Meet the Team

Who We are

The Common Acre came together when artists and urban farmers decided in 2012 to work together on a shared mission of maximum social impact.

Since our inception, our team has grown to encompass doctors of medicine and science, city planners, educators, and strategists, and a great crew of multi-talented volunteers.


Stephen Dorsch, Farm Coordinator, Field Specialist

Stephen Dorsch

Farm Coordinator, Field Specialist

Stephen has had his heart and his hands dug deep into the soil of the Pacific Northwest for over a decade. From mapping the surficial geology of Washington State’s three National Parks to pursuing a degree in Holistic Landscape Design from Bastyr University, Stephen has experience working at all scales from watershed to homestead. His passion for the environment, permaculture, native plants, and sustainable local food systems drives him to make the most of every day. Stephen discovered Alleycat Acres as he explored turning the parking strip at his home in Seattle into a community farm and has been hooked on Alleycat ever since.

Allison Rinard, Executive Director

Allison Rinard

Executive Director

Allison has a long history of gardening and love of food dating back to her childhood, on through volunteerism and professional pursuits. She has been improving non-profit systems since managing Books to Prisoners Olympia while pursuing her BA at The Evergreen State College. After two years traveling with the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, she dedicated herself to creating more just, effective urban farms in Seattle. She became an Alleycat Acres Farm Manager in 2013, and their first Executive Director in 2015, leading to her new role as ED of The Common Acre in 2017.


Jessica Yuen, Treasurer

Jessica Yuen


Jessica grew up in Chicago, but has lived in Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Montreal as well as a short stint in Seattle from 2008-2010. She moved back a little over a year ago from Chicago, and while there she was actively involved with her neighborhood’s urban farm where she saw the importance of the space with the nourishment from the food produced, but also as nourishment for community building and gathering. She is passionate about land restoration, urban farming, and transforming these spaces to help build stronger communities. Jessica has spent the last 7 years working for Group One Trading, LP, where she currently works remotely as the Senior Manager of Finance & Accounting. She has had previous careers in internal audit at CVS Caremark and in public accounting at RSM.

Sheila Brown, President

Sheila Brown


Sheila Brown believes in personal and societal transformation, sustainability and simple living, and the arts as a way to celebrate, build and heal communities. In her work life (currently as Education Program Supervisor at Camp Long), Sheila’s passions include environmental restoration, cross-cultural and multi-cultural understanding, outdoor recreation and science. Sheila has also developed and managed programs and facilities, and promoted public-private partnerships. In her personal life, her interests include choral and acoustic music, Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, exploring awareness through the body, history and new developments in science, and spending time with friends and her border terrier.  Sheila is tri-lingual and has lived and traveled throughout Latin America and Europe.

Renée Russak, Director

Renée Russak


A partner with Social Venture Partners, Renée is also an independent consultant to non-profit organizations, coalitions and foundations with a focus on improving the capacity of non-profits to work efficiently, equitably and collaboratively on shared goals informed and centered around community strength and wisdom. Prior to this work Renée spent many years in the corporate sector as a Manager and Director of diverse project teams building online media brands (Microsoft Network, Expedia) and developing the key internal and external business partnerships required for their success. Renee’s passions and joy bloom and grow in adventure with her partner Marci and their daughters Isabel and Hannah and include making music, reading widely, learning from others and exploring and playing outside whenever possible — especially with their beloved family dog Harpo, aka, “furry brother from another other.”

Patti Bakker, Director

Patti Bakker


Patti has been working toward protection and restoration of habitats and species for more than 27 years. She has worked with local, state and federal agencies as well as large and small non-profit organizations, including seven years as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service and seven years managing the Truckee River Restoration Program for The Nature Conservancy in Nevada. She currently works for Seattle Parks and Recreation as Manager for the Green Seattle Partnership, Wildlife and IPM Programs. She is preoccupied by the needs of improving soils and nutrient cycling, as well as nourishing people and communities – so is very excited to be part of this organization!

Kurt Sahl, Co-secretary

Kurt Sahl


A 31-year resident of Seattle, Kurt Sahl still looks forward to the fall rains. He’s been a high school science teacher in Alaska, Austria, and the Seattle area as well as a teacher educator at UW Seattle, UW Bothell, and Antioch University. Currently, Kurt works as a program manager with the Professional and Continuing Education Program at the UW Continuum College. Formerly, Kurt was the Director of Operations at 21 Acres, a sustainable agriculture education center in Woodinville. After earning his degree in entomology from the University of Idaho, Kurt lived off-grid in Alaska where he drove a tour bus in the summer and taught in the winter. He earned his teaching credential and M.Ed. from the UW.


Nicole Marcotte, Director

Nicole Marcotte


Nicole helps to manage community-based stewardship programs as a part of Forterra’s Green Cities team. Nicole works to harness a community of volunteers that are engaged in their local landscapes through educational and hands-on forest restoration activities. Nicole got her start in the field of habitat restoration when she served as an AmeriCorps member with EarthCorps and Washington Conservation Corps as an Individual Placement at Forterra. She also worked at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, where she expanded her knowledge in plant care and propagation, and where she also fell in love with the many blooms and pollinators she encountered at the garden. Nicole has a true passion for conservation: conserving our environment, conserving its inhabitants, and conserving natural beauty that is paramount in connecting people to place. In her spare time, you can often find Nicole frolicking through alpine meadows or wandering the trails of the Washington Park Arboretum where she likes to create botanical-artwork from fallen flowers and foliage.

Gurdeep Gill, Co-secretary

Gurdeep Gill


Gurdeep is a first generation, Asian Indian American, college graduate from the University of Washington. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in 2018. While in undergrad she discovered a passion for education equity and focused most of her time working with the Philosophy for Children center to create spaces in K-12 classrooms for students to explore their own questions and curiosities through community based inquiry. Towards the end of her degree she became invested in food justice issues. This came from reflecting on her own experiences with food insecurity growing up & recognizing some of those same experiences in the communities she was working with. Her goal now is to better understand the food system from production to consumption so that she can be a better advocate. Currently, she serves with AmeriCorps at the Pipeline Project at UW to provide resources to high needs schools while also bridging her passion for education equity and food justice.

Bee Research Team

Will Peterman, Bee Research Assistant

Will Peterman

Bee Research Assistant

Will Peterman is a writer, photographer, and bee nerd. He studied pollination ecology and artificial intelligence in graduate school at UCSD, then spent fifteen years in software development before returning to entomology as the lead of the Western Bumblebee Project ( He is currently studying the quirks of bee vision and working on conservation strategies for native, ground-nesting bees.

Evan Sugden, PhD, Bee Research Lead

Evan Sugden, PhD

Bee Research Lead

Evan Sugden, PhD earned his MA in biology from the University of Utah and his PhD from the University of California-Davis. Evan has done post-doctoral work in Sydney, Australia; worked as an apicultural development agent in Dubai; and helped detect and study Africanized bees in Texas for the USDA. Since 1998 he has taught at the University of Washington, where he also manages the UW apiary. A consultant through his business Entomo-logic, Evan is also a certified SCUBA diver and has explored marine environments on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), around Bermuda, and in both the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf.