DAVID HARPER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
David Harper brings more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of land conservation and farmland preservation in rural and urbanizing regions in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. During his career, David has forged partnerships with landowners and land trusts, raising over $6 million to preserve more than 6,000 acres of farm and forest land. His interdisciplinary work at Unique Places to Save and previous career stops focuses on integrating land conservation with developing resilient economies, local food systems, and addressing land access needs for beginning farmers.
A longtime collaborator with the organization and its founders, David previously served as the first chair of Unique Places to Save’s board of directors. A former Executive Director of the Pee Dee Land Trust in South Carolina, David currently serves as co-chair of the Rural Resource Coalition of South Carolina, which works to strengthen rural communities by promoting sustainable economic development.
David Harper holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and city and regional planning from the University of California at Berkeley and a master of regional planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also designed and taught a graduate course on land conservation.
CHRISTINA VAD, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
Christina Vad has spent the last 20 years optimizing project management, business operations, administration, event coordination, and hospitality efforts for companies in a variety of industries. She continues to manage her father’s business in upstate New York, handling the payroll, insurance, bookkeeping and employee administration efforts. In her role at Unique Places to Save, Christina brings a lifelong passion for the environmental sustainability to her work developing and managing projects specific to our mission of creating and preserving places that make a difference for society and the environment.
In keeping with the organization’s entrepreneurial spirit, Christina assists efforts for grant-writing and fundraising in support of collaborative projects with land trusts, landowners, and for-profit entities, including Unique Places to Save’s crowdfunding efforts via Network for Good. In addition, Christina leads the marketing of Unique Places to Save, managing the organization’s public relations and social media presence.
RYAN SMITH, LAND STEWARD
Ryan Smith joined Unique Places To Save in June of 2018. He serves the organization as Land Steward, responsible for managing production of berries, herbs, and flowers at Honeysuckle Farm and assisting with management of the Keith Arboretum and Forest.
From perspectives gained through working in farming and grocery, Ryan’s mission is to leverage the growth of Unique Places To Save and its place in a movement that will help bring people back to the understanding of their land and the process it takes to grow and cultivate a relationship with their surrounding environment.
Ryan worked most recently for grocer Whole Foods Market, with a seven-year tenure spanning multiple organizational roles as team mentor, local liaison, assistant team lead, and team lead for the produce department at the company’s North Raleigh location. Prior to joining Whole Foods, Ryan interned at Pittsboro-based Piedmont Biofarm, a sustainable supplies and food distribution hub providing culinary ingredients and organic plant-based products for Triangle and Piedmont-area farmers, chefs, restaurants, and community.
During his time at Whole Foods, Ryan attended Central Carolina Community College, a leader in culinary arts and sustainable agriculture education. At CPCC, Ryan observed a developing gap between the reality of the skills and knowledge required to grow food and what the public understands about that process. He continues to dedicate his professional pursuits to bridging that gap.
BECCA WAIT, DIRECTOR OF HORTICULTURE AT KEITH ARBORETUM
Becca Wait comes to the Keith Arboretum with 10 years of experience in agriculture and public horticulture. A Chapel Hill native, Becca grew up exploring the mountains, forests, and rivers of North Carolina. After earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental education from Earlham College, Becca worked as an educator and farmer at farms in upstate New York and northern California. Yearning for the heat and humidity of the south, Becca returned to North Carolina to start her own farm, Little Sprout Farm. While running Little Sprout Farm Becca also helped design native plant pollinator gardens for the Durham Public Schools Hub Farm and served as the Vice President of the Chapel Hill Farmers Market. Most recently, Becca earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina State University with a focus on public horticulture and ecological design. While earning her master’s degree Becca also worked as a horticulturist at the Coker Arboretum and the JC Raulston Arboretum.
Becca believes that public gardens have the power to renew, educate, and inspire people. She is dedicated to doing her part to continue the strong tradition of public gardens and arboretums in North Carolina. As the Director of Horticulture Becca is excited and honored to care for the impressive plant collection at the Keith Arboretum and to develop programs and tours that introduce the public to this unique garden.