Meet our Staff and Volunteers January 2021

Dawn Snook has been volunteering for the last 25+ years, working with senior citizens, children, schools, churches, nonprofit organizations, animals, and now plants. She came to Tollgate the fall of 2016 pursuing her certification as an Extension Master Gardener and soon after achieved her Advanced MSU Extension Master Gardener status.
With a love of gardening and a passion to share it with others, she can be found helping family, friends, and neighbors with numerous questions, concerns, and advice on gardening practices. She also heads up her Homeowners Association Beautification Committee planning, planting, and sharing the beauty that surrounds us all. When asked if she could give us a hand here on the farm it was an easy decision for her to be part of the great volunteers at Tollgate Farm.
She has been involved in everything from Pumpkinfest, helping maintain garden beds, office work, to the Edu Garden. She also donated an amazing nutcracker for our Holiday Lights at the Farm Event! The Secret Life of Trees program brought her back to Tollgate recently to aid in the filming of this wonderful interactive virtual program that reaches out to our local kindergarteners. Dawn finds the children on our virtual series to be a delight and finds their excitement contagious. She enjoys working with our educational program staff and seeing their wonderful interactions with the students. Dawn feels lucky to be part of such a wonderful organization. Thank you Dawn for all you do for the farm!

Laura started volunteering at Tollgate in 2009 on her Conservation Steward Capstone project of removing invasive phragmites. Since then, Laura has worked on constructing the wetlands/pond shores ever since. If you ever been to farm, you have also seen Laura’s amazing welded metal sculptures. Her first welding class was a continuing education class at Schoolcraft College where she had to find metal for her first project rather than buy it. That week she was at Tollgate helping put the plastic cover on the new greenhouse and she asked Roy Prentice, our Farm Manager, if a pile of metal behind the workshop building was scrap. Since then Roy has given Laura all sorts of old farm pieces and she has turned them into several sculptures that adorn Tollgate’s buildings and gardens. Thank you Laura for all you do for the Farm!

David Komraus, aka the Pond Guy, started his (almost) every Saturday service as a Tollgate Garden Volunteer in the spring of 2008, shortly after getting his Oakland County Volunteer Master Gardener certificate. He has a natural affinity for water, and soon discovered the overlooked and overgrown Constructed Wetlands, i.e., the Pond. In 2010 David became the Area Garden Leader for the Pond. At the time he was doing things single handedly but is now happy to say that he has a team of dedicated volunteers helping. The current major project down at the Pond is repairing and eventually rebuilding the waterfall, which had a bit of a catastrophic failure during last spring’s very heavy rain. David is always looking for more interested volunteers who would like to help with the pond.David has been the Secretary of the Tollgate Advisory Committee since 2013. You also might have seen him helping out with the apple cider press at one of our many yearly events, or maple sugaring, or generally running around the place in a gator or a tractor doing odd jobs or looking for rocks.David recently retired and was looking forward to spending much more time in his favorite garden, but we all know how that worked out in 2020. Speaking of an affinity for water, David is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and retired from the U. S. Naval Reserve with the rank of Commander. His civilian career started as a semiconductor manufacturing engineer, then progressed to engineering software sales, manufacturing process lecturing and consulting, and happily ended with a long stretch of software development project management for the Veterans Health Administration. Along the way David worked at IBM, EDS, GM, and HP.He and his wife Rosemary like to travel. Often returning home to Northern Ireland where Rosemary was born and raised. They have two grown children and three also grown grandchildren. When he’s not in the garden at Tollgate or at home. David likes to Scuba dive, volunteer, and build classic ship models. The Tollgate team is incredibly grateful to have a long-term volunteer like David who helps on the farm in so many ways. Thank you for all you do David!

Curious about everyone who works at MSU Tollgate Farm? Every Monday we will feature a staff member or volunteer. Today’s staff member is Norbert Leppanen! Norbert Leppanen has been part of Tollgate, first as a volunteer and later as a staff member, since 1993. Norb originally came to Tollgate to work with the farm’s therapeutic horseback riding program for children. When the horseback riding program left Tollgate in the mid 1990s, Norb stayed on. Prior to coming to Tollgate and during his first ten years as a volunteer, Norb was also a professional firefighter for Detroit and Farmington Hills. Norb is the behind-the-scenes guy who keeps the farm running smoothly. He has the ability to think through problems and often comes up with unique solutions. Norb is a fantastic support person who does a great job taking care of the livestock and maintaining Tollgate’s facilities and equipment. In his free time, Norb has volunteered as medical staff for the University of Michigan’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital and the Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camps. Norb’s continued support for Tollgate over many years is much appreciated. Thank you for all you do Norb!

Mindy has been volunteering at Tollgate since completing the MSU Extension Master Gardener program. She has volunteered at Tollgate volunteer plant sales, Pumpkinfest, and other events. Even though the MSU Extension Master Gardener program suspended their volunteer service requirement in 2020, Mindy continued to help at Tollgate this year. She spent many hours weeding the Children’s Garden and created an amazing holiday light display with the help of her son. When not volunteering at Tollgate, Mindy and her son are both family law attorneys at Lady4justic PLLC. To Mindy, Tollgate is a hidden jewel that she never even knew existed and she wants everyone in our community to experience all it has to offer. She is happy to help Tollgate so the Farm can continue its great and important work. Thank you for all you do Mindy!

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