We have been receiving an amazing array of guests since we opened our doors in 2001. Many past visitors have become close friends. Our extended family has evolved into an incredible network of forward thinking individuals doing important and meaningful work all over the world. Some of these people learned specific skills at the Ranch that they then took with them to apply to their own businesses, projects and careers in fields related to those that we espouse and share at Rancho Mastatal. Others came to us with myriad skills and a willingness to share them so that we could incorporate new ideas into and strengthen the curriculums and projects around our campus. Today we boast a wonderful conglomeration of supporters, confidantes, and colleagues that form an increasingly interconnected web of enterprises affecting positive change all over the planet. Here's a smattering of what some of them are doing and dedicated to today.
Sharleen Marie and Connor Froyen met at Rancho Mastatal in 2017 during a Permaculture Design Course. Their shared passions for regenerative approaches to agriculture and food processing led them to co-found Atabey Botanicals, a project dedicated to promoting nature and garden-based education as a catalyst for building community trust and fostering the broader relationships needed to promote transformative change. Their products include a full line of organic, waste free skincare products and educational services. They are currently working to launch an organic brewery in Puerto Rico to bring to market a unique alcoholic beverage they have developed utilizing wild yeasts, local fruits and a variety of botanical herbs. In 2019, you can find Atabey Botanicals at Rancho Mastatal, where they will be helping train the annual apprentice crew and hosting two different courses in May and early June.
The time spent and community they found at Rancho Mastatal was not only transformative and inspirational, but because it also helped bring Sharleen and Connor together; the Ranch will always hold a special place in their hearts as a result. They hope to continue supporting the Ranch’s mission of providing life changing educational opportunities well into the future.
Eileen Richardson (on right in picture) is an artist, and trained chef, from and living in Denver Colorado.
"My internships at Rancho Mastatal shaped who I am today and lead me down various paths of artistry. While there I discovered the importance of good food and an incredible passion for cooking and fermentation. I later went to culinary school, completed a residency with Sandor Katz, and helped open a fermentation focused restaurant. I currently teach fermentation classes on the side. My love of plants, also discovered at the Ranch, lead me back to school to become a Botanical/Scientific Illustrator. Currently I am working on a renovation of a warehouse building in Denver which will house studio space, an urban farm and a non-profit offering affordable art classes to children and adults. My time at the Ranch taught me the importance of building community, it ignited a curiosity in me and taught me that failure could be my teacher, and not to fear it. I owe the Ranch everything I feel proud of in my life."
Matthew Abrams is the Co-Founder of Mycelium; an intergenerational learning institution for social change agents.
His work as a photojournalist and entrepreneur took him to 40 countries and offered him the chance to engage global needs and opportunities from a hand on perspective. These experiences offered the inspiration that gave form to Mycelium. Over the past 7 years he has facilitated workshops on Innovative Education Models, Social Entrepreneurship and Personal Purpose across the US in partnership with the Sullivan Foundation, AshokaU, GOOD Magazine, Generation Waking Up and others. He’s also offered keynote talks at conferences and event such as Sustainable Brands, the Innovation Exchange, TEDxYale, TEDxFurmanU and others.
Matthew’s experience at Rancho Mastatal was formative on his life path. At the Ranch, Matthew learned how diverse communities can effectively work together toward a shared vision with a culture of open and honest communication and self expression.
Chris Henderson and Mia Devine (pictured in middle) are currently farming in Washington State.
"We currently own a 5-acre homestead and farm in Washington State where we grow food with another couple for our own use and to support a small CSA program and a local farmer’s market. This includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, chickens and goats. While we grow the majority of our own food these days, we have off-farm jobs working on wind and solar energy projects. Our time at the Ranch was inspirational and provided countless examples of healthy living that are now incorporated into our daily lives including: fermented foods, continual education, composting, natural building, renewable energy, and permaculture design principles. The positive approach and open communication so common on the Ranch is something we try to apply to our own situation and community. The lessons we learned at the Ranch still echo in our actions years later as we creatively engage with our land, friends, and neighbors."
Stephanie Haney is an advocate for traditional medicine and self-sufficiency.
"It was serendipitous I found myself at Rancho Mastatal in 2013. Sienna Traditional Medicine, the integrative medical clinic I founded in San Francisco, is a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and public workshops on ways we take care of ourselves at home.
