Joanne Foster, Executive Director

Serving as the Executive Director of Growing Places since 2011, Joanne has brought together 25+ years experience in nonprofit leadership and social change work with her passion for gardening. An avid home gardener, Joanne knows that gardening provides nourishment for the body and the soul!

Prior to joining Growing Places, Joanne served as executive director of the House of Peace & Education, Inc. (HOPE) in Gardner, MA where she led the organization through a transition from its founder’s vision to an efficient, community based organization offering high quality services to women, children and families in need. Previous to HOPE, Joanne held numerous leadership positions in both the public and private sectors, among them Mount Wachusett Community College, Oak Hill Community Development Corporation and as an elected member of the board of selectman in the town of Lancaster, MA.

Joanne is the mother to two grown daughters who are both passionate about gardening and sustainable food and farming practices. A life long resident of Central MA, she recently moved to the seacoast of NH with her husband Peter.

Joanne holds a BA from Assumption College and an MBA from the Heller School for Social Policy & Management at Brandeis University.

Contact Joanne: joanne@growingplaces.org, (978) 598-3723 x801


Janet O’Brien, Director of Program Operations

Inspired by her trail-builder father’s love of the natural world and her registered dietitian mother’s commitment to healthy living, Janet shocked no one at all by falling in love with the mission of Growing Places. As a life-long backyard gardener who can’t imagine a summer that doesn’t feature pick-your-own veggies and the pungent smell of marigolds, she is thrilled to convert a personal passion for sustainable living into a vocation that benefits her community. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Clark University in Worcester and an initial license in secondary education from Framingham State University. Her previous experience includes working as an English teacher at Wachusett Regional High School and as the Garden Coordinator for The Trustees of Reservations’ Lindell Avenue Community Garden, located in her hometown of Leominster. She happily continues to reside in Leominster with her loving partner Ross and her rambunctious corgi Elly.

Contact Janet: janet@growingplaces.org, (978) 598-3723 x802


Coming Soon! Education Program Manager


Erica Wood, Engagement Coordinator

Erica is excited about building sustainable food systems! A Georgia native, she can’t imagine a summer without gardens, sunshine, and community gatherings. Erica studied International Affairs, and Community Agriculture and Food Systems at Virginia Tech. While there, she coordinated community meals with the Sustainable Food Corps, volunteered with local farms and community gardens, and actively campaigned for undergraduate students in various outreach roles.  Erica served as an AmeriCorps member at the VT Engage: Living Learning Collaborative after graduation, where she helped lead the organization through its inaugural partnership with the American Red Cross and Smart Beginnings NRV (a local childhood literacy nonprofit). Erica remembers food as a key component to family gatherings, and is inspired by this idea of food (be it gardening or cooking) bringing people together. Having seen community transformation first hand, she deeply believes in the capacity for gardening to increase a community’s health and happiness. In her free time, Erica enjoys exploring her Alaskan and Appalachian heritages through canning and crafting. She can also be found doing anything outside, practicing yoga, and spending time with her family or cat, “Kitty.”

Contact Erica: erica@growingplaces.org, (978) 598-3723 x 803


Donna Mackie, Donor Relations Coordinator

Donna has always been a champion of healthy food and the environment. She grew up helping in her grandfather’s expansive vegetable garden and has carried that passion for fresh food to her own family’s garden in Central Massachusetts.

After a career in marketing and software development in the high tech industry, and a delightful hiatus home (and in the garden!) raising three children, her path has brought her to Growing Places. On any given day you will find her masterminding creative ways to express the heartfelt gratitude all of us at GP feel for our community of donors, volunteers, supporters and partners.

Contact Donna, donna@growingplaces.org


Samantha Dokus, Youth Education Coordinator, TerraCorps Member

Samantha (or Sami for short) is looking forward to completing a year of service at Growing Places and teaching kids about how gardening can build a healthy life and earth! Born and raised in Massachusetts, her passion for food education, advocacy and justice comes from growing up in a household where dinners were cooked and shared together. A recent graduate from Clark University in Worcester, she studied Environmental Conservation Biology for her bachelor’s degree and Biology for her master’s degree. She is thrilled to have found a position that combines many of her passions: the environment, working with kids, and healthy living. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, making postcards, and spending time with her grumbly, sassy pug, Tilly.

Contact Samantha, samantha@growingplaces.org