Board of Directors

George Brookbank

Founder and inspiration

George founded the Community Gardens of Tucson in 1990 and was a Tucson resident for over 40 years. As an Extension Agent for Urban Horticulture with the U of A Extension Service, George spent 12 years training Master Gardeners and managing the program until his retirement in 1995. George started CGT with the establishment of 4 community gardens in partnership with homeowners as well as the Community Food Bank. George served as Education Director for CGT for 20 years. His popular books include: “Desert Gardening: Fruits and Vegetables”, “Desert Gardening Calendar”, and “Desert Landscaping”.

George passed away March 1st, 2018 and all of us at Community Gardens of Tucson, as well as others in the Tucson gardening community, will miss him dearly. He was a gentle man who was patient and understanding, both with plants and with gardeners, from novice to pro. He was always willing to advise why a plant was not doing well and to help improve someone’s gardening skills. He helped make the desert bloom….

Elizabeth Smith

Executive Director

Elizabeth is a 2nd generation Tucsonan who is only a few generations removed from Irish potato farmers and has growing in her blood. She has been digging in our desert soils for almost 45 years and one of her first gardens was a plot of cotton in her backyard at age 8. In college, George Brookbank became her Mentor where she learned from his extensive knowledge of growing in dry, hot climates. Since then she has added new (and old) methods of growing to her repertoire such as organic cultivation, permaculture, rainwater conservation, harvesting native foods and vermiculture. Elizabeth is a former Chef and the founder of a non-profit focusing on teaching people how to grow in our challenging climate as well as subjects like preparing and cooking foods from the garden and the desert, canning, soap making, vermiculture and more. She also writes gardening articles for The Vail Voice and has been featured in Edible Baja Arizona. Elizabeth’s growing philosophy reflects the adage, “The wisdom of the Ancients patiently waits for the modern world to catch up.”

Bruce Plenk

Chair of the Board, Chair of the Garden Operations Committee, Co-Coordinator of Gregory School Garden

Bruce lives in a house with solar electricity and solar hot water, worked as the solar coordinator for the City of Tucson and now is a solar consultant. He has been the Gregory School Garden co-garden coordinator with Patti Hartmann for several years and continually tries to understand why some plants do well and others don’t in the garden! He says he is still working on that…

Harry Crane

Board Member-at-Large, Site Coordinator at Sunrise Garden

After graduate business school and twenty years in training consulting with his wife Andrea, Harry pursued his passion for cooking and began a culinary career. After culinary school in both the USA and France, Harry was a chef in a top Chicago area French restaurant followed by several years as a chef instructor at The School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College. Prior to recently retiring, Harry was the Executive Chef at The Kraft Heinz Company for fifteen years. He is a member of the American Culinary Federation and a member and past national president of the Research Chefs Association. Harry spends much of his time cooking for his wife and their friends. He is the CGT coordinator for the Sunrise Garden and is working with the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace to operate their new foodservice kitchen at the Mission Garden. In his spare time he is collaborating with two former teaching colleagues in writing a college culinary textbook.

Faith Edman


Faith has been involved with Community Gardens of Tucson for more than seven years, beginning as a completely ignorant gardener pulled in by a friend at the Benedictine Monastery garden. There she was lucky to learn from George Brookbank, Darlene Schacht, Gene Zonge, other CGT mentors and fellow gardeners. She is deeply grateful to have discovered that gardening, especially community gardening, is a joyful, sanity-enhancing gift. It makes her especially happy to grow pollinator-loving herbs and flowers instead of vegetables. Faith retired as assistant director of Arizona Student Media, the umbrella department for the University of Arizona’s student-run media (Arizona Daily Wildcat newspaper, KAMP Student Radio, and UATV-3) after 31 years of experience in financial/business management, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing and advertising. She also served for 6 years on the international governing board of Nonviolent Peaceforce, which develops and provides professional unarmed civilian peacekeeping to conflict areas around the world.

Parker Filer


Sarah Mann


Sarah Mann, MBA/PMP, is an experienced senior project manager with over 20 years of successful project/program management in private, public and non-profit sectors. Since she and her husband moved to Tucson from Seattle in 2014, Sarah has worked at the Critical Path Institute (C-Path), volunteered with the Community Food Bank and Tohono Chul Park, maintained a garden plot at the CGT’s Presidio Garden, and become an active supporter of Native Seeds and the Pima County Extension Service Master Gardener Program. Recently retired from C-Path, Sarah is committed to building the local community’s awareness and access to healthy food. When not gardening, Sarah enjoys traveling, hiking, photography and exploring the area.