Our Team

Cortney Renton
Executive Director

Cortney joined CitySeed in

April 2020, bringing a decade of multidisciplinary leadership within nonprofits, think tanks, and startups to the role. Previously, she led national programs and built strategic relationships with donors at Feeding America, and as President of Slow Food Chicago she led the organization’s strategy to promote good, clean, fair food for all. Cortney has also held research, fundraising, and sustainability roles with The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, The Greater Chicago Food Depository, and Sir Kensington’s. Earlier, she apprenticed on a family farm and trained in organic farming practices from seed to harvest. Cortney received her B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from Colgate University, focused on international social justice. She earned her Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where she co-founded the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative and was involved in entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives.

Cortney is a member of the Food Solutions New England Network Team, the Connecticut Food Systems Alliance Steering Committee, the CARE Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Steering Committee, and the Working Lands Alliance CT Farmland Access Working Group. 

Ashley Kremser
Managing Director

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.

Carol Byer-Alcorace
Sanctuary Kitchen’s Catering
Manager and Culinary Coordinator

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.

Quynh Tran
Sanctuary Kitchen Program Director

Born in Vietnam, Quynh and her family came to the United States as refugees and resettled in Hartford, Connecticut. Quynh has spent over a decade in advocacy and politics. Most recently, she served as Managing Director for Grossman Solutions, where she led projects for clients such as AARP, Pew Charitable Trusts, MGM Resorts International, Access Health CT, and the Democratic National Convention. Prior to that, she was part of the inaugural class of VIET Fellows with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP). As a fellow, Quynh worked in Vietnam with people with disabilities and communities affected by Agent Orange/Dioxin.

Her volunteer roles have included delivering food surplus from local businesses to organizations
that support the food insecure with Food Rescue US; organizing stakeholder outreach and events for the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC); and serving on the organizing committee for Vietnam Human Rights Day, an annual event that brings human rights activists from around the world to Washington, DC. Outside of travel and theater, Quynh’s passion for cooking and eating takes up much of her spare time so she is incredibly excited to meld her love of food and cultural exchange by joining the CitySeed and Sanctuary Kitchen team. Quynh is a past honoree of Connecticut Immigrant Day at the state capitol. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

Alyssa Gant
 Farmers Market Manager

Alyssa Gant is the Farmers’ Market Manager for CitySeed, they work with CT farmers and local communities to help with access to fresh local produce in New Haven. Alyssa strongly believes that access to food is a human right and therefore knows that bridging the partnership between communities and farms is essential. Alyssa has managed CitySeed’s Farmers’ Markets since 2017 assisting in the distribution of over 100k in SNAP, WIC, SFMNP, and doubling. Alyssa holds a BA in geography with a concentration in food systems from Southern Connecticut State University.

Erin Carey
Farmers Market Director

Erin has been with CitySeed since 2015, and manages all aspects of CitySeed’s five farmers markets, including staff coordination, logistics, communication with vendors, data, and finances. She has an extensive background in event management, working as an athletic director at Wesleyan University and managing eight facilities and eleven athletic fields. Erin is passionate about supporting local agriculture and the intersection between food and health. She also brings experience as an integrative Nutrition Health Coach to her work.

Frankie Douglass
Marketing Coordinator

Frankie is a New Haven native who is passionate about the wellbeing of the New Haven community. After graduating from Johnson & Wales University with a B.S. in Culinary Nutrition, Frankie returned to New Haven to pursue a career in food justice and public health. Frankie has a lot of experience delivering cooking and nutrition education through CitySeed and Gather New Haven. Frankie sits on the New Haven Food Policy Council representing CitySeed and was recently appointed to the new state-wide Connecticut Department of Agriculture DEI Working Group. Frankie worked as the breastfeeding-focused Community Health Worker at CARE throughout the COVID19 pandemic and became a certified lactation counselor. In her free time, she looks to nature, art, and food to keep her occupied.

Cara Santino
Food Entrepreneurship Program Manager

Cara came to CitySeed in 2021 after receiving a M.S. in Food Studies at Syracuse University, where they focused on intersectional and participatory community-based food systems planning. Cara has 14 years of experience working in the food industry with a strong background in cooking, kitchen management, and teaching. They received their B.S. in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University.

In 2020, Cara co-founded the Restorative Food Justice Project at EMERGE CT to address food security of returning citizens in New Haven, CT. Cara is also member of the CARE Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Steering Committee and Farm to Institution New England’s (FINE) Network Advisory Council. In their spare time, they enjoy cooking, reading non-fiction books, and listening to records.

