Rhianna Simes, M.S. Ed.
Rhianna is a designer, consultant, educator, and co-founder of Verdant Phoenix llc.
Rhianna grew up on a 100 acre farm in Central Texas where she developed her love of horticulture and organic farming. After completing her bachelor’s in Womens’ Studies, Communications and a minor in Spanish, Rhianna moved to Oregon in 2002 to be part of the environmental justice movement in the Northwest forests. She worked on farms in the Eugene area where she also managed a nonprofit (Breaking Free) that teaches women’s self-defense.
Rhianna moved to Southern Oregon in 2005, worked at several plant nurseries in the area, and spent 7 years at a nursery specializing in native plants. She taught at Oregon State University for 10 years where she developed three OSU programs: Master Recycler, Land Stewards, and Citizen Fire Academy. After starting and running these programs, Rhianna coordinated the OSU Master Gardener program for 4 years. Rhianna has a Masters degree in Education and Botany from Southern Oregon University.
Rhianna completed Oregon Tilth’s Organic Land Care Accreditation program to help educate people and municipalities about implementing organic land care. Most recently, Rhianna has designed and managed residential gardens, demonstration plots, and a variety of farms from 1 to 10 acres and has served with several nonprofit organizations that support regenerative agricultural practices.
Kerrick Gooden grew up in the hill country just west of Austin, Texas, and traveled throughout the US, Mexico, and Guatemala before settling in the Rogue Valley where he finished his academic degree. Here, he held space for families in various capacities as they moved through juvenile justice, child welfare, and alternative educational systems. He and Rhianna found a one-acre parcel near Phoenix, Oregon where the dream of Verdant Phoenix Farm emerged. He found refuge in the plants he tended as the secondary trauma at work in mainstream social service systems became more than he could handle. He found joy in the gardens at Verdant Phoenix Farm and assisting others to participate in the web of life through gardening became his current vocation.
Inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka's One Straw Revolution and meeting the late Larry Korn, he is interested in the relationship between soil, microbes, plants/trees/shrubs, humans, food, culture, time, and the web of life. His approach to horticulture is inspired by Indigenous thought and practice, Natural Farming, and the movement to decolonize permaculture and regenerative farming. He enjoys learning to participate in diversity above and below ground, within the food forest at Verdant Phoenix Farm, in the Rogue Valley, and beyond.