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!
Laura BROWN, 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
Ben 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.
Janet ruper, office manager
Janet Ruper has recently joined the Marcos Conservation District as the new Office Manager. Janet was born and raised in Peralta, New Mexico. It is a small farming community where her great grandparents moved to the area in the 1930’s/ 1940’s and part of the government’s resettlement project for displaced farmers. This allowed for her to grow up around gardening, canning, and farm animals. She moved to Colorado 5 years ago, where she has recently graduated from the Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a minor in Marketing. In her time before moving to Colorado, she worked in Student Nutrition where she developed a passion for education, community involvement, and eating healthier. On a more personal note, she enjoys watching sunrises, sunsets, being around farm animals, biking, snowboarding, and a passion for life.
Fun Fact: At 41 years old, I still enjoy swinging on swing sets!
Alicia loebl, Serve Colorado AmeriCorps Member
Alicia grew up all around US coastlines as a military kid, so her first experience living this far from the ocean is in Montezuma County. Her interests in sustainable and socially just food systems grew at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where she got a bachelor’s degree in psychology and environmental policy. She also got to learn more about environmental advocacy while studying in Singapore and Australia. While at William & Mary, she also got involved with an environmental education group teaching in elementary schools and an internship with the Williamsburg Farmers Market. Seeing how much the kids learned while working with the environmental education group showed her how education can have a real impact on action. Outside of sustainable and fair food systems, her interests lie in being outdoors and being active. She is excited to learn more about local food systems while teaching kids more about the value of knowing where their food comes from and getting them involved in the process of growing it.
Fun fact: She is a competitive ultimate frisbee player and always excited to toss a disc with anyone she can!
Daisy Perez, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
In the summer of 2016, Daisy was given the opportunity to serve for The New Community Project out in Starksboro, Vermont. She worked alongside other University of La Verne students to build and maintain community gardens, ensuring food security for the people in the community. Her time in Vermont allowed her to obtain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the planet and its people. She is passionate about running and enjoys meeting new people. A fun fact about Daisy is that she loves film making. Daisy looks forward to using the knowledge that she has accumulated throughout her life to teach film at the high school level. She believes that films are a powerful form that can evoke emotions that can potentially cause people to take action on issues that they are passionate about.
Favorite Quote: Spread as much love out into the world, starting with yourself.
Jason Fisher, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Growing up around the fertile soils of southwestern Pennsylvania, Jason was exposed early on to a booming local agriculture with a very active farmer’s market community. After working as a cook at a farm-to-table cafe in small town Pennsylvania, Jason fell in love with the idea of connecting consumers straight to the source of their food. Afterward, he worked as a farm assistant on a garlic farm in Ontario, Canada. Here, he saw the behind the scenes work of how food from the farm makes it onto the shelf at grocery stores, while also learning the ins and outs of taking care of a no-till, no-spray market farm. Jason made his first move out west when he joined a Conservation Corps in Flagstaff, Arizona and became immediately enamored with the endless mountains and flowing kindness. While he did enjoy building hiking trails surrounded by breath-taking scenery, the problem of food security remained on his mind with the question of how to help. The answer came through the voice of Fred Rogers. Jason’s college was located in the birthplace of Fred Rogers and his mission of child psychology and early education was strongly emphasized all around campus. Having seen the way Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood touched the lives of children, Jason was inspired to go into education as a solution to the problem of food security. MSTFP was the perfect solution: allowing him to stay in the mountains that he loved, while also sharing his passion for food in the classroom.
Fun Fact: He once sold $2,000 worth of garlic chutney in 48 hours at the Stratford Garlic Festival.
Laura cleaver, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Born in good O’l Seattle Washington, Laura did not stay there for long. At the ripe age of five years old her family hopped on a plane and moved to South Korea and that was only the beginning. Such is the life of an Army brat. Moving every 2-4yrs is common fair for this gal and one of the hardest questions she faces when meeting new folks is “Where are you from?”. The short answer is that she is “most recently” from the Kansas City area. Laura has just graduated with a degree in Agricultural Science and is excited to start this new adventure. She is excited to bring her experience from working at Powell Botanical Gardens and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company to the Farm to School Project here in beautiful Montezuma County.
Fun Fact: I love snorkeling!
Loc tran, serve colorado americorps member
Loc grew up in Oklahoma City and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelors in Botany. While studying botany, he developed a passion for gardening and farming through his work at the University of Oklahoma Greenhouses. After graduating, he joined the Peace Corps Nepal as a food security volunteer from 2017-2019. While in Nepal, he worked with rural villages to promote sustainable farming practices and built greenhouses and school gardens throughout his district. After a month back in Oklahoma, he moved to Montezuma County to start work with MSTFP where he hopes to transfer what he learned in Nepal to the children of Montezuma County.
Fun Fact: I like cultivating mushrooms!
Matt bristol, serve colorado americorps member
After studying political ecology in the air-conditioned sterility of a college library, Matt decided to stop being a bookworm and start his career as an earthworm. After graduating, he completed an apprenticeship on a small organic farm in Connecticut, followed by jobs on a sheep & pig farm and a small organic vegetable farm near Bergen. Having spent his early years in Tucson, Matt was drawn back to the West from his hometown in New England and, prior to joining MSTFP, served a year with The Garden Project of SW Colorado where he taught Junior Master Gardener Lessons and helped grow the capacity of the school gardens in La Plata County. These experiences solidified his belief that sharing food grown together is one of the most profound and humanizing experiences life offers us. Matt is hopeful for a future filled with joyful work, communion with nature, and fresh fruits & veggies.
Fun fact: Matt helped birth 100 lambs at his job on the sheep farm and saw them up to mountain pastures!
Hayley kwasniewski, americorps vista member
Hayley grew up throughout the Chicagoland area, never really grasping the great outdoors this country had to offer. After visiting out West, she began to realize the beauty of natural environments. She followed her curiosity for the outdoors and philanthropy during her college experience at Indiana University-Bloomington, majoring in Biochemistry with minors in Gender Studies and Earth Sciences. She was Vice President of the Global Water Brigades at IU, traveling to Nicaragua to learn about developing sustainable and accessible water sources. She served on a council for the Indiana University Student Foundation, promoting a safe and enjoyable environment for student cyclists on campus. Additionally, to further her passion for philanthropy, she worked at the non-profits Positive Link and GlobalMindED as a research intern and media producer. When she wasn’t in class or meetings, she spent her spare time working at a local bike shop, racing, and partaking in the Little 500. Although her experiences are filled with differing programs and activities, it is clear now that it was leading her to the beautiful Montezuma County and to the work at the Montezuma School to Farm Project. The combination of service-orientated and environmentally conscious mission statement of MSTFP drew her to the organization. She is excited to learn from a holistic program that intersects numerous social and environmental aspects, all while being in a place that lets her easily bike down beautiful county roads, hit the trails, and get outside.
Fun Fact: I once broke 5 bones at one time.
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!