Gretchen Rank, Executive Director
Gretchen Rank was born in South Carolina and spent her early childhood years in Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. During those years she developed a love for people of diverse cultures and recognized the need for nutrition education worldwide. Gretchen moved to Summit Ridge with her family in 2004. She and her husband enjoy gardening and raising poultry on their land when they aren’t spending time in the outdoors birding and backpacking. Maintaining 35 acres of dry land hay has helped Gretchen appreciate water and soil conservation techniques and the importance of noxious weed control. She has been actively involved with educating her two children, as well as teaching a variety of cooperative lessons in a classroom setting. This experience helped Gretchen understand the benefit of experiential education first-hand, and the importance of providing learning opportunities for students in the outdoors. In addition, Gretchen has twenty-five years of experience in financial administration and office management for a variety of businesses, non-profits, and government entities. She loves the diverse public lands and agricultural heritage of southwest Colorado, and is grateful for the people who live here. Gretchen is excited about her new role as Executive Director for the Mancos Conservation District and the Montezuma School to Farm Project, and we can't wait to see where she takes the program!
Erin Kuhlman, Assistant Executive director
Erin Kuhlman has recently joined the Montezuma School to Farm Project and Mancos Conservation District as the new Assistant Executive Director to Gretchen Rank. Erin was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Health Sciences. During her time at the UCCS, she had the tremendous opportunity to experience school to farm concepts with her assistantship in the nutrition program at the University. Erin was also able to experience the influence of agriculture not only in food systems but also in nutrition education. Her work included farmer’s market education with seasonal produce, nutrition events on campus, farm production, research in inner city food deserts and starting grant funded projects such as, re-establishment of Heritage Grains in the Front Range. Erin a has great passion for changing our current food system in hopes of changing the health of our population. She is the 3rd generation to settle in Montezuma County and is overjoyed to be a part of this community. She feels right at home with the variety of recreation around her because she loves biking, hiking, camping, backpacking, and competing in a variety of races
Laura Hughes, Soll Hub Coordinator
Laura recently joined our team as the SOLL Hub Coordinator for the Montezuma School to Farm Project and is eager to hit the ground running. She is a long time local of Montezuma County and grew up on a small farm in Mancos. After graduating from Fort Lewis College with a bachelor’s degree in business management, she ventured into the world of retail management and buying for multiple stores in Mesa Verde National Park. She also spent two years living on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park where she mastered her management skills before the charming southwest corner of Colorado called her back home. For the past year she has worked as a digital content marketing agent helping small businesses thrive and grow in our local environment.
She grew up spending most of her time outdoors helping her mother plant heirloom fruit trees and vegetables, while raising small livestock and learning basic homesteading techniques. She recently purchased 6 acres near Dolores with her fiance, and is eager to continue to grow the capacity of their small farm over the years. Along with raising chickens and gardening, Laura recently starting beekeeping as well and spends much of her free time on her property or bouncing around the local desert and mountain landscapes. She is extremely passionate about pioneering local sustainability through agricultural and outdoor education, while passing on timeless traditions and her love for the land to our local youth.
Ben Goodrich, Production Coordinator
ABen Goodrich recently joined the Montezuma School to Farm Project as the Production Manager. Ben grew up in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California and along the Front Range in Colorado. After attending Metropolitan State College of Denver Ben moved and worked around the Pacific Northwest and the greater New York area. After his brief stint in the Northeast and a strong urge to move back to the Rocky Mountains he relocated to the Denver area where he worked as a CSA and Market Garden Grower for the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farm in Littleton, CO. Ben is very happy to have escaped the chaos of Denver and is excited to set roots in the Mancos Valley as well as contribute his skills of intensive small scale market growing to the MSTF Project.
Maryssa Schlough, Serve Colorado AmeriCorps Member
Maryssa joined the Montezuma School to Farm Project in August 2016 as an AmeriCorps Service member at Kemper Elementary School. She recently moved to the Southwest from the Cheesehead State, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s in Global Studies and a focus on Food Security. Maryssa has a background in digging in the dirt and teaching kids about the importance of growing food in Milwaukee with the organization Victory Garden Initiative. She loves travelling and lived extensively in Argentina, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Though she loves to experience new cultures, food and communities, Maryssa is excited to spread her roots in the Montezuma Area this coming year. She is also excited to get creative with experiential education and open kids' minds to whole foods from local gardens.Maryssa joined the Montezuma School to Farm Project in August 2016 as an AmeriCorps Service member at Kemper Elementary. Maryssa moved to Dolores from Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s in Global Studies with a focus on Food Security. She has a background in digging in the dirt and teaching kids about the importance of growing food in the urban environment of Milwaukee with the organization, Victory Garden Initiative. She also loves travelling and has extensively lived in Argentina, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Though she loves to travel and experience new cultures, food and communities she is excited to spread her roots in the Montezuma County area for the next year. She is also excited to get creative with experiential education but more specifically opening kids’ minds about whole foods from a source close to home.
