20 Under 40: Marissa Zarate

Co-Executive Director of the newly forming nonprofit consisting of:

Huerto de la Familia, Centro Latino Americano, and Downtown Languages

Marissa Elena Zarate is a passionate advocate and leader who is committed to creating community-driven programs and systems change. As the daughter of a Costa-Rican mother and Mexican-American father, she has a deep, personal passion for her work.

Since becoming Executive Director of Huerto de la Familia in 2015, Marissa has grown the organization extensively, more than doubling the number of families growing their own organic food in the gardens program and launching a plethora of new Latino-owned businesses in Eugene through her organization’s small business startup program for Latino entrepreneurs. Under her leadership, Huerto de la Familia received the 2019 Community Award from the City of Eugene.

Currently, Marissa is spearheading the innovative merger of her nonprofit with Centro Latino Americano and Downtown Languages to create a brand-new Latino and immigrant serving nonprofit. It will provide community members with a wide array of services and programs, and its Leadership Institute will cultivate civic engagement and leadership within the Latino and immigrant community in Lane County.

Marissa was recently recognized as a 2020 Woman of the Year recipient by the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, and she was a speaker at the University of Oregon’s TEDxUOregon event talking about “How community gardens preserve culture and grow hope.” She is currently a board member with United Way of Lane County.

In her personal life, Marissa is happiest curled up on the couch with a good book or hiking in the forest with her husband Jose, stepson Alex, and rescue dog Ruby.