Team

Our dynamic team of co-founders and advisors brings together decades of experience with startups, habitat restoration, forest management, and more.

Chief Executive Officer

Over his 12 year tech startup career, Jed Wheeler has led product development and go-to-market efforts at multiple companies, playing key roles in three successful exits, and gaining extensive experience scaling startups and bringing new products to market.

Outside of work, Jed has been involved in anti-war, environmental, and social justice activism since childhood; and is a master gardener who has devoted countless hours to habitat restoration work for native plants.

Photo of our CEO, Jed Wheeler

Jed first had the idea for Manzanita when drought made the well on his property in rural Mendocino run dry and his garden died without irrigation – except for the native crops which continued to thrive. He co-founded Manzanita with the goal of disrupting agriculture and making farms habitat.  He has a decade of experience working with Californian native plants and deep expertise around edible natives in particular.

Chief Science Officer

Photo of Chris Hendrickson, our Chief Science Officer

Dr. Christopher Hendrickson received his Ph.D. in Horticulture from Washington State University. He is an expert on crop physiology and stress resilience through physiological, metabolic and genomics contexts. His training and industry R&D experience in plant biology has spanned from whole-plant physiology, energy and mass-balanced lenses to intricate biochemical assays, genomics and molecular biology-based approaches to answering impactful questions in plant systems.

Dr. Hendrickson’s prior work on pear cultivars to identify putative regulatory genes in fruits’ variable cold-induced ripening competency resulted in multiple peer-reviewed publications. The work was awarded USPTO patents and enabled gene-informed rapid breeding toward improved pear postharvest ripening control.

Lead Forager

Rich Bolton has more than 30 years of experience in forestry work and a lifetime of experience gathering Acorn.  A member of the Chukchansi Tribe located in Coarsegold, Ca, some of his earliest memories include gathering acorn at Bolton Ranch where his great grandmother and other ancestors ground acorns into the granite rocks near the creek. 

Rich is a 4th generation logger and has worked for Bolton Logging doing sustainable forestry since he was old enough to hold tools, learning all aspects of the trade before taking the company over from his father.

Our Lead Forager, Richard Bolton

Since then, he has diversified the company to also do contract work for CalFire and other agencies, and regularly managed crews of 35 or more in challenging woodland conditions.

A self-educated entrepreneur and born leader, Rich is uniquely qualified to train and manage crews gathering acorn and other native tree nuts across Northern California. He is excited to help lead Manzanita Cooperative’s efforts to bring native drought resistant foods to market for the masses.  Rich is fully invested in our mission to build food security for our North Coast community, prove that deforestation is not necessary to feed people, and conserve our native lands while protecting and utilizing what nature gives us. His lifelong experience with native foods and at managing teams working in the forest will be invaluable in ensuring our success.

Marketing Lead

Our Content Marketing Lead, Kao Choua Vue

Kao Choua Vue is a seasoned digital marketing professional with a diverse background in storytelling through digital media. The founder of the Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival, she has not only created media herself but has worked with content creators to build community and tell stories of culture and resilience through film. As a leader at In Progress, a media arts nonprofit in St. Paul, she worked extensively with members of the Ojibwe tribe to enable digital storytelling and build cross-cultural bridges; before moving to California and launching a successful career in programmatic advertising.

All in, Kao Choua has over 10 years of experience in programming, fundraising, and marketing. As the Marketing lead at Manzanita Cooperative, Kao Choua plays a key role in building and executing marketing strategy and producing informative content on nutrition, recipes, and native foods while telling stories about the new crops we are bringing to market.

Manufacturing Lead

Mauro  has more than 20 years of experience in food manufacturing, with 15 of those in supervisory and management roles. He has deep experience in the organic and natural food production spaces, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturing, and led buildout of production for new products at Urban Remedies and Biozone Laboratories.

As someone who worked his way up over the course of years, Mauro has done practically every role, from forklift operator to Plant Manager, and brings unparalleled experience transforming raw ingredients into exciting new products.  An avid bicyclist and hiker, he lives an active lifestyle and wants to create foods that support human health. He is excited at the possibilities of transforming the way people eat to be more in tune with our natural environment and give better health outcomes.

Bioinformatics Specialist

Micki Palmersheim has almost a decade of experience in researching bees and pollinating insects, and is proficient in statistical analysis, predictive modeling, and using empirical evidence to support pollinator conservation and enhance local insect biodiversity. She is passionate about innovating ways to support the growing demand for agricultural production that are sustainable and able to support native bee populations.

Micki holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from North Dakota State University and a Master’s degree in Entomology from Virginia Tech.  While working as a research assistant at the USDA-ARS in Fargo, ND, she investigated the sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoid exposure on nesting behavior in the Alfalfa Leafcutting bee, a managed solitary bee that is crucial for its contributions to Alfalfa crop production. Later, she dedicated her thesis to focusing on quantifying attractiveness of ornamental landscape plants to native pollinators for supporting biodiversity in urban areas.

Open Positions:

We are currently building our pre-launch team and making sure we have all the essential skillsets and groundwork in place to succeed.

Candidates who are women, indigenous people, and/or who belong to other historically marginalized groups are strongly encouraged to apply for all positions.