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…

Anne Hunt

Vice-chair of the Board , Chair of the Outreach Committee

Paul Oman

Treasurer, Chair of the Oversight Committee

Paul is an assurance associate at R&A CPAs in Tucson and a garden enthusiast. He graduated from the U of A’s Eller College of Management in December of 2015, and is working on his CPA credentials. He joined the Board at the beginning of 2016, drawn by his love for gardening. His home garden mostly consists of fragrant flowers, culinary herbs, and unusual cacti, but he plans on building and planting a raised vegetable garden next fall.

Jessica Paul

Gardens Manager, Board Member-at-Large

Jessica is a third generation Tucsonan whose love of gardening started when she was a little girl helping her grandmother in the garden. Jessica has been the garden technician for the Community Gardens of Tucson for almost three years. Whether she is fixing leaks, building fences or raised beds, leading volunteers and interns, working with community partners, or teaching classes to children, she facilitates the functioning of the gardens with enthusiasm and joy. If you have a need in the garden, Jessica does her best to fulfill it.

Rocky Yosek

Board Member-at-Large

Rocky has been working with Trees for Tucson since shortly after moving to the area in 2010 and became an ISA Certified Arborist in January of 2016. Throughout his time there he has helped coordinate tree deliveries and tree planting and pruning events all over the area. Outside of Trees for Tucson, he enjoys gardening and preserving his garden’s harvest through canning, as well as photography, welding, camping and hiking all over the beautiful southwest.

Jim Harkin


Jim Harkin and spouse Lucille came to Tucson in 1978 and they have gardened at Chavarim since it opened in August 2003. At the end of 2017 Jim completed the several-year transition to retirement from the financial planning practice that he had owned and developed for the preceding several decades. Jim earned a BA from Providence College (1968) and an M.S.S. (1976) and Ph.D.(1978) from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. Other employment includes working in Senegal, West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1968-1970) and in management with Catholic Relief Services (1972-1974).