spokesperson for refugee groups coming to New Haven having previously worked with IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) to welcome new refugees and immigrants.

At Sanctuary Kitchen, Azhar will be a lead trainer for the next culinary cohort.

Kaitlyn Kimball

Kaitlyn brings over ten years of experience in public education prior to her work in local agriculture. She lived and worked in New Haven as a teacher at a charter network before moving to Naugatuck. She volunteered at several farms in Connecticut, including Ambler Farm in Wilton and H.O.R.S.E. of Connecticut in Washington, before starting a vegetable operation, Sunset Farm, with her husband in 2019.

Since its beginning four years ago, Sunset Farm has grown to build a CSA program, partner with local school districts, as well as participate in Farmers Markets throughout the state.

Kaitlyn has completed numerous UConn Extension programs, including the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Course and the Vegetable Production Course. Kaitlyn has experience in project management and engaging community stakeholders. Kaitlyn holds a Bachelors of Science in Secondary Education and a Masters of Science in Educational Leadership from Quinnipiac University.

Jesse Snyder

Jesse chose New Haven as his adopted home after leaving Wyoming to pursue a degree in engineering from the University of New Haven.

Beginning his career in process and manufacturing, Jesse has worked for major named companies like Stanley Black and Decker, Sikorsky, and Arcadis. Jesse worked on developing processes and implementing and managing systems. Jesse was also certified in and managed the ISO environmental management systems. While going to school Jesse worked at Common Ground as a teacher’s assistant. Where he became familiar with City Seed and their work. Having a passion for local agriculture, food justice, and environmentalism he’s followed their work since.

Jesse recently switched careers to pursue his passion for health and wellness through food justice. He is committed to working to support the reformation of food systems that have historically underserved people of color and from low-income backgrounds.

Blaise Berglund

Blaise Berglund originally connected with CitySeed as a volunteer in assisting the operations of weekly farmers’ markets. Growing up in a household where some of her greatest memories come from those around a dinner table, she is deeply energized by deliciously sourced food and the creative space to connect through that feeling of “home” with others.

Blaise holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Geography with a minor in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University, where she had the opportunity to study environmental justice internationally. In addition to her role as the Farmers Market Manager, she is also the Farmers’ Market Sales Coordinator for Sanctuary Kitchen.

In her spare time, Blaise loves practicing ceramic arts, yoga, and riding her bike around New Haven.

Carol Byer-Alcorace

Carol has enjoyed a long career as both an arts professional and a creative culinarian. Her cooking roots developed during childhood, cooking with her immigrant grandparents. This later grew into a professional interest in ethnic food preparations in customs, as well as authenticity in working with food as an art form.

Carol began her career as a professional illustrator represented by Bookmaker’s in Westport, CT. For twenty years, Carol experienced the dual pleasure of being a children’s illustrator for major publishing companies while simultaneously keeping her hands busy as a working chef.

Carol shifted into full-time culinary work in 2005, and served as the Executive Chef de Cuisine at Mattatuck Museum Cafe, providing sophisticated healthy dining for arts patrons while also providing economical food services for local organizations hosting events there.

Next, Carol assumed the roles both as the Food Service Manager and Executive Chef for catering at New Morning Market. Carol joined CitySeed as the Culinary Coordinator for Sanctuary Kitchen in 2018 to aid in the development of professional guidelines for our chefs, assist in building strong culinary programs and grow Sanctuary Kitchen Catering into a flourishing business.

Naseema Gilson

Naseema is a long-time resident of New Haven, and has many years of management experience in both the non-profit and corporate world. Growing up in Indiana, Naseema was aware of the importance of equitable food access, as well as support for farmers, at a young age.

As the daughter of an immigrant from Afghanistan, Naseema has always championed refugee rights, and supported organizations that prioritize DEI work. Most recently, she was a co-founder of the Anti-Racism Committee at Girl Scouts of Connecticut.

In her spare time, she loves to cook meals with her husband, listen to records, bike around New Haven, and relax with her dog and cat.

Sandy Flores

Sandy Flores is a New Haven native and has grown up with the Cityseed Farmers Markets. Sandy first joined Cityseed in 2014 as a dedicated volunteer and has joined the team as an Assistant Market Manager in 2022. Growing up in a bilingual household, Sandy has been able to assist markets as a proficient Spanish translator for native speakers.

After graduating from Gateway Community College with A.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences, Sandy had previously worked as a Library Service Assistant at Yale Sterling and Beinecke Library, and as a Substitute/ Extended Day teacher at Elm City Montessori School.

Sandy hopes to return to school to get her Bachelor’s in Psychology. Her goal is to make the market more accessible for native Spanish speakers and their families.

In her free time. Sandy likes to learn new languages and is currently learning Korean.

Aminah Alsaleh

Aminah is Sanctuary Kitchen’s Assistant Kitchen Manager. Originally from Homs, Syria, Aminah has a passion for cooking and has been cooking since she was 10 years old. Aminah is a storyteller and has acted as a spokesperson for new refugees and has attended many Sanctuary Kitchen programs and functions over the last four years. She recently was promoted to Assistant Kitchen Manager and is a peer advisor to the SK culinary team. Aminah became a U.S. citizen, and she hopes to start a restaurant or catering business.

Homa Assadi

Homa is a refugee from the Jaghori District of Afghanistan and came to New Haven in 2015 with her husband and three children.

She is passionate about cooking, and has been catering for IRIS – Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services week-long core classes for newly-arrived refugees to New Haven.

Homa’s favorite traditional food is “Mantu” – meat-stuffed dumplings, one of the most popular dishes in Afghanistan. When she was a child, she was taught how to prepare this special dish from her father, who was the primary cook when she was growing up after the loss of her mother.

Homa also enjoys baking. While her repertoire in Afghanistan was limited to preparing homemade naan, since living in the U.S. she has learned to bake desserts from watching YouTube!

Back home in Afghanistan, Homa said most people where she lived did not spend money preparing sweet desserts, but rather on nourishing entrees for the family.

About cooking for Sanctuary Kitchen’s 2nd Supper Club, Homa said: “I most look forward to preparing my traditional food and sharing my culture,” adding, “I hope everyone will enjoy together!”

Maleeka Taheri

Maleka came to New Haven in 2013 with her family from Ghazni, Afghanistan. They were forced to leave their home due to the insecurity caused by the Taliban.

Maleka has been cooking for 12 years, and her specialties include aush reshta (noodle, herb, and legume soup), bolani (stuffed flatbread), Qabuli palau (spiced rice with lamb, caramelized carrots and raisins), and ferni (a creamy cardamom-rose pudding). She likes to use spices like cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and nutmeg when she cooks her traditional dishes.

One of Maleka’s favorite memories of cooking was when she successfully made Qabuli palau for a large gathering for the first time. She was especially proud that the friend who taught her how to make it was a guest and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out!

Maleka loves to cook Afghan food, and wants to share it with others through Sanctuary Kitchen. She is also eager to learn from Sanctuary Kitchen chefs from other cultures.