JoeLesiakJoe is a certified school social worker and licensed clinical therapist, and likes to drive the school tractor.  He is one of the founders of The New Haven Ecology Project/ Common Ground High School and a former Board President. Joe left employment at the Children’s Center of Hamden in 2002 when Common Ground needed a garden manager/farmer and construction manager for the third school addition.  Over time he became the site manager, environmental educator, and spent time counseling students in the school. Currently, “Farmer Joe” has transitioned to spending all of his time in the school tending to student’s needs.

Joe grew up on a diversified organic family farm in Nebraska when neither farming nor organic food production were popular. He graduated from the University of Nebraska and Smith College School for Social Work. Over the years he has worked as a farm/ranch hand, a builder, teacher, therapist and a farm organizer with the Center for Rural Affairs, where he met his partner, Charisse. They have two lovely daughters who have spent many long, sweaty, but informative, hours in the school’s garden helping their dad.

Joe enjoys many outdoor activities including: hiking, camping, sailing, biking, fishing, bird watching and gardening. Exploring our very own Bio-Region and Long Island Sound is a new pleasure, having grown up in the seas of grass along the Loup River in Nebraska. Joe loves to learn everything, travel, read, read some more, listen to music and experience the amazing cultural opportunities and diversity of people in the metro area.

Many of Joe’s beliefs about the environment, people, community and social justice are embodied in New Haven Ecology Project/Common Ground High School. The organization is a long term venture that continues to change and grow. The seeds planted decades ago support the youth and staff that flow through CG’s still evolving programs and school.  For Joe, the fruits of these efforts will grow justice for a healthy environment, people and the larger community. Working at Common Ground is a much appreciated daily meditation in action.

Joe really does miss driving the school tractor, but not as much as he cares for our students.

Contact him by email at jlesiak@commongroundct.org