Planting fruit trees for a greener, cleaner, and healthier planet.
Our mission is to plant and help others plant a collective total of 18 billion fruit trees across the world ––
roughly 3 for every person alive–– and encourage their growth under organic standards. Major accomplishments include planting, on average, more than 60 orchards and distributing tens of thousands of fruit trees to communities around the world, every year, along with training and education.
Past projects, to name just a few, include helping restore an ancient culture of orchard keeping with the Hopi Tribe in Arizona through a multi-year program; helicoptering thousands of trees to the Havasupai Tribe at the base of the Grand Canyon to create the first town in the world where virtually every family has fruit trees in their backyards. We were also invited by the Ugandan federal government to plant 65,000 trees in local villages annually; creating sustainability for El Salvadoran families whose entire income is generated from our program and trees; creating a source of life-saving nutrition in orchards for food pantries serving homeless populations around the country; and being asked by the governor of California to create a demonstration orchard on the capitol grounds to serve as an example and inspiration for sustainability.
David “Avocado” Wolfe is the author of the best-selling books Naked Chocolate, Eating For Beauty, and The Sunfood Diet Success System. He is considered by peers to be the world’s foremost authority on health and longevity. David has degrees in Mechanical and Environmental Engineering and Political Science. He has studied at many institutions, including Oxford University, and concluded his formal education by receiving a Juris Doctor in Law from the University of San Diego. David is a professor at Dr. Gabriel Cousens’ Living-Food Nutrition Masters Program located in Patagonia, Arizona. David also starred on Sci-Fi Channel’s Mad, Mad House and loves to plays drums at every opportunity.
TreeEO & Co-creator
This fruitful journey started out for Cem Akin as a young boy in his grandmother’s cherry tree in Turkey, spending countless summer afternoons sitting atop the canopy, marveling at the notion of seemingly unlimited fruits and natural beauty. That serenity came crashing to a halt one memorable day, quite literally. Despite that painful fall from the third scaffold branch, the seeds had been planted for a deep appreciation of fruit trees. Today, as TreeEO and co-creator of the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, Cem has created charitable programs and planted thousands of trees on five continents—in jungles, deserts, and in between. With degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, including a Master of Science in Public Policy, and further studies at Cambridge and Cornell, his career in the nonprofit sector has resulted in precedent-setting policy changes and direct benefits for communities in the fields of environmental and animal protection.
Global Development Manager
Lizzy started off as a volunteer with FTPF before joining the team in 2015. Her passion for this work includes ensuring local people are involved, respected and engaged in tree-planting initiatives that align with local needs and traditions. Lizzy holds a Masters of Arts in Food and Development from the University of Sussex, in which her thesis focused on the social value of community orchards, and has contributed to research for the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and the Institute of Development Studies. She has lived and worked on organic farms and completed Master Gardener training in East Hawaii and her home of Yavapai County in Arizona. When she’s not traveling and planting trees, she's gardening, hiking, camping, learning languages or composting.
Ayca Akin is an award-winning designer, FTPF board member, and avid fruit tree lover. She began her career working in tree conservation and advocacy with the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, and later WildEarth Guardians. Some of her most rewarding work was planting native trees along the rivers of the Southwest to restore riparian habitats. She believes our environment is integral to the health and happiness of all living creatures. She currently works as a design consultant for some of the world's biggest brands, and works with FTPF on various initiatives. She holds a degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University.
Leanna Pohevitz fancies herself a civil rights activist. That activism often takes root planting perennial fruit-bearing trees in food deserts all over. Her purpose in life is to help folks, teach empathy, and make peoples' loads a bit lighter. Eventually, she hopes to run for office. In the meantime she is exploring the world, learning as many languages as she can cram into her head, and meeting as many people as possible. Along the way she earned a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and political science at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and a Juris Doctorate from CUNY School of Law. She chose those schools because they care about what matters (or try to). There is nowhere she would rather be than anywhere planting a tree. If you are doing something meaningful, she will drop everything and come to you.