For me, living at the Ranch was the unique opportunity to practice cultivation/harvest/preservation of medicinal plants and food on the small scale. By then teaching this information to visitors and new interns, my experiences at Rancho Mastatal were transformed into knowledge, confidence, and imagination. These qualities are the foundation of my clinical practice and what I hope to share in my workshops.
Rancho Mastatal connects to the world at large in a profound way - whether you visit for a single day or an entire year, the seed of inspiration is planted. You will be changed."
Jenna Antonino DiMare and Ari Rockland-Miller spent the summer of 2007 as sustainable living interns at Rancho Mastatal.At the time they were undergraduates at Brown University concentrating in environmental and architectural studies. They found the Ranch’s website in a search for summer internships focused on sustainable design and permaculture systems, and were immediately intrigued.
Looking back, Ari and Jenna’s summer at Rancho Mastatal stands out as a pivotal and profoundly inspiring experience that defined their environmental ethic and taught them practical skills for sustainable living. The Ranch makes learning effortless and thoroughly enjoyable, and is an idyllic place to learn natural building and bioregional design that fosters community resilience.
Today, Ari is an attorney and environmental educator, and Jenna is an ecological designer with a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. Jenna also is the Executive Director of the non-profit, Vermont Green Building Network. Ari and Jenna are co-founders of the popular blog The Mushroom Forager, and have led mushroom hunting and cultivation workshops at a wide range of venues including Green Mountain Audubon Center, The Horticultural Society of New York, Shelburne Farms, the Bioneers: Connecting for Change conference, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) conference and Middlebury College.
Ari and Jenna are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time at Rancho
Mastatal, and hope to return soon with their daughter, Eliana!
Geoff Kinder and Desa Van Laarhoven first came to Rancho Mastatal in the mid-2000s to work as volunteers soon after serving in the Americorps in the United States. Desa went on to become the Executive Director of the Marion Institute, a well-known non-profit organization that she lead for close to a decade while Geoff started a career in farming. Desa and Geoff founded Round the Bend Farm (RTB), a Center for Restorative Community in South Dartmouth, MA, in 2010. This project supports "agripreneur", a term defined at RTB as someone that creates a business opportunity in food and farming that makes a positive difference in local food production, consumption, lifestyle choices, and career pathways while acknowledging the responsibility to contribute and give back to their communities. They have returned to Rancho Mastatal nearly every year since first visiting and have become an integral part of the Ranch and the community of Mastatal.
Alex Sawatsky (pictured on left) came to the Ranch in the late-2000s to work as a long-term volunteer. Upon leaving the Ranch he began his career as an organic farmer and founded Sandbrook Meadow Farm in 2010. His project is located on 50 acres in the beautiful rolling farmland of Stockton, Hunterdon County, New Jersey where he produces certified organic vegetables and supports a 250 family Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Sandbrook is committed to preserving the integrity of the land and the joys of farm community through responsible organic farming practices.
David Critton came to the Ranch as a 3-month intern in 2007 and has returned to the Ranch numerous times since his first visit. David is now the Chief Operating Officer of Conservation Legacy where he started working in June of 2009. Previously he spent more than a dozen years with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) where he held many positions from Crew Leader to National Director of the Conservation Corps Program. David has degrees in engineering, education and forestry. Traveling the world and hiking in any ecosystem that presents itself are passions, but new explorations with an outdoor theme are at the heart of all his activities. Like Tim and Robin David served in the United States Peace Corps.
Ian Woofenden has been teaching renewable energy classes at the Ranch and in our region since 2003 and has become a close friend of the Ranch since first visiting. Ian has lived off-grid with wind electricity, solar electricity, solar hot water, and wood heat on an island in the Pacific Northwest for the last 30+ years, where he raised his large family, ran multiple businesses, and now focuses on educational work in the renewable energy industry.
Liz Johndrow is founder of Earthen Endeavors Natural Building and has been building and teaching at the Ranch for several years. She has worked with all kinds of materials and techniques and has collaborated in the past with Kleiwerks International teaching a 4- month women's natural building apprenticeship. She also co-leads timber framing workshops with Sarah Highland of Highland Artisans and also enjoys all things mud, particularly all types of plasters. She is presently collaborating with women's organizations in Nicaragua to help increase quality of life through natural building opportunities for locals.
