Board Members

John Bartel
John was born in south central Kansas, lived on a farm that produced wheat, corn and  beef cattle.  The farm also had a large garden, which the whole family worked. He attended Bethel College, studying Social Sciences and math. After graduation, he moved to Topeka and worked for the Menninger Foundation for 35 years. Starting as a child care worker and becoming teacher/assistant principal.  John attended graduate school at Emporia earning a degree in School Psychology with post graduate work in school administration and special education.  After working at Menninger, John served as principal and teacher in the Auburn Washburn District in the area of special education prior to retirement. He has been married for 47 years, and has two children and an international son.  John has been active with community gardens for two years, and is busy gardening with the group at the Hi-crest community garden.

Catherine Chmidling (Secretary)

Constancio Garay
Consti arrived in the United States from Bolivia in August 1981. He received his BA in Teaching Foreign Languages in La Paz and taught six years in Bolivia before coming to The University of Kansas with a Fulbright Scholarship to do Masters work in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. He taught ESL and Spanish for Topeka Public Schools and for junior colleges in North-East Kansas for 19 years. He now works as a bilingual family advocate at Sheldon Head Start. Consti joined VIDA as a volunteer teacher in Fall of 2007, and has been coordinating VIDA ESL program ever since.  Consti is currently the programs committee chair and Executive Director. He has received two education awards, one given by the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” Foundation,  and one from MANA de Topeka Latina organization. Consti is married and has two children. He resides in Topeka, and spends much of his time in the VIDA community garden.

Brenda Jarboe (President)
Brenda Jarboe is a retired Realtor and currently works for K-State Research and Extension — Shawnee County as a Nutrition Educator and Community Garden Network Coordinator through the SNAP-Ed program.  Besides teaching nutrition to SNAP eligible individuals throughout Shawnee County, she works hard to coordinate Community Gardening throughout Shawnee County with our partner, K-State Research and Extension. She is available to answer your Community Gardening questions at or 785-232-0062 ext. 113. If you would like to join the Shawnee County SNAP-Ed Garden to Plate Community Garden/Urban Farming listserv, please click the link and ask to be added.

Barb LaClair

Rosemary Menninger

Doug Penner
Doug Penner is a retired college administrator who has served on the Topeka Common Ground board since 2012.    He is active in the Southern Hills Mennonite Church and in the Hi-Crest Community Garden, directly adjacent to the church on SE 37th Street.  He finds great joy in the whole cycle of gardening, from soil preparation, to planting, to weeding, to harvesting.  Involvement in Topeka Common Ground is one way he finds to share community gardens as a pathway to individual and community health. 

Judi Salyer  (Vice-President)
Judi worked part-time for the Kansas State Department of Education in the Child Nutrition and Wellness division for 17 years. While working there, she learned the importance of eating nutritional foods and getting plenty of physical activity. Growing your own garden can provide both. She believes Topeka Common Ground can help individuals and families establish community gardens which in turn increases the likelihood of better health of all involved.

Stan Voth  (Treasurer)
Stan is currently retired following a long career in information systems development and public school teaching.  He now has plenty of time to engage in enjoyable pursuits including traveling, playing tennis, gardening and involvement in local social service and religious organizations.  Stan appreciates participating in Topeka Common Ground–engaging with those who have a common interest in gardening and helping to promote public gardening. Stan is active in the Hi-Crest community garden.