Our Team

Catherine Sands has over 20 years experience as an evaluation and education leader in food systems and policy change. 

Catherine founded Fertile Ground as a farm to school partnership between the Williamsburg Elementary School and Nuestras Raíces, an urban agriculture organization. She grew the organization to support farm to school design in over 10 school districts in MA, then to become a broader strategy and impact technical assistance provider.  Catherine believes in the power of communities to construct their own values-driven assessments. As a specialist in participatory methods, has coached over thirty community food projects in their evaluations and in using this evidence to influence policy change.

Catherine is a food systems and policy lecturer in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She holds a BA from Georgetown University in Art History and English and a Master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Policy. Catherine has also worked on development and marketing teams for arts organizations, produced rock concerts and other events to raise awareness about environmental issues, and choreographed, performed and taught dance.  She loves to cook for family and friends and rows with a club team on the Connecticut River.


Laura Fries has a BA from Oberlin College in Comparative Literature and Spanish. After receiving her degree, Laura realized her passions lay in food, nutrition, and food justice. This led her to return to school to pursue a Masters in Public Health in Community Health Education from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Since then, she has taught nutrition workshops and college courses, and participated in grant evaluations.

Laura also collaborated with her sister, a farmer, to design, secure funding for, and run an educational summer program for children. Laura’s interest in food is personal as well as professional. She loves to travel and try new things. So far, tripe and sea urchin are the only foods she’d rather not try again.


Kristen Whitmore has spent the past decade working to foster vibrant and equitable community food systems. She has worked with farmers, students, nonprofit organizations, and local governments across Massachusetts and in Latin America. Kristen holds a BA in Sociology and Gender Studies from Mount Holyoke College and a Master’s degree in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Currently Kristen is a PhD student and consultant, conducting research, supporting program design and evaluation, fundraising, and facilitating strategic and community planning processes. Kristen centralizes participatory and community-based practice in all her work and is committed to community-led movements for social and environmental justice. She is also a big fan of family farms and works as bookkeeper at Queen’s Greens in Amherst. Raised in western Massachusetts by a family of farmers, cooks, food service workers, and grocery truck drivers, she has spent most of her life thinking about food, the land it’s grown on, the people who get it around the world, and most importantly, what’s for dinner.