Robin Nunes is an ecology professional, culinary expert and skilled silversmith with a degree in Social Ecology from the University of Colorado. She has worked as an Environmental Specialist for the United States Peace Corps in Uruguay where she taught geography and designed environmental education programs. She has also worked as a kindergarten teacher and for years ran her own handcrafted jewelry business. She founded the Ranch with her partner Tim in 2001.
Robin speaks fluent Spanish and some Portuguese. She is also trained in Wilderness First Response. Robin's interests include spending time outdoors, sustainable design, building with mud, throwing the disc, making incredible silver jewelry, cooking, reading, and living sustainably.
Robin and Tim brought their daughter Soledad into the world on June 2, 2008.
Tim O'Hara grew up the youngest of 5 kids in upstate NY and has a degree in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University. He served as an Agribusiness Volunteer in Uruguay with the United States Peace Corps in the early-to-mid 1990s, working to promote sustainable agriculture, was gainfully employed in the corporate world in various capacities for large agribusiness in the early and late 1990s, and enjoyed a few years working as an outdoor adventure travel guide in Mexico, Canada and the United States in the early 2000s.
Tim is a trained Wilderness First Responser, builder and educator with a vast array of interests and experiences related to living sustainably. He founded Rancho Mastatal with his partner Robin in 2001, acts as the Vice-President of a small non-profit organization named the Mastate Charitable Foundation, and is the father of a lovely daughter Sole. Tim speaks fluent Spanish and has traveled extensively throughout Latin America. His interests include soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, woodworking, kayaking, skiing and lacrosse (in past days), reading, education, local economies, sustainable living, family and community.
Nic Nic Donati, Rancho Mastatal's Director of Natural Building and Appropriate Technology, first came to the ranch in 2007 and fell in love with the community and lifestyle he experienced there. Always good with his hands and wanting to get stuck in meant he was able to develop a wide range of skills both at the Ranch and other farms around the world. The lure of the Ranch both as a community and working environment have continually drawn him back and he now considers the Ranch community and Mastatal his home. He enjoys many aspects about living at the Ranch including communal living, proximity to wild and natural habitats, running around on the football field, solving diverse problems, and wielding tools from chisels to chainsaws to trowels. He really loves and appreciates the freedom afforded to him to express and practice his ideas, develop new skills and hone existing ones, but above all else he believes in the ideology of the Ranch. He believes that to engage, educate and nurture a desire in people to change the way we live and take more responsibility for every aspect of our lives from food production, to healthcare, to energy production and everything else in between is the only way things are going to change.
Ali first came to the Ranch in 2014 to take part in the apprenticeship program. She graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in Sociology and was seeking an opportunity to live and work in a community. After enjoying her initial stay at the Ranch she chose to return and continue building a life in Mastatal.
Ali is part of the Natural Building crew at the Ranch. She learnt all her natural building skills at the Ranch from the variety of professional builders that have come through. She enjoys working with her hands and creating beautiful spaces with local materials from the land.
Although she focuses on building projects she enjoys getting her hands in a little bit of everything, including getting dirty out in the fields, brewing ‘hooch,’ practicing her timber framing skills, and of course running around after the frisbee. She loves the variety of things to learn and do at the Ranch, the community of people here, the food, and the model of sustainability the project cultivates. She finds the life we live incredibly gratifying and a beautiful model to share with the world.
Scott Gallant is an agroforester and food system designer from small town Ohio. He graduated from Wabash College in 2008 with a degree in Economics. As the farm manager at Rancho Mastatal he works with an amazing team to cultivate 15 acres of a emerging tropical agroforest. He is the lead permaculture design instructor on site and one of the principle founders of the Rancho Mastatal Design/Build Collective. Passionate about regenerative agriculture, holistic thinking, ethnobotany, community development, and re-skilling, he still makes time to hike and bike, read exhaustively, and work on his basketball jump shot and frisbee throw. He and his partner Laura have traveled and volunteered extensively in Latin America, leading to a love of the culture, food, and language, which they speak. Scott is a certified Wilderness First Responder, writes for the Permaculture Research Institute and has been featured on the Permaculture Voices podcast.
Soledad María was born in Costa Rica on June 2, 2008 just after an unseasonal storm wiped out all of the roads into and out of Mastatal. She's made amazing contributions to both our projects and lives in the time that she's been with us. She grew up diaper free and is speaks both Spanish and English fluently. She brings a breath of fresh air to every day and much to the chagrin of many local women, loves peeing in the grass. Her first word was "agua" and she seems to have a knack for finding fire ant piles. She was the first of four local kids born in June and July of 2008 and is part of the local elementary school's largest class in years. Her nicknames include "The Nug" (prior to her birth), "Sol", "Dodgy" and most commonly "Solé" (pronounced Solay). She loves to play futbol, do handstands, work in the garden and eat avocados.
