Meet the Board
Jana Vanderhaar, Chair
I am a landscape architect and the owner of Verdant Connections Landscape Architecture, a landscape design and consultation company in Reno. I focus on edible, drought-tolerant and ecologically friendly landscape design and garden advice as a way to bring food, beauty and biodiversity to people’s lives. My design work is done by hand and finished on the computer, and includes many plant species to create biologically diverse gardens. My aim is to make each design an artistic and functional expression of what is possible, giving the client the tools needed to make their landscape dreams a reality.
As Chair of Basin & Range Organics, I put my experience of being active and having served as board president on various Reno non-profit boards to use. With over a decade of involvement in the local and organic food scene in northern Nevada, I has many connections with farmers and growers in the High Desert, as well as with regional and state organizations that support farming here. When I am not designing a landscape or volunteering for a good cause, you can find me planting, harvesting, or tending to my chickens in my own backyard homestead garden – using organic practices, of course!
Armando Ornelas, Vice-Chair
Born and raised in the west Texas town of El Paso, I landed in Reno in 1998. I am currently employed by the City of Sparks as the Assistant Community Services Director and have worked in the community development field for twenty-five years. I joined Basin and Range Organics’ board of directors in May of 2018. My previous non-profit experience in Nevada includes serving on the boards of the Great Basin Food Cooperative and Desert Sage Educational Initiative, which operates a Waldorf-inspired school in Reno. I hope to help Basin and Range Organics continue to facilitate organic agricultural production and processing by improving access to a certification process, particularly for smaller producers and, in this way, enhance this region’s resiliency and self-sufficiency.
Ernie Baragar, Treasurer
Hi, my name is Ernie Baragar. I am currently serving as the Treasurer of the Basin and Range Organics Board of Directors. I retired from a career in manufacturing engineering and management and live in Reno Nevada. I enjoy gardening, riding motorcycles and hiking amongst the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. I believe eating locally sourced organic plant foods is critical to a healthy life. I proudly work to support certified organic food production as a member of the Basin and Range Organics team.
Shelley Brant, Secretary
I’m a 5th generation Nevadan, born in Tonopah, raised in Yerington and Reno. I spent my career in service, retiring as a Public Librarian for Washoe County. Serving as secretary for basin and Range organics is an extension of what I love most…making something good happen for the benefit of everyone. I’ve been a local food advocate since 2008, serving on the Local Food Network System board and volunteering for other organizations that promote healthy food production in Nevada. my favorite activities are hanging out with my husband of 32 years, gardening, knitting, and reading. I joined the Basin and range Organics Board in July 2018.
Earstin Whitten, at Large
I was raised on a farm in Arkansas. I graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI with a degree in history and Communication. After serving in the US Army, I worked at Allstate Insurance Company with increasing levels of responsibility in the field and Home Office environment. I am currently on the board for the Great Basin Community Food Cooperative where I have served as board president for the past three years. I am an avid gardener and teach classes on how to successfully grow garlic in the high desert environment. I am president of Soulful Seeds, a non-profit initiative to provide health food to the Reno homeless and less fortunate population in Reno. I joined the Basin and Range Organics board in August 2018.
Solomon Meyer, Program Administrator
When my parents started our organic farm when I was five years old, I was so excited to be the first “employee”. Our roots were in organic produce, but over the years we grew to add livestock and eventually processing. When I came back to the farm after college, I took over management of what had grown to be a large commercial enterprise. In my new role, it was my first order of business to apply for organic certification under the new National Organic Program standards. For twenty years, I’ve worked continuously in various roles on both sides of the certification table. Organic is my passion! These days I divide my time between my service as BARO’s Program Administrator and with my wife Michelle on my our little farm where we grow vegetables, hay, various critters, and our family!