Ryan Thayer Q&A | Desert Botanical Garden


Desert Botanical Garden is excited to announce Ryan Thayer has joined as the first executive director for Spaces of Opportunity.

Spaces of Opportunity is a 14-acre incubator farm, family garden and on-site farmers market in south Phoenix that provides affordable access to healthy food and active living.

Spaces of Opportunity is in one of several food deserts in the Valley. Food deserts are areas where nutritious and affordable food isn’t readily available. Since its launch, the initiative has offered countless numbers of families access to vegetables, fruits and wellness programs.

To support Spaces of Opportunity’s mission, the Garden created a leadership role for the initiative to transform a food desert into a food oasis with the help of gardeners, farmers and farm workers.

Meet Ryan Thayer, hailing from the Bay Area, where he and his family have called home for six generations. For more than 10 years, he has worked supporting equitable food systems. He received a bachelors degree in urban studies and affairs from San Francisco State University and a masters in urban affairs from the University of San Francisco. Ryan will begin as the executive director of Spaces on Oct. 17. Learn more about him, the role and his previous work in the Q&A below.

Q:  Tell us about your background. What got you interested in Spaces of Opportunity?

A: I am joining Spaces of Opportunity after more than a decade supporting equitable food systems work throughout the Bay Area,. I started my career in food systems working in grocery stores in high school and as a landscaping laborer for my brother’s business throughout college. Since then, I have worked as a food justice lead community organizer for a low-income housing developer, a policy analyst for a food security anti-poverty initiative out of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and most recently as the nutrition & wellness program manager for the County of Marin in California.I believe that our relationships with the earth and our food can be used as a lens for how we can build healthy communities and sustain sociopolitical equity.

Q: What are your responsibilities as Executive Director of Spaces of Opportunity?

A: As Executive Director of Spaces of Opportunity, I will be responsible for the overall management and direction of the organization. The previous years of hard work by community members and local organizations have established a strong foundation. In collaboration with the Garden’s Board  and those tending to the land, I intend to strengthen the organization structure, long-term sustainability of the organization and depth of impact within the local community. I will serve as the lead to ensure we have the resources and capacity needed to fulfil the vision for Spaces of Opportunity.

Q: What are you looking forward to in your new role?

A: I am excited to connect with the land and the groups that are tending to it. For years, I have wanted to be involved with an organization that is centered around farming and plant cultivation that is also building and strengthening community. I am looking forward to learning from the land as well as exploring how my skill set and the direction of Spaces of Opportunity can complement each other.