Rico Montenegro has worked with fruit trees for nearly four decades and is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist. Rico has consulted on projects for federal, state, and local governments, providing a wide range of horticultural training and advice. He has served as an advisor for a number of highly regarded gardening publications, including Sunset Magazine. Rico has taught fruit tree science at the college level and continues to teach classes in various public settings on fruit tree selection, training, and sustainable management practices. Rico has managed several botanical gardens and his extensive knowledge of pomology and fruit tree science, combined with his teaching skills at all levels, are an asset to every project.
Erik Wilson is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist and certified municipal specialist. He has more than twenty years of professional arboricultural, horticultural, and landscaping experience. Erik is active in youth development—his experience ranges from being a Cub Scout leader to being a board member for Creative Stages Youth Theatre, a community theater for youth. He currently lives in Arizona.
As an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist, James Kaechele has been connecting people with trees for more than a decade. Whether it be a scout or church group in a public park, or a backyard family gathering James can’t help but talk about trees. James’s formative years were spent hiking and camping throughout the hardwood forest of New England. Those early years spent as a wild child among the trees began a curiosity that shaped his future studies. Four years of university study at SUNY ESF in Syracuse, NY resulted in excellent winter tree ID skills, a firm understanding of environmental systems, and an affinity for very cold hardy central NY apples. Since 2013 James has dedicated his professional life to fostering unlikely partnerships to care for New York City’s urban forest, helping unite business and community leaders with urban foresters to realize fully greened streetscapes. James also teaches plant identification courses at the New York Botanical Garden and has a carefully curated collection of plants in his tiny backyard in northwest Queens.
Leah Rottke is a volunteer arborist for the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, with over twenty years field experience. She is currently a faculty member of Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department. Leah has more than ten years experience developing and presenting community education events promoting arboriculture and landscape horticulture. She works as a freelance horticultural journalist, with over 50 articles published in national and regional landscape industry periodicals. Leah also co-authored FTPF's The Home Orchard Handbook. She currently lives and works in San Diego, California.
Kat Drotos is a certified teacher (kindergarten through 8th grade), currently serving as the Health & Wellness Coordinator for Vanderbilt University. Ms. Drotos is well-regarded by her students and colleagues for her innovation and effective teaching skills. She has a diverse professional experience at public schools spanning more than a decade. Ms. Drotos has custom designed a program for "Fruit Tree 101," incorporating interesting nutritional facts about fruit and fruit trees, with hands-on activities to empower the next generation of environmental activists.
Hector is the President/CEO of Montenegro Consulting Group (MCG), LLC and a Senior District Advisor for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), working with districts on systemic implementation of SEL. Dr. Montenegro has been a math teacher, principal, chief of staff, deputy superintendent and superintendent of schools. He is an internationally recognized speaker and presenter of hundreds of academic workshops, leadership development seminars, retreats and keynote speeches both in the U.S. and internationally. He has served as a volunteer educator with FTPF for many years, including in Brazil, El Salvador, Uganda and in the U.S., leading the educational component of the planting process with students and parents. The children love his motivational and enthusiastic approach!
Edward Paul Munaaba
Uganda Programs Director
The Honorable Edward Paul Munaaba currently serves as the general minister of Busoga Kingdom in Uganda. He is also the executive director of Africa Partnership on Climate Change Coalition, a registered NGO, and has dedicated his life to mitigating climate change in East Africa. As the director of our programs and partner nursery in Jinja (Uganda), Edward is in charge of ensuring that tens of thousands of saplings are grown to the highest standard in the nursery and planted with communities, schools, and municipalities throughout the region.
Uganda Partner Nursery Manager
As a key officer in Africa Partnership on Climate Change Coalition, Musa is in charge of coordinating tree planting and solar energy projects in the Jinja region of Uganda. His expertise is critical for our partner nursery, where thousands of fruit trees are grown every year for our groundbreaking programs.
Volunteer Tropical Plants Botanist
Dr. Ann Kobsa has been subsistence farming and restoring native forest in Hawai'i for decades, in the wet, windward, lowland tropics. She grows her own food on her farm and directs restoration on her forest land and the neighboring forest reserve. She has managed a native and fruit tree nursery since 2013, producing thousands of trees for farms and forest restoration projects. Her strategy is to produce largely self-maintaining food forests in order to have more time to devote to helping the imperiled native Hawaiian ecosystems. Ann has a Ph.D. in biology.