Meet the Team

2020 Aspiring Farmer Residents

Irene Atayi

My name is Irene Atayi and I’m from Togo, West Africa. I moved to the United States at the age of 11 with my family. I grew up helping my mom garden and that’s where my love for growing began.I started gardening as a hobby when I moved into my first apartment . I spent the majority of my time doing yoga, volunteering and bettering myself. My vision is to operate a community based farm. I am passionate about family and community. My interests include hiking, binge watching shows, gardening, social justice, yoga and reading.

Katie Bettin

Katie was born and raised in Omaha. Growing up she spent plenty of time outside romping around which usually included accidents like broken bones or windows. She has always been interested in leading an active and healthy lifestyle. This took her to Colorado for 5 years where she studied human nutrition and environmental sociology- believing deeply that health and the environment are as connected as the words in a sentence, one without the other makes little sense. After graduating she spent a year working through AmeriCorps. Now back in Omaha she is ready to dig into a year of learning and growing as an individual, community member, and urban farmer.

Carly Frazee

I have always had a passion for children, so in 2014 I graduated from UNK with a degree in elementary education. After graduation, I was interested in finding other opportunities to work with children outside of the traditional classroom setting. That’s where I found The Big Garden. While working for The Big Garden, I had the opportunity to teach children how to grow, cook food, and understand food systems. While I was inspiring young minds, I uncovered a passion for farming, taking care of land, and food systems, specifically local food systems. I am excited to dive deeper into the urban, organic farming practices that support our local food system.

Jasmine Marr

I’m from Omaha, NE. I graduated from UNO with an International Studies and Spanish degree. I’ve very passionate about Spanish. I hope to be an interpreter someday, though as time goes on I realize how ambiguous that title could be for me.

I’m super excited and blessed and grateful for this opportunity. I’ve always wanted to learn how to grow food-it’s a powerful skill to have and I hope to pass on the knowledge as I learn.

My passions are social justice, mental health, diversity, learning, and creating spaces where people can feel like themselves. The latter is currently the biggest theme in my life. All I want is to be the best, genuine person I can be so as time goes on I can share myself with others.

Phalin Strong

Phalin is corn fed Nebraska bred. Originally from Lincoln, they have lived in Omaha for 3 years. As a child, nothing brought more joy to them than playing in the prairie-building forts in the tall grasses, collecting bits from the trails and admiring the innate wisdom of our ecosystem-including those who understand and protect it. 

Independent from an early age, they became interested in gardening as a form of self-sufficient sustainability. Curiosity became practice as they connected with friends they viewed as innovative DIY scholars. It became clear that working together and sharing our individual knowledge cultivated a culture that felt unique and rare in the sea of commercial corn, soy and beef production. While gardening for their own home they expanded their experience with food in the service industry; learning to cook and bake at a farm-to-table establishment. 

They have always known they are happy with their hands to the earth, and have been fortunate to learn how vital community is in fortifying ones curiosity-building a resilient self. Phalin is eager to grow here in Gifford Park with Big Muddy Urban Farm.

Second Year Resident

Matt Wettengel

With one year of the Aspiring Farmer Residency under his belt, Matt decided to stay at Big Muddy and continue learning through another growing season and to support the new group of residents throughout the year. Matt looks forward to continuing his involvement within the Gifford Park community and to continue building relationships on and off the farm. In addition to his work at Big Muddy, Matt helps manage the Gifford Park Neighborhood Market and works part-time at the Omaha Public Library.


Executive Director

Brent Lubbert

Before starting the farm, he helped film”Growing Cities: a film about urban agriculture in America.” The film has aired nationally on PBS and screened at many film-festivals across the globe. Additionally, he serves as Board President for the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and was a 2015 Future of Food thematic resident at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

Program Coordinator

Rhonda Freeman

Rhonda grew up in Florissant, MO with gardening parents and grandparents. Because of their passion for independence she has always believed everyone should know where their food comes from and how to grow it. Her commitment to urban agriculture in Omaha has included volunteering with City Sprouts, building a backyard chicken coop and converting her empty lot into a neighborhood vegetable garden.
In 2014, she refocused her priorities to the Omaha community by working with Omaha Public Schools, Partnership4Kids and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands. As the Program Coordinator, she is committed to supporting the success of Big Muddy’s residential farmers, farm tours and youth garden.
  • Kaya Baker

    Jess Dooley

    Gavin Johnston

    Shatice Jones

    Laura Simpson

  • Kia Beason

    Emily Hefeli

    Cadence Hernandez

    Taylor Jespersen

    Terry Salem

  • Big Garden

    City Sprouts

    Community Bike Shop Omaha

    Gifford Park Neighborhood Association

    Legal Aid of Nebraska

    Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

    Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

    Sherwood Foundation

    Weitz Family Foundation

  • Board of Directors

    (from left to right, top to bottom)

    Audrey Paulman

    Dennis Magnuson

    Jen Miller

    Richard Callahan

    Michelle Elson-Roza

    Ali Yahnke

    Lori Tatreau

    Emily Anderson