Beloved farm manager, 33, dies in car accident


Laishah K. Holloman, known to many as Wyncote Farms' Nala Bloom, loved plants and animals. She started out years ago as a volunteer at the farms, a community-supported agriculture project in Elkins Park that teaches Wyncote Academy's students and staff about agribusiness, farming and nutrition.

“I’ve been working with the Academy, and we’ve developed an incredible curriculum,” she explained in an interview last year. “The kids are able to tend to the animals and the things we grow, and that’s been one of my dreams: to be able to share farming with others. I’m a student in nature who’s growing right along with them.” 

Tragically, Bloom died in a car accident on Nov. 25 of last year at Old York Road and Spring Avenue in Elkins Park, but we just learned about it recently. She had celebrated her 33rd birthday on Nov. 10, two weeks before the fatal accident. 

On March 27, a Philadelphia man, Shaikan Pitts, 38, was arrested and charged with drunk driving and vehicular homicide in connection with the incident. According to a statement by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, Pitts has never had a valid driver's license, his blood alcohol level was far above the legal limit, and drugs were found in his blood.

Born in Orange, N.J., Bloom was the daughter of Rhonda Walls and Kenneth Holloman. She attended Middlesex County College and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Bloom first gained experience in food service as a baker, including on a television program called “The Big Nailed-It Baking Challenge.” She was deeply involved with food accessibility issues and other local urban farming endeavors, such as “Life Do Grow,” a community farm near Temple University, which has sparked a rebound in that Philadelphia neighborhood.

At Wyncote Farms, Bloom’s enthusiasm and charm rubbed off on everyone with whom she came into contact. She quickly was promoted to manager of the farms where she  not only was in charge of the crops, but also oversaw several on-site animals and the Farms' beehive.

According to Mark Linkins, head of school at Wyncote Academy, “Nala's positive impact on Wyncote Academy's Urban Agriculture Program was immeasurable. When Nala came on board, she brought her heart and soul to the program. In her role as farm manager, she combined her passion for regenerative farming with her passion for community building.

“Since childhood, Nala said she dreamed of becoming a farmer,” Linkins continued. “When she was working on the farm she seemed perfectly content, whether pulling weeds, tending the beehives or moving the mobile chicken pen to greener pastures. She cherished the opportunity to work with students to help them learn about food and its connection to health, wellness, culture and social justice. She was beloved by students and staff with Wyncote. Her radiant smile was infectious.”

Adrienne Redd, the online learning and community outreach coordinator at Wyncote Academy, told us, “Nala was an absolutely delightful individual who co-founded the urban agriculture program here, which has involved nearly every student at the school and has been transformative for some. Because of the maple tapping and sugaring program, it is the only urban agriculture program in the region that teaches about local food sources and farming 12 months around the year. 

“Now in its third year, Wyncote Farms… produce honey, eggs, maple syrup and vegetables, which are sold at several farmers markets and also provide fresh food to Wyncote students and other local families. Nala took to farming like a natural. She especially enjoyed working at the markets where she had the opportunity to speak directly with the people who would eat the food she grew.”

Bloom was honored by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Upsilon Gamma Chapter, and won a prestigious honor from the office of then-Gov. Chris Christie. In 2015, she was recognized for being selected for the New Jersey All-State Academic Team representing New Jersey's brightest community college students who were inducted into the NJ Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

Bloom also was involved in the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), where she traveled to local schools to talk about community access to fresh food and discuss the daily life of local farmers and their contribution to improving access. Bloom also volunteered for other nonprofits.

In addition to her parents, Bloom is survived by daughter Teleia M. Choueiri; sister, Shanique Walls; brothers, Isaiah C. Mason and Erik Holloman; grandmother, Hannah Atkinson, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, family and friends.

Len Lear can be reached at