Mike is an Ames, Iowa native and business grad from Iowa State University. The bulk of Mike’s professional background is in the supplemental insurance field. He co-founded and has been a partner in Platinum Supplemental Insurance in Dubuque since 1996.
Mike has long had a passion for community service, especially in the areas of sustainability and environmental causes. Partnering with Leslie Shalabi to start Convivium Urban Farmstead is a natural extension of Mike’s commitment to the community and the environment.
Leslie Shalabi was born and raised in Sauk City, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in journalism and anthropology. Upon graduation, Leslie entered the trade magazine publishing field, eventually landing at a publishing company that specialized in magazines for the construction industry.
For many years Leslie traveled the world to write about construction and farming equipment. Eventually, she joined SE10, a public relations firm that specializes in representing multinational corporations in the construction field. After rising to the level of partner in 2007, Leslie sold her shares in the business in 2012 and moved to Dubuque, Iowa. An avid cook and self-admitted “foodie”, Leslie has long been committed to building community around food and co-founding Convivium has been an extension of this commitment.
AJ tends our 13,000 plus square feet of gardens. From building healthy soil through harvesting delicious produce, AJ keeps his hands dirty demonstrating the process of growing food to anyone willing to listen. When not in the field, AJ also teaches gardening and composting classes and serves as our garden tour guide. Trust us – you don’t want to miss an opportunity to experience our gardens with him.
AJ has been involved in edible and sustainable landscaping and urban gardening most of his adult life. His training and professional background includes working with organic farms and edible landscape organizations in Santa Cruz, California; Huelo, Hawaii; and Margaret River, Australia.
An Iowa native, AJ returned to the area in 2011 to raise a family with his wife Kerri, also an Iowa native. They now have two growing daughters, Josey and Marny.
If you call Convivium during the week, you will most likely hear Doretta’s friendly voice on the other end of the line. Doretta is our office manager, bookkeeper, and general go-to person.
Her superpowers include pinning Mike down and getting Leslie to say “no” to more things. She gets extra points for tolerating Convivum’s three farm dogs and a baby in the office on a regular basis.
Doretta is a recent transplant from the Chicagoland area. Doretta started her career as a legal secretary. Before moving to Dubuque she was the office manager for many years for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Joliet Diocesan Council out of which they ran seven thrift stores and a warehouse operation.
Contact her for event space rental inquiries, setting up a tour, and general questions: Doretta@convivium-dbq.com
Education & Program Director
Natalie coordinates Convivium’s education and non-profit programming activities as well as the volunteer base. She enjoys helping connect and reconnect people – especially kids – to their food source through hands-on classes and workshops. Natalie also teaches Convivium’s kids classes and healthy habits, after-school programming.
Natalie is passionate about healthy eating, social justice, and community service. Before Convivium, she served two different AmeriCorps service terms (in Miami, Florida and Denver, Colorado), three years in the Peace Corps, and coordinated international service-learning trips in Latin America. She returned to her hometown of Dubuque in 2018 where she now lives with her husband and daughter.
Saralyn joined the staff as the Kitchen Manager of Convivium Urban Farmstead in 2018. Equally skilled and creative on the savory and sweet sides of things she heads the restaurant kitchen and all catering operations. Utilizing products from Convivium’s gardens, Saralyn and the staff take a simple approach to healthy cooking and eating by using local, whole foods.
For five years Saralyn taught a variety of baking and culinary classes at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. After opening The Hotel at Kirkwood Center as the Pastry Chef, she went on to work as the Pastry Chef for the University of Iowa, overseeing the University’s Central Bakery.
As an alumni of the James Beard Foundation’s Boot Camp for Policy & Change, Saralyn shares her passion for food and belief that everyone should have equal access to healthy food by serving on the Dubuque Food Policy Council and by teaching a variety of cooking classes targeted at the most food insecure residents of Dubuque.
Hailing from St.Charles Missouri Ted has over 25 years’ experience in the restaurant business. After moving to Dubuque in 2018, Ted was happy to join Convivium’s mission of creating community around food.
When he’s not in the kitchen, or manning one of the largest woks in Dubuque at the farmers market, Ted enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter and rescue dog.
Keeper of Cleanliness
Sara has been a housewife for over 23 years wrangling her 4 children and fighting the never-ending battle against dirt. She enjoys the atmosphere at Convivium and just wants to keeping the wheels turning.
When not at work or picking up her own household Sara enjoys reading murder mystery and true crime novels.
Convivium Urban Farmstead is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to create community around all aspects of food. Your patronage helps support our non-profit activities.