Ayn Yeagle, Executive Director

With over 15 years of experience working to improve health and food access for individuals at increased risk for food insecurity, Ayn joined Growing Places as the Executive Director in February 2018.

Ayn studied nutrition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and received a Master of Science from Boston University in 2002. She realized community nutrition was her niche after securing a position at the regional community action agency, the Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc. (MOC) in 2005.  Over ten years, Ayn collaborated across the region, state and nation, ultimately leading programs including Meals on Wheels and youth focused health initiatives, most notably Fun ‘n FITchburg.  At MOC, Ayn immersed herself in the community and gained invaluable knowledge about the root causes of food insecurity in North Central MA. One of her most memorable experiences was witnessing a table of empty fresh fruit and veggie containers alongside still-full pizza boxes after conducting a focus group about the barriers to healthy eating with youth living in subsidized housing. It was one of those moments when you realize that what you are doing is really making a difference.

In 2015, Ayn joined Compass Group as the Northeast Regional Dietitian for Chartwells K-12, supporting over 100 school districts in New England and New York.  She transitioned to Business Development in 2017, bringing a public health focus to corporate sales strategy in the school nutrition market. These collective experiences formed the foundation for her asset-based approach to community nutrition and sustainability.

Ayn has always called Massachusetts her home; raised in Hubbardston, Ayn is now raising her own family in Princeton. As the mother of two young daughters, Macy and Mia, Ayn and her husband Jason have a passion for local and sustainable eating with many hours spent supporting the local farmer’s market and digging in nine raised bed gardens they have built in their small, but hardy backyard.

Contact Ayn: ayn@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 fiance Ross and her rambunctious corgi Elly.

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


Molly Peterson, Education Program Manager

Born and raised in a rural town in northwestern Connecticut, Molly grew up in a home where many of her family’s summer meals were supplied by a vegetable garden. She fondly recalls helping her parents dig for potatoes in the fall, and has always loved how food can foster a connection to the earth and with other people. Since then, Molly has become an avid food gardener and farmer with a passion for creating a more equitable food system through education and food access. Molly’s introduction to food justice work began in 2014 when she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Growing Places, and worked to design and implement the Teaching Garden pilot program. Since then, she has managed an organic vegetable farm in her hometown and has run a small market garden of her own. She has also served on the Norfolk, CT farmer’s market steering committee. Molly loves Growing Places’ mission and is excited to be a part of GP and the North Central MA community! When she’s not in the garden, she is usually trail running, playing music, writing, or spending time with her partner, Ryan, and their wild, but cuddly cat, Cedar.

Contact Molly, molly@growingplaces.org, (978) 598-3723 x804


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, (978) 598-3723 x803