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Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education (CUAGE)


Mchezaji “Che” Axum is the Director of the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education, where he leads a team of researchers at the Firebird Research Farm in Beltsville, Maryland, and oversees several community education programs including the DC Master Gardening Program, Urban Agriculture Soil-Less Certificate, Urban Agriculture Technician Certificate, Introduction to Agroecology and Sustainable Food Production, Gardening and Nutrition Program and the 4-H Soccer Program. He worked for the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Plant Sciences Institute, for 20 years, taught middle school science, and has worked as a successful farmer and sustainable farming consultant. He is a graduate of the College of Agronomy, now named to the College of Natural Resource Management at the University of Maryland. Mr. Axum is also a certified nutrient management consultant for the state of Maryland. He is a member of the American Agronomy Society/ ASA, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

Diego Lahaye is the 4-H program associate and community educator of the Center for Urban agriculture & Gardening Education. Diego Lahaye holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Media from the University of the District of Columbia. He is responsible for starting 4-H clubs and activities in the District of Columbia, including recruiting, training, supporting, and managing volunteers that work with the 4-H educational programs. He runs three 4H programs at CUAGE: gardening, nutrition and soccer.

Mike Whyte serves as the Assistant Farm Manager of UDC. Mike’s agricultural experience includes hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical agriculture, urban farm equipment manufacturing, native plant nursery management, and soil-based vegetable crop production. Mike is also a proud Firebird alumnus, having earned the Professional Science Master of Urban Agriculture.

Lindsay Fosheeis the Staff Assistant for the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education and the Center for Urban Research, Engagement, and Scholarship. She is a native Washingtonian with a great love for her city! She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2018 and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Ali Schneiderman is the Project Associate in Gardening Education.  She has lived in the DMV for 3 years teaching 4thgrade at Mundo Verde School.  Before that she lived in Chicago for 8 years, where she coordinated and implemented environmental education and community engagement programs for the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Botanic Garden, Nature Museum and Chicago Park District.  She also taught elementary and middle school science in Chicago Public Schools.  Originally from Ohio, she studied Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, and then obtained a Master’s degree of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Larry Seals is a Project Assistant for Urban Agriculture. He joined UDC-CAUSES in October 2022.

Ariel Verbrugge is also a Project Assistant for Urban Agriculture. Before joining UDC-CAUSES, she lived in Eleuthera, a small island in the Bahamas, working at the Cape Eleuthera Institute as a Food Security Research Assistant and managing their aquaponics system. Prior to that position, she received a Bachelor of Science in Spanish from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Public Health from Grand Valley State University.