Melissa Spear
Blog / Press Release | Our Work

Announcing Our New Executive Director

Tilth Alliance announced today that Melissa Spear will be the organization's new Executive Director.
Tilth Alliance announced today that Melissa Spear will be the organization’s new Executive Director

Seattle, WA — Tilth Alliance announced today that Melissa Spear will be the organization’s new Executive Director. Spear currently serves as Executive Director at Common Ground, a center for environmental learning and urban farming in New Haven, Connecticut. She will start her new role at Tilth Alliance the last week of November.
“Tilth Alliance’s board and staff could not be more excited to welcome Melissa to Washington State and have her lead the organization into its next chapter. Her vision and success working with others to build sustainable food systems in Connecticut aligns perfectly with our vision for a food system that’s better for farmers, consumers and the environment in Washington,” said Board President Liza Turley.
Spear states: “I am thrilled and honored to be joining Tilth Alliance in the important work of supporting and advocating for the sustainable farming community, urban gardeners and consumers in Washington. I look forward to bringing my experience and passion together with others locally and statewide to continue to build an ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable food system.”
The organization uses farms, gardens and kitchens as classrooms for hands-on education, teaching nutrition and science to people of all ages. Every year, hundreds of farmers, researchers and business leaders across the state participate in farmer-to-farmer education through Farm Walks, the annual Tilth Conference and other resources. Through farm, garden and cooking education programs, thousands of youth discover where food comes from, and hundreds of adults learn how to grow and cook their own food.
Spear has spent more than a decade working at the intersection of sustainable farming, land conservation and public education. For the past nine years, she has served as Executive Director at Common Ground. Spear has been an active member of the Connecticut Food System Alliance, a statewide network of stakeholders committed to effecting systemic change and building a sustainable and equitable food system. She has also served on the Steering Committee of the Working Lands Alliance, where she advocated for policies, programs and funding to protect Connecticut’s active farmland. Prior to Common Ground, Spear worked in land conservation, serving as a state director for the Trust for Public Land.
During her tenure at Common Ground, Spear and her team transformed a 20-acre site into a sustainable urban farm, producing food for New Haven’s diverse local community and engaging over 300 young people daily. Melissa was awarded the Katie O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award from Connecticut Audubon “for inspiring the next generation’s dedication to nature.” As the Executive Director of Common Ground, Spear is responsible for the strategic direction, financial health and overall success of the entire organization.
Tilth Alliance’s Board of Directors conducted an extensive national search and unanimously selected Spear. She succeeds Andrea Platt Dwyer, who retired from Tilth Alliance in 2017. Leesa Schandel has served as Interim Executive Director since Dwyer’s retirement.
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Tilth Alliance
Tilth Alliance teaches people of all ages and backgrounds how to grow, cook and eat nutritious food in ways that regenerate healthy ecosystems. They offer hands-on learning experiences and provide training and resources to Washington state farmers. —
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Ellen Gray
Transition Manager
(206) 633-0451 ext.104