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.
Sammy Blair, Serve Colorado AmeriCorps Member
A Colorado native with roots in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, Sammy was inspired by how food integrates with culture, community, health, and the environment while working for an organic farm in Osorno, Chile, and learning about Ayurveda while living in Pokhara, Nepal. With a Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish Literature from Colorado College, Sammy is drawn to the story and greater context of people and place. Sammy has worked with Food Tank to write stories about businesses, people, and organizations changing the way we grow, distribute, eat, and dispose of food on a global level. She’s served with the High Country Conservation Center in Summit County, Colorado, helping to make large-scale events an educational and environmentally positive opportunity to reduce waste and encourage composting and efficient recycling. She’s also worked with GoFarm, a community access and food distribution non-profit in Golden, Colorado, helping to connect the Front Range community to local small farmed organic food at affordable prices. Sammy believes in the power of storytelling and teaching to inspire change. She hopes that by giving kids a personal connection to their food system through MSTFP, she can empower them to use their gardening, cooking, and nutrition skills to build healthier, more environmentally conscious, and community-oriented lives.
Fun Fact: I still have a baby tooth!
MErcy Ramirez, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Born and raised in the southernmost part of Florida, Mercy grew up surrounded by water, wildlife, and the outdoors. This appreciation for the natural world led her to Orlando where she studied Environmental Science at the University of Central Florida. While pursuing her degree, she led the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, focusing on sustainability projects in international and local communities. As an organization they traveled as far as the Dominican Republic to implement a much needed bridge in Caoba Arriba, and as close by to Bithlo in Orlando to establish an aquaponics system in the local elementary school. She frequently collaborated with like-minded organizations to spread the ideas of community, conservation, and education beyond the classroom by hosting STEM Teach-Ins, garden workshops, and nutrition classes. Through these experiences she was able to heavily interact with rural and underprivileged communities, discovering how much of a difference it makes once people take action. With this in mind, Mercy traveled further up along the states where she found the Montezuma School to Farm Project operating in the Southwest Region of Colorado. Working as an AmeriCorp member for the 2018-2019 school year, Mercy is looking forward to creating new and exciting ways for students to be involved in sustainable practices and learn that healthy eating can be fun!
ELIZABETH MAKER, SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Elizabeth joined the Montezuma School to farm Project as an AmeriCorps service member in August of 2018. She recently moved to Colorado after spending a year working as a landscaper in San Antonio, Texas. Though she came to us from Texas, she is a Floridian at heart. Elizabeth grew up in the panhandle of Florida; spending kindergarten through a year and a half of college participating in beach clean-ups and learning the importance of clean water. Craving change, she left the white sandy beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast for the bright orange dirt of dusty Lubbock. Elizabeth enrolled in Texas Tech University and began pursuing a degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics. She spent two of her three years at Tech working as a research assistant in the Plant and Soil Science Department. She grew guar and sorghum but her main focus was cotton. Elizabeth graduated from university in the summer of 2017. She accredits West Texas to her falling in child-like love with nature again. She began taking weekend hiking and camping trips. Those trips led her farther north to the Colorado mountains where she decided she wanted to live one day. Before she moved to Colorado, however, she was pulled to the Big Island of Hawaii. Elizabeth lived in a tent on an organic farm for three months while she completed an internship learning sustainable agriculture and tropical horticulture. She ate off the land, worked with children, built a sensory garden, and learned the importance of community. She hopes to take all that she absorbed from her various agricultural experience and implement it into the gardens at MSTFP.
Fun Fact: The only thing she loves more than sustainable gardening is her dog, Tig!
AMBER CARDWELL , SERVE COLORADO AMERICORPS MEMBER
Growing up on the family farm in Massachusetts, Amber could always be found playing in the mud and adventuring in the woods. When her family opened a farm stand, it blossomed her understanding of production and relations among other farmers. Flourishing at the stand for years, she eventually managed it, until her dream job of teaching kindergarten came into view. After graduating Fitchburg State University with her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education, Amber was dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children. With two weeks’ notice, Amber moved to Arizona where she spent three years teaching kindergarteners, not only the basics of reading and math, but an appreciation of the natural environment and the significance of human impact on it. Looking for a different teaching adventure, Amber joined the Montezuma School to Farm Project as an AmeriCorps Service member in August 2018. She hopes to grow as an experiential educator, as well as cultivate children’s love for the natural world and their impact on it.
Mia Becker, serve colorado americorps member
Mia joined Montezuma School to Farm Project as an AmeriCorps volunteer in August 2018 after graduating from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, where she studied International Studies and Sustainability Studies. During her college career, Mia studied climate change and sustainable development in Bangladesh and Denmark, where she witnessed the power of education and local movements in increasing accessibility to resources, creating awareness of the environment, and strengthening communities. She continued her exploration into sustainable development through internships at the York County Economic Alliance, where she supported economic and community development initiatives, and The Food Trust, where she first became involved in nutrition education, school gardening and food accessibility. Mia is excited to continue learning about sustainable food systems at Montezuma School to Farm Project while sharing her passion for healthy food and cultivating a curiosity about food and the environment in her students.
jess hanbeck, americorps vista member
Jess started serving at MSTFP in August of 2018, after graduating from Fort Lewis College with a Bachelors in Anthropology and History with a focus on Gender and Women's Studies. Growing up in Eastern Oklahoma, the love of digging in the dirt was cultivated at a young age while working in the family garden with her mom. Before attending Fort Lewis, she traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. Jess also lived in Greece in 2010 and was a part of a program that helped to create a community garden and farmers market for Roma Gypsies that were living in Thessaloniki, Greece. And while she loves experiencing new places, communities, and food, Southwest Colorado has stolen her heart and she is excited to work for the next year helping to empower local communities in whatever way she can.
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!