Ben McShane-Jewell

Executive Director |

Ben grew up thinking that as soon as he could manage it, he would leave Lincoln, and see what the big world had to offer. So he did. And for a long time, he moved and traveled all over the world. As Nebraska often does, the state began to beckon him home. He found himself missing the people and the places that shaped his childhood. And so he and his wife (also from Lincoln) spent hours talking about how they could come home.

When an opportunity at Community Crops opened up, they jumped at the chance to move back and offer their infant daughter the childhood in the community they knew and loved.

Ben always had an interest in social justice, particularly in the area of food access. In graduate school, he studied the many strategies families employ to make ends meet when there’s not enough food on the table. For close to 10 years, he has worked with communities all across the country to create programs that increase food access through various means. Helping communities find the tools to grow their own food has always struck him as a powerful antidote to poverty and injustice.

In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, riding bikes, traveling, and enjoying a trip to one of the fine breweries in Lincoln.


Matt Pirog

Growing Farmers Program Manager |

Matt Pirog is the Growing Farmers Program Manager at Community Crops. He is responsible for seeking out and facilitating learning opportunities for beginning farmers in Nebraska using lectures, farm tours, and hands-on workshops at the Prairie Pines training farm. He comes to Crops with an educational background in accounting and biological systems engineering, which drives his pursuit of small-scale, soil-regenerative farming models that are also financially sustainable.

Matt first developed his gardening/farming addiction at a Community Crops garden in 2010 and has been absorbing everything he can about biologically-intensive agriculture ever since. Classes and opportunities organized by Community Crops have made it possible for him to grow a delicious bounty of food and provided inspiration to pursue a farming lifestyle. He is excited to create those opportunities for others and to help grow the capacity of the Lincoln foodshed. The other hats he wears outside of Community Crops are eccentric gardener, dog buddy and alternating sous-chef at the Falter-Pirog household.


Aaron French

Farm Production Coordinator |

Aaron oversees the Farm and CSA Program at Community Crops. Originally from Omaha, he graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a degree in religious studies and a focus on the relationships between faith, food and agriculture.

Maryland is where he got his foray in the farming community, starting a campus farm and then continuing to work for two established organic farms. After a brief stint in Iowa, teaching kids about gardening and cooking, Aaron landed in Lincoln where he discovered the joys of biking in a flat city.

When he’s not pulling turnips or helping one of the Community Crops training farmers diagnose pest problems, he enjoys hanging out with cats, playing cribbage and making hot sauces (he may give you some if you ask nicely).


Barb Brockley

Office Manager, Bookkeeper and Grant Writer |

Barb has worked at Community Crops for six years. What started as a temporary part-time job has grown into a full-time job where she enjoys helping people to grow their own food. She is able to get her hands dirty at her own farm in southwest Lincoln, where she and her husband have run a CSA for eleven years. Their passion for healthy, local food is shared by their chickens, turkeys, goats, pigs and llamas.


Kelsey Varisco

Garden Program Coordinator |

Kelsey has joined our staff full-time as our community garden program coordinator. She spent last year working in the gardens and with all our gardeners as an AmeriCorps member. We are so excited to be able to utilize her experience and skills to ensure all of our gardeners are successful in growing their own food! Please join us in welcoming Kelsey!

Nicole Effle

Youth Garden Coordinator |
Nicole and her husband Nick were born and raised in Lincoln. Their parents always gardened and they have taken on that love by adding growing space to their yard every year and this year, adding chickens! All three of their children, Alexis, 17, Jaxson, 13 and Tiszon, 10, have grown up in the garden digging, observing and nurturing. While gardening, sustainability and environmental awareness have always been a passion for Nicole, her work has been primarily with low income families and high-risk youth. She have a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Midland College and a master’s in Counseling from Doane. Her true passion is teaching and learning and now that she gets to combine that with gardening!