How Rancho Mastatal Changed my Life
By Kristen Mandala,
It seems hyperbolic, but it’s hard to overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that my experiences at Rancho Mastatal have had on my life, and my current career path.
I was first introduced to Rancho Mastatal when I was running high school trips with a small Canadian eco-tourism company in January of 2017, called Evolve Tours. I was able to experience first-hand the effect the ranch has on inspiring young minds and reconnecting them with nature through hands-on activities and facilitation-style learning. I knew from the first night staying in the bamboo tree house (affectionately called the Hooch) that I was in for an unforgettable experience. The peaceful jungle-sleeps, coupled with the incredibly healthful and delicious food made it easy to return the following year to bring more youth to stay at the ranch.
They weren’t the only ones who gained knowledge from the lesson plans. The more I sat in on and participated in activities, the more I realized that my passion for sustainability and food systems could be more than my side “passion project” that I indulged in after regular work hours. Rancho Mastatal planted the seeds for what has become my new career back home in Toronto.
After moving on from touring, I decided to invest in my own education and enrolled in the Permaculture Design Course in April of 2018. This would be my first time travelling to the ranch as an individual and my first non-traditional education experience post-grad. My two weeks learning under Scott Gallant, Rachel Jackson, Laura Killingbeck, Chris Shanks, and Alejandro Arango as well as the incredible Core Team (love and gratitude to Nic, Ali, Timo, and Robin) and the 2018 apprentices was truly transformative.
I was able to fully immerse myself in the world of permaculture, sustainable living, and social/food justice surrounded by like minded people from all over the world. It was like summer camp when I was a kid in all of the best ways, intersected with some of the most inspiring and stimulating lessons and conversations I’ve ever been apart of. The two weeks not only expanded my knowledge of regenerative ecology and permaculture, but also instilled in me a deep sense of optimism for the future state of the world knowing that there are so many incredibly intelligent people who want to bring the earth back to it’s roots through community-centered activism and organizing.
Fast-forward a year, I am lifelong friends with many of the people from the PDC, who have proven to be a beautiful support-system regardless of time zones; I have created a sustainable consulting company called The Greener Good, aimed at inspiring those in schools and offices throughout the Toronto area to incorporate sustainable habits into their daily lives through on-site workshops; and I am eternally grateful that I trusted myself and invested in my education by studying Permaculture Design at Rancho Mastatal.
My highlights of my time at the Ranch include: waking up and doing yoga on the deck overlooking the jungle, the coffee, the food (cannot emphasize enough how good the damn food is), SO MUCH LEARNING (from someone who struggled to stay engaged in school, I was hungry to learn more each day), running to the waterfall at lunch for a refreshing dip, walking to class and picking fruits on the way, playing soccer or ultimate before dinner, ending each night with some of the best conversations, and waking up and doing it all again.
Okay, I should end this now as I am currently flooded with nostalgia and my emotions doth runneth over as I type. To the folks at the Ranch, thank you for reminding me of my strengths, empowering me to use them, and for making a small piece of Costa Rica feel like home. I continue to thank Mother Nature before my meals and express gratitude at every turn, a practice introduced by Robin and Timo that I will always carry with me.
If anyone is looking for a sign to invest in themselves, this is it.
If you are interested in learning more about my project you can go to:
With love and gratitude,