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….

Bruce Plenk

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…

Faith Edman


Faith has been involved with Community Gardens of Tucson for more than eight 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


Parker Filer grew up playing and working (also snacking. a lot.) in the backyard gardens of his parents and grandparents in western Pennsylvania. Fond memories of harvesting green beans, tasting homegrown watermelon, canning tomatoes, beets and applesauce, and pickling cucumbers, are what motivates his service on the CGT Board of Directors.  Parker began studying plant science and food production at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ in 2001. He later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Hawaii and a Masters degree in International Agriculture and Rural Development form Cornell University. He currently works at the University of Arizona in the Cooperative Extension service as an Assistant Agent of Horticulture where his duties include supporting the Pima County Master Gardener program and Pima Smartscape program.

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.

Former Board Members

Elizabeth Warburton-Smith

Former Executive Director

Elizabeth Warburton-Smith is a second generation Tucsonan who has been digging in our desert soils for almost 45 years. In college, George Brookbank became her Mentor where she learned from his extensive knowledge of growing in dry, hot comates. She is the former CEO and founder of a sustainable
energy company, chef and college instructor. A published author and regular contributor to a local paper, Elizabeth inspires others to grow living food in our challenging climate. Elizabeth focuses on standards that protect our environment which include organic cultivation, no-till regenerative permaculture, rainwater conservation, vermiculture and harvesting local desert foods. She is the founder of the Rita Ranch Community Garden and a non-profit focusing on teaching people how to grow living food in our desert. Elizabeth has been featured in Edible Baja Arizona, Tucson Lifestyle and Green Living Magazines. Elizabeth’s growing philosophy reflects the adage, “The wisdom of the Ancients patiently waits for the modern world to catch up.”

Gene Zonge

Former Executive Director

Gene moved to Tucson in 1969 from Fairbanks, Alaska, where he was born. He earned a bachelors degree in electrical engineering and his MBA from the University of Arizona. He was a community gardener with CGT for 8 years and the executive director for 6 years. Under his leadership, that all-volunteer nonprofit gardening group grew from four to 20 gardens and from 60 gardeners to over 400 gardeners.

Susanne Kaplan

Former Executive Director

Susanne transplanted from the Northeast to Tucson in 1991. She has been involved with CGT since 2013 in a variety of capacities; as a gardener, an educator, an administrator, a board member, and an executive director.  She has had a lifelong interest in plants – personally, academically and professionally. She has Master’s degrees in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and in Landscape Architecture and is a Registered Nurse. Susanne loves the Sonoran Desert. She enjoys painting, sculpting, throwing pots and playing outside. She served on the board until 2017

Andy Stevens

Former Board Member

Andy was guilty by association, as his wife Dianne started doing the newsletter for CGT before they moved to Tucson from Canon City, Co in 2004. After moving to Tucson and taking up a plot at the Presidio Garden (sorry about the Amaranth, it was Dianne’s idea) the prior directors Darlene Schacht and George Brookbank, felt that he had caused enough trouble at steering committee meetings and needed something to occupy his time. Thinking that the pay was good, he jumped at the chance while Dianne kept improving the newsletter. The oldest CGT garden turned into a parking lot, and a new garden started during his time. This roller coaster made a few laps before their daughter Cady came along and after that happened, time (and sleep) was in short supply and Andy decided to pass the torch to Gene Zonge who had a large part in expanding the program and making gardens available to many more gardeners.

Rocky Yosek

Former Board Member

Rocky worked at a local nonprofit from 2010-2019 and became an ISA Certified Arborist in January of 2016. He now works at an Urban Forestry consulting company and travels the country doing municipal tree inventories. He served on the board from 2017-2019.