The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation’s president, David 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 raw food nutrition. 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 has appeared on hundreds of broadcast programs and in print media around the world, including USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, CBS News, The Howard Stern Show, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360º, Breakfast Television (Canada), KABC Radio, Vogue, Jane, Salon, Men’s Health, Woman’s Day, and Vegetarian Times. David also recently starred on Sci-Fi Channel’s Mad, Mad House and currently, as a hobby, plays drums for the rock/pop band, The Healing Waters Band. Email David here.
Executive Director & Programs founder
This 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 executive
director 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 management, 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. Cem is
an enthusiastic photographer, filmmaker, and author—having coauthored The Home Orchard Handbook. Email Cem here.
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 developed successful fruit tree restoration programs by training volunteers to assist with the rehabilitation of several 100-year old orchards in Northern California. He is licensed to implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques using cultural, biological and other organic methods. Rico has managed several botanical gardens and planted fruit trees in a variety of climates (including South America and Asia). Ricos extensive knowledge of pomology and fruit tree science, combined with his teaching skills at all levels, ensures that every FTPF project achieves the maximum benefit for the environment and community. Email Rico here.
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 Glendale, Arizona. Email Erik here.
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 coauthored FTPF's The Home Orchard Handbook. She currently lives and works in San Diego, California. Email Leah here.
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, and her recent classes include health, wellness, meditation, dance, and third grade at the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit, an institution known for its progressive curriculum. 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. Email Kat here.
special Projects coordinator
Raised in the deserts of Arizona, Lizzy Rainey knows there is nothing like sitting in the shade of a good tree. With an inherited love of nature, she grew up hiking, running, sailing, and just being outside. After working as a teacher in South America, she followed her growing interest in sustainability and the natural world to Hawaii. Here she attended an FTPF event, and in an instant she knew that her love for the environment, avocados, people, and new cultures had found its home. Lizzy traveled with the foundation as a volunteer for the next year, including trips to El Salvador and Uganda. When she’s not planting trees, she’s at home gardening, hiking, camping, taking photographs, and composting. Email Lizzy here.