Our Board

Lisa Bassani
Governance Committee Chair and Finance Committee member

Lisa Bassani joined the CitySeed Board in 2017 and currently serves as the Governance Committee Chair and as a member of the Finance Committee. She is passionate about the importance of local agriculture and is so inspired by CitySeed’s work to build community through food. She is Associate Director of Development at the Yale School of the Environment (YSE), where she focuses primarily on corporate and foundation fundraising to support the School’s educational mission and programmatic work. Prior to her work at YSE, she served as Project Director for the Working Lands Alliance (a project of American Farmland Trust), where she directed all aspects of WLA’s efforts to protect Connecticut’s productive farmland and promote agricultural viability. She serves as President of the Board of Directors of Connecticut Farmland Trust, a statewide organization dedicated to the protection of farmland in Connecticut. She also represents New Haven’s 18th Ward on the New Haven Democratic Town Committee and has been involved in local and state democratic politics for over a decade. Her husband, two daughters and she all share the same love of food and are happiest when their small but mighty garden is in full swing.

Veena Kapadia
Executive Director

Veena is the co-founder of Flore Foundation, a not-for-profit that empowers refugees through grants to social enterprises. She was first introduced to CitySeed’s Sanctuary Kitchen program in 2018 and has since closely followed the organization. Flore Foundation promotes ventures like Sanctuary Kitchen that give economic opportunities to refugees while benefitting the community.  A majority of Veena’s career was spent as a management consultant and business advisor for global clients in government and the private sector. Today she acts as an independent consultant focusing on improving business operations. In 2017 Veena joined the Board of Directors for The Guilford Fund for Education, a non-profit organization that supports innovation in education for youth. In her spare time, she enjoys tending to her garden with her husband and cooking with her two children.

Henry Elliman
Non-profit Board Fellow

Henry is an MBA Candidate at Yale SOM ‘22 and joins CitySeed as a non-profit board fellow for 15 months. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Haverford College and a Diplome de Cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu – Paris. Over the past six years, He worked as an Operations and Logistics Manager in South Sudan with Doctors Without Borders, a Public Health Consultant in Hanoi, Viet Nam, and a Chef of the first pop-up restaurant in Kolkata, India. Here in New Haven, you can find him scouring the farmers markets and cooking for friends. He shares CitySeed’s passion for food and its role in creating inclusive, sustainable, and healthy communities.

Gregg Gonsalves
Co-Director of the Global Health
Justice Partnership

Gregg Gonsalves is an Associate Professor in the Department of the Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale School of Public Health and an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Yale Law School. At Yale, he also co-directs the Global Health Justice Partnership, an initiative of YSPH and YLS, working at the intersections of health and human rights and social justice. For close to 30 years, he has been an AIDS activist, working first with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in Boston and New York, then co-founding the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC). He has also worked with Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa in Cape Town. He studied Russian and English and American literature at Tufts in the 1980s before dropping out of college, only finishing his BS (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) in 2011 at Yale, where he also received a PhD (Public Health). He is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

Chris Heitmann
Partner of CitySeed at the Edgewood Park Farmers Market

Chris is an urban planner and community development practitioner focused on co-creating thriving, equitable and resilient neighborhoods. He joined CitySeed’s Board back in 2011 and continues to be moved and inspired by their dynamic work creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system. Chris is the former director of the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance (WVRA), a CT Main Street program in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood and a long-time partner of CitySeed at the Edgewood Park Farmers Market. There, he centered district revitalization efforts around small business support, arts-based placemaking, traffic-calming, and programs to clean and green “the Village” and the West River. Prior to that, Chris worked with the non-profit planning firm Project for Public Spaces managing a $3-million training and technical assistance initiative for innovative public markets and farmers markets in low-income communities for the Ford and W.K. Kellogg Foundations; researching the impacts of markets on social integration and upward mobility, and in building local food systems; managing placemaking projects around the country, including markets, parks, civic squares, and commercial corridors; and coordinating public market trainings and conferences. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, two daughters and a few furry beasts.