Rachel Rachel Jackson holds a Masters Degree in Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design from the Conway School in Conway, Massachusetts. She has been practicing permaculture in the tropics since 2009, working in both the rainforests of Costa Rica and the dry forests of Nicaragua. She is passionate about creating harmonious, healthy relationships between humans and the landscape. From urban renewal projects in New England to food forests in Latin America, Rachel has used her skills to create integrated, whole-system designs in difficult locations. She has also worked as a garden-based youth educator, art handler, photographer and carpenter and harbors a life-goal of trying as many varieties of tropical fruits as possible.
Chepo has been with the Ranch since its inception and knows the Ranch property more intimately than anyone on Earth. He was born on the Zapaton Indigenous Reserve before moving down the road to San Miguel and finally to Mastatal where he's lived with his wife and family for the past many decades. He's been an invaluable resource and friend without who's help the Ranch would not be possible. Chepo's been the president of Mastatal's local government multiple times and currently serves as its vice-president. He is also the owner, along with the Ranch's close friend and his wife Lily, of Soda Paso de Las Lapas, Mastatal's first ever restaurant/cafe. Chepo's a lifelong and talented farmer producing an abundance of corn, beans, banana, plantains and rice for his family and the Ranch every year. He's an endless source of information and entertainment and knows the flora and fauna in the surrounding forests as well as anyone. He's a true community leader, caring father and grandfather, successful entrepreneur, talented guide, able caretaker and in many ways the heart of the Ranch. Chepo wields a mean machete and loves to walk in the woods at night. And although retired from the local soccer team, he can still hold his own during an afternoon mejenga. Sole calls him abuelo.
Junior Junior has been with the Ranch for as long as it's been around. He's a talented carpenter and landscaper and one of Mastatal's most popular guides. He knows the forests as well as any young adult in our region and loves taking visitors to the area to see hidden waterfalls, enormous trees and the incredible views from atop Cerro Cangreja. He's a true rainforest ambassador, spending much of his time teaching guests about the fragility and magnificence of the environment in which he's grown up. He is one of the stars of the local soccer team and in a different situation would be playing in the upper echelons of the sport in Costa Rica. He's a dedicated brother and uncle and rarely walks about without an enormous smile plastered to his face. He lights up any room that he walks into and is an exceedingly talented dancer and dance teacher, his favorite styles being salsa and merengue. Junior's also a proficient farmer (having worked in the fields ever since he could walk), jewelry maker (from local seeds) and runs his own small guiding business.
Alex joined the Ranch team in 2002 after returning from years working in a factory in the city of San Jose. He was happy to return to the small town where he was born and raised and has thrived ever since. He's gone from swinging a machete to deftly handling any power or hand tool in his possession. He's become a skilled carpenter, mason, electrician, and builder and is the leading resource on the growing number of renewable energy systems in the community and at the Ranch. He's an amazingly quick learner and wants to know how to do everything. He built his own house in 2007 and is as comfortable in the forest and in the fields as he is in the workshop. In 2009 he received a full scholarship to intern with Solar Energy International on Guemes Island in Washington State. Alex is the loving father of his son Kendal and one of the hotshots and the captain of the local soccer team. And like many in the region, a skilled farmer having grown up working the fields.
Roxy joined the Ranch's kitchen staff in 2010. She's a talented cook and incredibly hard working. She's the single mother of a beautiful daughter named Sofia who is one of Sole's closest friends and "big sister". The girls spend most of their days together running around and playing the day away. Roxy's a ferocious defender on the girl's soccer team. In addition to working at the Ranch, she frequently takes care of her nieces and nephews while solely managing her household on the edge of Mastatal's soccer field. We're so happy to have her on board.
Lorena Lorena is the newest addition to the Ranch team. She was born and raised in Mastatal and is a wonderful mother to Sole's friend Paulo. She's also an entrepreneur, part-time student and active community leader. She is the second child of the Garcia Fernandez's, one of the founding families of the town of Mastatal many decades ago. Lorena anchors the defense on the girls soccer team and when not working at the Ranch helps run Mastatal's favorite watering hole, Seco's Bar. We're overjoyed to have Lorena on as part of our team.
Ivania Garcia started working as our head chef in 2016. She's one of the brightest young women in our community. Her imagination, openness, and creativity in our kitchen has elevated the quality of the Ranch's cuisine enormously at a time when we considered it to already be extremely high. She's a strong community leader, a caring family member, and selfless with her time and energy. Don't let her quiet nature fool you! She's a force to be reckoned with and we're so fortunate to have her in both the Ranch and Mastatal community. She is the type of individual that we need to create opportunities for so that people of her quality do not have to seek work outside of our region. Ivania's potential is just beginning to get revealed and we look forward to developing and evolving together in the years to come.
Juanico Herrera is one of the most important community members in Mastatal. He's an accomplished farmer, a skilled builder, a loving father of 4 girls and a community leader. His ancestors helped to settle the area about 120 years ago. Juanico is mainly responsible for keeping our food production areas in good order and has impressive machete skills honed over decades of practice and use. You will commonly see him walking around barefoot while intimidating local dogs with his engaging sneer or smile. Juanico and his local counterparts mark the end of an era of tropical tough guys who grew up with limited resources and an abundance of outdoor skills and strength. We're honored to have him on our team.