SEEDS runs day-to-day with the support of an energetic staff dedicated to Durham’s next generation. We are proud to be a Durham Living Wage Certified organization

Cecilia Polanco – Executive Director

Cecilia is the daughter of Jose and Nora, and sister to Ana, Sandra, and Yesenia. Originally from El Salvador, their family has lived in Durham for the past 27 years, where Cecilia attended Durham Public Schools and graduated from Northern High School in 2011. She then graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar and Global Gap Year Fellow. She majored in Global Studies with a focus on Health and the Environment, and Latin America, minored in Geography and earned a certificate in Business from Kenan Flagler. She has since been working on launching and scaling So Good Pupusas, a social justice food truck, and Pupusas for Education, a last dollar scholarship fund for undocumented students. She is a community activist entrepreneur with a long history of work with youth and on various social justice issues surrounding food and environmental justice. She is also a mental health advocate and believes that education can enable us to free ourselves and others, and that love is the root of our relationship with ourselves, each other, and mother Earth.


Phone : 919.683.1197 ext. 8

Herb Thornton – Youth Programs Coordinator

Herb has worked in the before- and after-school programs at Hope Valley Elementary School, motivating and engaging the students in academic, social and professional experiences they might not otherwise get at school. Passionate about children, his move to Eno Valley Elementary School as an educator for children with different learning styles was a natural fit. Herb studied English and sociology at North Carolina Central University, and now, in his free time, he cooks and reads modernist fiction and poetry. (He’s also a regular participant in the annual Great Durham Pun Challenge!) As a garden and chef educator at SEEDS, Herb helps engage young people in growing and cooking food as life skills; they learn to care for the environment, conserve natural resources, build confidence and foster teamwork.


Phone : 919.683.1197 ext. 6

Trevor Hyde – Farm Manager & Educator

Trevor is super excited to join the SEEDS Team as the Farm Manager and Educator. After a long stint in academia, at Trinity College, Yale, and UNC-Chapel Hill, Trevor realized the Ivory Tower was the wrong place for him, and switched to practical work with a community impact through food. After a second Masters in Agriculture and Education at NC-State, he worked on farms and managed his own incubator plot, honing his skills in permaculture, interplanting, and seasonality, with an educational focus. After a two-year search for the right educational agricultural nonprofit, he was excited for the possibilities unfolding in this new chapter of SEEDS. He believes that we can change the world through food and our interaction with nature, and that teaching youth will create a generation of change for the future.

Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 5

Eli Mercuree Rue – Chef Educator

Eli is excited to be returning home to Durham and work with SEEDS as a Chef Educator. Eli is a Durham native and attended Southern High School and went on to earn a B.S. in Chemistry from Mills College. After a few years in the  biotech industry they decided they wanted to focus on their dreams of seeing a more just and liberated food system by offering theirself to community in the form of garden and kitchen education.  They have worked with youth in a variety of settings from personal tutoring to science enrichment to farming, all with a common thread of seeing youth discover their infinite potential. Eli joins us after returning from Oakland, CA where they most recently worked with The Edible Schoolyard as an Americorp Garden Teacher and Summer Garden and Cooking Program Manager.   They hope to share with the SEEDS youth and community their passion for cooking, gardening, herbalism, art, community resilience, food justice and liberation, science, short stories, healing, and so much more.


Phone919-683-1197 ext. 7

Aaron Kienow – Farm Educator

Aaron grew up growing vegetables with his mother in their garden. She was a creative gardener, scavenging potential containers in order to grow where the soil was poor. Aaron has volunteered with the Interfaith Food Shuttle’s Geer Street location, where he got his first hands-on taste of farm work. He has worked many years as a chef and wants to flip the side of the food industry he works in. At SEEDS, Aaron enjoys the hands-on learning environment, and the opportunity to learn about greenhouse-management and expand his exposure to various plants.
Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 4


Abby Goodman – Development & Communications Coordinator

Abby joined SEEDS after several years of work in fundraising and communications in the Triangle. She moved to Durham from Nashville where she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Human & Organizational Development. Abby believes in the power of building community through food and in her spare time can be found cooking, preserving, knitting and naturally dyeing yarn and textiles.


Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 2

Cynelsa Broderick – Operations & Administrative Coordinator

Cynelsa joined the staff after past experiences in sustainability and environmental education, administrative work, and the Conservation Trust for NC’s AmeriCorps Program. She has lived in Durham since Summer 2011, moving from Dover, Delaware after college. She earned an undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Delaware and is passionate about the creative and important connection between STEM and the arts. When not in our building or educational garden and kitchen classroom, Cynelsa can be found outdoors enjoying nature or volunteering in the Durham arts community, lettering local calligraphy projects, or making visual art of her own.


Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 1