Christine Kim
Co-Chair of the Board 

Christine has been on CitySeed’s Board since 2012 and currently serves as the Board Co-Chair, focusing on community outreach, development, governance, and food business incubation. Inspired by CitySeed’s vision of a just local food system, she volunteered with CitySeed at its first market in 2004, and later helped with chef cooking demonstrations, selling bread and market coins, and dressing up as vegetables at market openings. Christine works as a food and social justice activist focused on community-based solutions, with a prior career in data-driven international environmental policy. She is the Founder of aapiNHV, a new organization combating discrimination and hate by connecting, supporting, and amplifying the Asian American Pacific Islander voices and actions with an anti-racist foundation in New Haven, CT, and beyond. Christine has also been active with the New Haven Food Policy Council and its Food Justice Accountability working group and Breastfeeding Task Force. She also serves on the Boards of the New Haven Urban Resources Institute, Community Fund for Women & Girls at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Connecticut Collective for Women and Girls, and Calvin Hill Day Care Center. Christine lives in New Haven with her husband and two young children.

Emma Kravet
Co-Chair of the Board

Emma serves as Co-Chair of the Board and is thrilled to be a part of the CitySeed team. She works as an RN at Yale Health and Yale New Haven Hospital and is currently studying to be a Nurse Practitioner. Prior to her career in nursing, she worked in farm-based education, youth development and forestry. She previously worked at Connecticut Forest & Park Association and the Sustaining Family Forests Initiative at the Yale School of the Environment. She is passionate about the intersections of food systems and healthy communities, and a proud mother hen to five backyard chickens.

Nicole “Nikki” Najam
Secretary of the Board

Nikki is the Chief Employment Counsel for Hubbell Incorporated where she provides legal counsel and advice on labor and employee relations, workplace policies and benefits, and general human resources matters. Nikki also works on teams within Hubbell to promote diversity, equity & inclusion, workforce development and sustainable business practices. Nikki received her juris doctorate from the University of Connecticut School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Boston College. Upon moving back to southern CT for her current professional role, Nikki was looking for ways to connect to the local community. She was drawn to CitySeed’s mission, programs, and goal of building an equitable, sustainable food system and making cultural connections through food. Nikki serves as Secretary of the Board and sits on the Finance and Governance Committees for CitySeed.

Onyeka “Ony” Obiocha

Onyeka (Ony) is the Director of Integrated Capitals and Learning at the F.B. Heron Foundation. Previously he was the Managing Director at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale and the inaugural Director of Innovation at Yale’s Center for Public Service and Social Justice. He is also an entrepreneur, having co-founded of A Happy Life Coffee, a coffee shop and coffee roasting company dedicated to creating a happier world for all, and Breakfast Lunch & Dinner, a design studio that aims to build social cohesion through economic and cultural development. Through this work Ony comes to CitySeed as a practitioner and lifelong student of the role food can play in catalyzing community and economic development. He is the recipient of the Connecticut Magazine’s 40 Under 40 award, served as a Next City Vanguard, a Nantucket Project Scholar, and a 100 Men of Color honoree.

Susan Pulaski
Treasurer of the Board and Chair
of the finance committee

Susan serves as Treasurer of the Board and Chair of the finance committee and is honored to be part of CitySeed. It is Susan‘s love of food and local farms that led her to the CitySeed farmer’s markets. She began volunteering for the Wooster Square farmer’s market during the summer of 2017. Once David Shufrin, Vice President of the Board, discovered Susan was a CPA he asked her to join the Board and the Finance Committee. Susan is a lifelong resident of Southington, Connecticut. The daughter of Italian immigrants, she grew up knowing how to grow and preserve fresh food. She graduated from Post University with an Associate Degree in accounting and from Central Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s in science degree in accounting. Her career includes working in public accounting, insurance, and banking. Currently Susan is a Financial Examiner with the Connecticut Insurance Department.

David Shufrin
Vice President

David has been a CitySeed Board member since 2015 and serves as its Vice President. An Associate at Hurwitz Sagarin Slossberg & Knuff in Milford, CT, he represents clients in a broad array of civil matters, including complex business litigation, contract disputes, commercial lease disputes, shareholder disputes, anti-trust litigation, unfair and deceptive trade practices, employment litigation, and consumer class actions. David has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Fordham University, where he was named to the Dean’s List. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law (J.D., with honors, 2012), where he was a member of the Editorial Board of the CT Law Review and a member of the Moot Court Board. While at law school, David was a teaching assistant in Contracts to Professor Kurt Strasser and was a law clerk in the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. David is admitted to practice in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and was selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Star List for 2015 and 2016.