Ryan Chivers founded Artesano LLC in 1999 in order to move beyond conventional construction towards a more natural and inspiring way to build. Ryan soon discovered strawbale constuction and the art of plastering. Fascinated with traditional techniques and materials, Ryan spends time researching, formulating, testing, and re-learning the old ways using materials that are abundant almost everywhere on earth. He has travelled to Morocco to expand his knowledge of tadelakt, and is well connected and respected in the natural building and traditional plastering fields.
Lizabeth Moniz began exploring structure, the limitations of structure, and building with natural materials at a young age by constructing forts and hideaways in her family’s woods. At university getting her BFA, she worked in cabinet and custom woodworking shops building furniture. Knowing from a young age that some day she eventually wanted to build her own home, she gleaned a wealth of knowledge by becoming a carpenter and building many other peoples homes and finally co-building her own home. Teaching in the Peace Corps, public schools, Women Build, Youthbuild, and Yestermorrow Design/Build School, gave her ability to work with different populations and age groups. As a wilderness trip leader, she saw how other creatures built their forts. Lizabeth currently teaches classes in carpentry, landscape design, natural building, home design/build, timber-framing, woodworking, and is a self-employed builder and landscape designer. Eventually receiving her MA in Landscape Design helped her to envision and design structures and landscapes as being integrated holistically and working together.
Skip Dewhirst is a co-founder of Meerkat Design and Handwork. He is a furnituremaker and timberframer who also explores his passion for wood by designing and building guitars, carving and boatbuilding. Skip has been teaching folks of all ages about working with wood for over twenty years. He has been leading natural building workshops at Rancho Mastatal for over a decade and has been the principle design/build consultant for the Ranch's diverse building projects. Skip also enjoys growing food, teaching kids about wilderness skills and going for long walks in the woods. He's an incredible resource and person.
Chris Shanks has numous years of experience in Central America with Permaculture design and implementation. After a three-year stint in Costa Rica apprenticing throughout the country he joined Project Bona Fide. Chris currently co-directs Project Bona Fide and is the farm manager and chief designer and master-planner of the site. He has spent most of the last decade developing the site's agro-forests, agro-ecologies, educational programs, research facilities, and natural building examples with the passionate help of hundreds of volunteers, interns, as well as a wonderful and dedicated local staff. Chris has extensive experience in botany, horticulture, poly-cultures, ethno-botany, natural building and construction, water management and purification as well as renewable energy systems. Chris has worked professionally in the US and abroad in the fields of site design, master-planning, and permaculture design. Currently Chris owns and operates a small design build firm called: Living Systems Solutions LLC in Nicaragua. It is a triple bottom line business founded and run on Permaculture principles. Chris has also worked extensively in the field of design in the temperate regions in the frigid cold states of Vermont and New York state as well as the temperate states of Washington and California and has lived and traveled in Spain and Thailand as well as worked and designed in the Bahamas for many years. Chris' experience and training spring from a deep passion for all things green and good and an intense desire to co-create a regenerative landscape for all beings for all time. He is the product of all the wonderful teachers and mentors he has been fortunate to have and is eager to share what he has learned.
Frances Rose Subbiondo is a cultural worker and lover of Life. Her food system work at the Ranch inspired her deeply -- both in feeling first-hand the capacity of communities to rise together, as well as a growing confidence in her multi-faceted Life-force as a leader, follower, designer, builder, teacher and more.
Since her time at the Ranch, Frances Rose has been passionately advocating for, cooking and growing, perennial, medicinal food systems from New Jersey to New York, the Mediterranean, Vermont and Pennsylvania. She is presently in her 4th season running a ‘Community Supported Kitchen’ in West Philadelphia.
Her path features the work of community stewardship in many forms, and now includes working to build a network of magical sanctuaries for queer people & more, including one called the Faerie Realm to be based within 3 hours of Philadelphia. She resides in the company of Radical Faeries, Reclaiming Witches, and cooks her tail off.
Gracias a la Madre y Buen Provecho.
Rob Hankey came to the Ranch as an intern in the early 2000s with a passion for designing and building. Our popular and well-known apprentice structure carries his name. After spending 6 months with us at the Ranch, Rob went on to study architecture in London and is currently following his design passion in England.