Current Staff

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Kelsey Evans

Program Director

Kelsey Evans takes the lead for the farm team, bringing experience and passion for agricultural education to the community. Her work has been focused on getting students outside, building confidence and exploring their world!

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James Walawender

Farm Manager

James joined the McDowell Crew this year, and jumped right into the world of everything animals and plants. He has developed his skills as an organic farmer throughout the US, and brings with him a passion for guiding adults to do better. And, he loves collecting bugs, especially aquatic bugs.

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Laura Rodgers

Program Coordinator

Laura grew up outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan and attended Michigan State University. She had been bouncing between jobs in agriculture and education until she found the perfect blend of both these interests at the McDowell Farm School! In her free time around McDowell she enjoys playing sports, board games, and making crafts like goat milk soap. She dreams of having a small homestead style farm of her own and spending one month of each year on a long vacation just cruising on her bicycle.

Why are you passionate about farm education? I became interested in farming because I thought it was the most practical thing I could do for people. We eat food every single day. Food is essential for our survival - it is life giving. But after a couple of seasons farming I realized I wanted to share more than just the food. I wanted to share the process. On a teaching farm we share our experiments, ideas, and designs while getting input from others. It feels like a living scientific document. But without the boring parts.

I'm proud to be a part of the farm education movement because it empowers individuals to think for themselves. It is a way to learn the value of working with others to develop ideas and accomplish goals. Farm education teaches patience as we wait for seeds to grow. It teaches kindness as we care for animals that can be difficult. Students are introduced to potential careers because they are given the opportunity to apply classroom learning. And classroom learning becomes more valuable because they connect the information to their world and their passions.

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Andrew Shea

Produce Ambassador

After scouring the nether regions of our planet and beyond in search of Utopian habitation, Andrew has returned to McDowell. Most recently working as a goodwill ambassador of the island of Hispaniola, his diverse career path has led him to the understanding that the heart of nurturing change lies in the grumbling belly of us all. With the benefit of the history behind us, the land and its inhabitants, and a future that is yet to be determined, he hopes to create a vision of the way things ought to be, right here. His door is always unlocked, keys in the ignition.

Why are you passionate about farm education? The farm is the place where our connections to the land is most readily apparent. When we take time to observe and nurture the relationships we create here, we find ourselves happier, healthier, and at a greater understanding of what needs to be done for one another and our planet. If you plant, you grow.

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Brandon Phillips

Camp Medic

Brandon grew up on the coast of Mississippi. After graduation from the University of South Alabama he spent the next five summers in Alaska, working at a friends homestead farm and guiding wilderness trips for young folks at Trailside Discovery Camp in Anchorage. Brandon has worked for Camp McDowell's Environmental Center since 2009, with intermitten travels to the far North. He enjoys everything in the outdoors and is a rock climbing and fungi enthusiast.

Why are you passionate about farm education? I am passionate about farm education because I want to do my part in promoting healthy lifestyles for people, animals, and the environment. I want to share this with others so that they may be able to make healthier choices and enrich their own lives. There is no better venue to teach these ideas than outside on an actual working farm.

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Annaliese Dankers

Animals Assistant

Why are you passionate about farm education? I think knowing about food and it's connection with the rest of nature - from weather patterns to pests - enhances the very experience of eating! And when we appreciate where our food comes from and all the work that goes into that, I think we better appreciate nature and its importance to our survival. When kids get the chance to go out on a real farm and learn about food, they access these values and have a ton of fun!

What is your food philosophy? I think people should have a relationship with their food. When I cook, I like to know where my food comes from and if I'm lucky who grew it or the history of the food. Food is our most tangible connection to the earth, and this helps us grow in our appreciation and understanding of our environment. Everyone has to eat so our food relationship is the easiest way to get people to care about our world.

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Grace Kyle

Instructor

Grace Kyle - What is your food philosophy? I believe that food is a rich and amazing tool that can be used to discover the world around us. Food teaches us diverse histories of people and places. It teaches us about our earth and environment. It teaches us about our own health and that of our communities. Food knowledge--where it comes from, how it's grown and prepared, how it nourishes--should be a SHARED knowledge that enriches us all!

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Lydia

Instructor

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Phil Musen

Instructor

I used to be an Artist and it was time to make a change, and found my passion of agriculture. I wondered endlessly about how to make things that would be meaningful to people and how to do practical things at all. When I really thought about it I realized I want to make things that are good for the earth and good for people, it sounds like I should be making vegetables or something! That got me started on the road to volunteering and working on farms and I never looked back.

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Teel Gordon

Instructor

I knew I was a farmer several months into my farming apprenticeship on the day that I woke up and realized that my dresser was covered in irrigation pieces, electrical tape, harvest knives, and lists upon lists of daily farm tasks blurry from water and covered in soil. It was a simultaneously sudden and gradual shift away from the life that I had known as an accountant in Missouri to a farm apprentice in California. The landscape of my life was completely different overnight, but my internal shift took much longer. Food advocacy and community gardening had been a weeknight and weekend activity as a volunteer with a few different organizations while working full time. But purposefully brushing past all the plants on the garden paths, endless conversations on vegetables, weeks and months of hands in the soil (and on every piece of irrigation equipment!) and finally to having enough knowledge to share with our daily and monthly volunteers on the farm was a longer process. As a city girl with a business background defining myself as a farmer is incredibly exciting and feels like a title that I'm still in the process of earning.

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Aubrey Gallegos

Instructor

I couldn't tell you the exact moment I knew I was a farmer, but I can tell you that it's not the good days that have convinced me. It's the cold, wet, dirty, exhausting, challenging days, when I still find myself thinking, "I love what I do!" There was one day when I was preparing for an Open Farm Day after having been up until 4am with our ewes and newborn lambs the night before. Despite the long night, I couldn't wait to go out and talk with people about our farm. I love the work and lifestyle of farming, but even more I love its unique potential to connect us with where our food comes from, to show us how closed-systems work, help us see the cycles in everything, and to illuminate our role as conscious consumers and stewards of our environment.

Leah Twillman

Instructor