Means to be Sustainable About Us

Sustainable is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

We’re used to hearing the concept applied to big systems, like entire cities or countries or international efforts. Our goal is to help people incorporate sustainability into very small systems: their own immediate surroundings. Our homes and landscapes are places where we can make better choices that make a positive difference for ourselves and our communities.

You know your choices have power. We can help you wield it.

But really, sustainability is the just beginning…

Our Secret Goal is to Change the World

When we are new to a place, we naturally seek to know it, to connect with it. As Portland grows and evolves, a whole new group of Portlanders discovers and grows and evolves along with it. New or old community members, we are all braided to each other and to this place.

We aim to help people build stronger relationships with the spaces they inhabit, to align themselves with the world they inhabit. We believe that fostering greater connection between people and place is vital to humanity’s continued survival. When people and place are one, naturally we make decisions that are beneficial to both.

We believe growing your own food can help you do that. Changing your physical space through construction can help you do that. Taking care of your land and structures in a way that contributes to the place’s overall health as well as your enjoyment of it, can help you do that.

So whatever we’re helping you with, we’re not just helping you. Together, we are helping heal our world, one small corner at a time.

Accreditations and More

Meet Our Team

Karen Independence  Gardens About Us
Karen was born and raised in Portland, and that provenance is a big part of what drives her to help people find ways to connect more deeply with our community and ecosystem.

She graduated from Princeton University with a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, and from Portland State University with an MA in Educational Leadership, with a specialization in Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning. Karen is certified in Permaculture Design, and is proud of her role instigating various community projects, like the Oregon School Garden Summit.

Independence Gardens is Karen’s way to connect to and strengthen relationships with individuals and organizations in the greater Portland area. She gets more excited about the transformational potential of organic land care every day.

Isabel Independence  Gardens About Us
Isabel grew up in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood, working in the garden with her Master Gardener mom. She joined Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (MCSO-SAR) at age 14, and every year since then has volunteered around 550 hours a year to support the community.

Isabel can’t remember a time when she wasn’t aware of the importance of the connections between things—especially between the natural world and human well-being. She is a Master Gardener, and believes that gardening not only fosters connections between people and plants, but is also a wonderful way to share her knowledge and help people help themselves.

Erica Program Manager 1024x768 About Us
EricaProgram Manager
Erica is another Native Portlandian working through IG to create better outdoor places for people, wildlife and food production in the “urban jungle.”

After finishing high school in Portland Erica escaped to sunnier climes in Southern California to study Spanish and International Relations at Pomona College. She soon grew homesick and and returned to the Pacific Northwest, earning a bachelor’s degree in Community Development and Affordable Housing at Portland State University. In 2013, she completed her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) with a focus on environmental planning, also at Portland State University.

Erica also has diverse work experience and training in sustainable landscaping, green building, organic farming, stormwater management, youth development and cupcake baking.

Tambien habla Espanol 🙂

JP Independence  Gardens About Us
JPOffice Manager
JP holds down the fort at Independence Gardens HQ, which makes him the Independence Gardens team member you’re most likely to encounter first. JP brings an eclectic skillset and a continental range of experience to our team, and can often be found taking his cat for hikes in the woods.
Tygh Independence  Gardens About Us
TyghProject Manager
Tygh earned his first degree in Building Construction Technology and is currently pursuing a second degree in Operations Management. In addition to building garden infrastructure with Independence Gardens, he spearheads our residential construction work.

Tygh was a cadet with Portland Police, and volunteered for several years with Karen and Isabel through Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue. He was born in North Carolina and raised in Troutdale, where he still lives.

Rachel Dvorsky Garden Guide 1024x768 About Us
Rachel DvorskyGarden Guide
Rachel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and went to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to earn an environmental engineering degree. She worked in the field of engineering for 10 years as a consultant designing green streets and other water resource and stormwater management projects. She has always enjoyed gardening and has maintained a home garden since 2000. She developed a strong personal interest in edible landscaping and native plants since moving to Oregon in 2003. She went through the OSU Extension Master Gardener Training in 2013. She loves inspiring others to grow their own food whether it be a small salad garden or a larger garden with the idea of storing food for yearlong enjoyment. She also enjoys connecting children to where their food comes from and is an active volunteer at her children’s elementary school garden.
Headshot DAna 1024x768 About Us
D'Ana SotoForeperson
D’Ana Soto is a Chiheneh Apache/ Mexican from Silver City, NM. She has a BA in Women’s Studies from PSU, her focus is on Indigenous First foods.

It is her life‚ Aos journey to decolonize her self through the practice of midwifery, farming and seed saving. The reality of nutritional genocide became canon for her after visiting relatives and friends on reservations and learning about diabetes, cancers, and other sickness resulting from colonization and removal from access to original foods. This is when her work with permaculture and seed saving began.

She feels it is her job to work with the earth, and the people in it and learn from other indigenous communities‚ AO strategies on developing programs that can be taught through gardening projects, food shares, and seed saving.

Rey Independence  Gardens About Us
ReyJob Buddy
Rey found Karen and Isabel in March 2013, and he rapidly became one of the most frequently seen team members on our job sites. He is kind to young people, other animals, and every other creature we’ve seen him interact with. Even though he usually hangs out in the truck while we’re working, he’s always happy to visit.