Drew Watson, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Drew started serving MSTFP as an AmeriCorps service member in August of 2017, the fall after graduating from St. Lawrence University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology. Although he loved university classes, Drew felt stymied by an inability to take action on what he had learned. This led him to MSTFP, where he felt he could make the greatest impact in the most positive way. That desire to serve in a rural, agricultural community stems from his work on a small-scale organic farm, Bittersweet Farm, in Heuvelton, New York, where he worked for a year while finishing his degree. He also lived in an intentional living community at St. Lawrence, The Green House, where members worked on a local farm to pay off CSA shares, and then used the produce to feed 90 students each week and educate them on local food issues. His aim while serving at Montezuma School to Farm Project is to move children in the direction of self-sufficiency, a better understanding of food systems, and a love and appreciation for local vegetables and fruits.
Zoe Freedman Coleman, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Zoe came to MSTFP from Massachusetts in August 2017 after studying English and Spanish at Skidmore College. From a young age, Zoe spent much of her time outside— building forts from branches, catching frogs in her hands, and jumping into rivers any time of the year. As a child, Zoe attended an elementary school that integrated communal gardening, animal care, field conservation, and natural observation into the academic curriculum, solidifying her love of the natural world as a space to explore and learn. In high school and college, Zoe worked as a field crew member on a local organic farm, and continued her love of experiential education by working as a Farm Camp counselor, teacher’s assistant at an outdoor kindergarten, and a wilderness trip leader, in order to provide others with educational experiences in nature. Whether poking holes in the soil to plant seeds, feeling the warmth of active compost, acting out the life stages of plants or cooking apples over a fire, Zoe embraces the intrinsic power of outdoor education to inspire curiosity and facilitate engaged learning in both herself and her students. As an Americorps, Zoe strongly believes in MSTFP’s commitment to empowering students in the outdoor classroom, helping families to access healthy, fresh, delicious food, and connecting students to the natural world.
Ellen Underwood, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Ellen came to us from Eastern Pennsylvania where she had been inspired by a deep agricultural heritage and burgeoning local foods movement. Her interest in sustainable agriculture stems from a deep belief in its ability to heal many of the social, cultural, and environmental issues we face as humans today. This led her to study philosophy and environmental studies at Albright College where she sought to deeply explore the factors that create our worldviews and examine the interdisciplinary nature of how we view and use the environment. During this time, she worked for various local food producers including a mushroom farm, a raw juice business, and several organic vegetable farmers to gain hands on experience on how to successfully build a sustainable food community. She also ran the Community Permaculture Garden at Albright and managed the Sustainability House to grow as an environmental steward and develop a stronger environmental culture on campus. Upon graduating, she wanted to transform the theoretical and experiential knowledge she gained into meaningful work that would inspire others. When Montezuma School to Farm Project became a prospect, she was hooked. She felt it would be the perfect way for her to accomplish her goals and fulfill her ethics by working with student to encourage deeper inquiry, inspire environmental connection, and build a more sustainable community. She loves working here and believes the work we do has beautiful, tangible effects on students, families, and the community. She encourages everyone to join in this inspiring work through volunteering at the garden sites!
Sarah Syverson, development consultant
Sarah served as the Director of MSTFP from 2011 - early 2016, and stepped back in as the Interim Director from December 2016 - September 2017. She has experience in non-profit organization as well as a farming/agricultural background. She has worked with Volunteers of America, the Women's Resource Center of Durango, the Durango Arts Center, Merely-Players Durango and KSJD Dryland Radio Station in Cortez. Syverson served as a farm apprentice at Green Gulch Farms in Marin County, CA, developed new production areas at Ojito Farm in northern New Mexico, and began her own farming operation in 2009 in the Mancos Valley. She also worked as a Cultural Director and Instructor for national and international students living and working on the Hopi and Navajo Reservations, on Sapelo Island, GA with the Gullah tribe and in the Dominican Republic. Sarah has a B.A. in Psychology from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, and is a certified Master Gardener through the CSU Extension program. She currently serves on the board of the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project and is host of KSJD Dryland Radio's Big Fat Farm Show. She is passionate about farming, education and giving people access to healthy, fresh food on a daily basis.
Learn more about the Mancos Conservation District Board, which oversees and supports MSTFP.
If you own land within the Mancos River Watershed, you are eligible to be on the board.
Contact us for more information!