Instructors & Facilitators

Eric Toensmeier
Eric has studied and practiced permaculture since 1990. He has spent much of his adult life exploring edible and useful plants of the world and their use in perennial agroecosystems. He is the author of the brand new Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. The last two books have received multiple awards. He is currently working on a publication for Woodbine on indigenous management of native plants and landscapes of the Rocky Mountain and Prairie regions. Eric also ran an urban farm project for Nuestras Raíces in Holyoke Massachusetts, providing access to land for Latino and refugee beginning farmers and serving as a cultural agritourism destination. His urban garden is a model of how to apply permaculture to a small space with poor soils. Eric is fluent in English, Spanish, and Botanical Latin, and teaches permaculture in the U.S., Mexico, and Guatemala.

Eric is teaching Edible Forest Gardens for Woodbine.

Brad Lancaster
Since 1993, Brad's turned water scarcity into water abundance & run a successful permaculture consulting, design, and education business focused on integrated and sustainable approaches to landscape design, planning, and living. As he lives in the dryland environment, rainwater harvesting has long been one of his specialties and a great passion. Through his business he shares his passions, innovations, and daily adventures that come about from striving to live more sustainably and comfortably in the Sonoran Desert. With his brother, he harvests over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year on a 1/8-acre urban lot and adjoining right-of-way. This harvested water is turned into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape incorporating wildlife habitat, beauty, edible and medicinal plants, and more. Such sheltering landscapes can cool buildings by up to 20° F (11° C), reduce water and energy bills, and require little more than rainwater to thrive.

Brad is the author of the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond series. It is a three-volume guide on how to conceptualize, design, and implement sustainable water-harvesting systems for your home, landscape, and community.

Brad is teaching Rainwater Harvesting and Earthworks for Woodbine.

Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish
Michelle has long been passionate & active in sustainability, social justice, and cultural imagination. She is a US State Department BoldFood fellow working to ensure global food security starting with the US and Uganda. BoldFood is mapping resources & opportunities for food justice and security for our increasingly urban world. Michelle is a past Center for Progressive Leadership fellow who focused on sustainable regional planning, design and development. Michelle graduated from Colorado College where she studied Anthropology, Women's Issues, International Development and Urban Studies. As an avid sustainability advocate, Michelle incorporates a social justice framework in all she does. She humbly dedicates herself to transforming our cultural, political and physical infrastructure in ways that promote and enhance health, the environment, social justice, culture and beauty. She currently co-hosts the Skywalker Artivist Meetup (artist+activist=artivist) in Denver with her husband, Ramon. Her favorite ecological term is "ecotome" (or ecotone), an especially diverse boundary zone between ecological communities. Michelle is a multi-ethnic writer, editor, project instigator, and mother of three.

JD Sawyer
JD grew up in Massachusetts surrounded by water in a house reclaimed from an early 1900s saw mill and dam system. Growing up, he spent his time playing music, fishing, managing water, and gardening on the unique property. He received a BA degree in Music from Hobart College in upstate New York and then followed his love of the outdoors to Colorado. JD has worked over the last 15 years as a system engineer, instructor, project manager, operations director, guitar player and now business owner. With some recent major life changes, he has refocused his attention on aquaponics, combining the best of raising fish and garden food products together. He has researched various system designs of aquaponics pioneers throughout the US and Australia. He has received training on raft based systems through Nelson and Pade in Montello, WI and vertical bed, vermicompost systems developed by Will Allen at Growing Power in Milwaukee. Currently, JD is working with Urban Organics and Wild Green Yonder to build the aquaponics systems and provide community training for the GrowHaus project at 47th and York. He is also working with people from several non-profits and Colorado State University Great Plains Extension on system designs and training.

Jim Gibson
Jim is a Colorado native. He is a Permaculture activist and designer, a member of the Colorado Mycological Society, the North American Mycological Association and Transition Colorado. He is a life member of Trout Unlimited. Jim has developed and operated several small businesses. He lives on a developing urban Permaculture site in Englewood. He teaches mushroom cultivation and mycolandscaping, Permaculture design topics and soil building workshops for individuals and groups 'in situ' at locations along the Front Range and beyond. He was a co-presenter at Bioneers 2009 in Boulder. Jim is a graduate of the Stamets schools for Mushroom Cultivation and for Mycorestoration. He is currently working with Woodbine Ecology Center, Willow Way Permaculture, Feed Denver, the Denver Botanic Gardens and other organizations. Jim’s goal is to further the appreciation and utilization of fungi in ecological restoration as well as for the production of food and medicine.

Mary O'Brien
Mary O’Brien has been working with the plants in some form for most of her adult life.  A large garden provided most of the green food for the family and became the inspiration to find other ways to utilize the gifts of the plant world and learn about their medicinal properties.  She has been studying and practicing herbal medicine since 1987, completing the Chartered Herbalist program with Dominion Herbal College and studying with many teachers like Rosemary Gladstar, Brigette Mars and Michael Moore.  For over 18 years she has lived in Steamboat Springs and taught herbal medicine, led edible and medicinal herb walks, built and maintained a medicinal garden for the local botanical park and made herbal products for local commerce. Her emphasis is on using native and locally grown plants for medicine.  After returning from the Peace Corps in Kenya in 2008, her teaching emphasis has expanded into permaculture and creating personal healing gardens.

Mat Barkhausen
Mat was born in Denver, CO but his mother's family is from Virginia and the Carolinas. His tribal nations are Tuscarora/Meherrin and Cherokee. He strongly identifies with his Native culture and likes to study Iroquoian languages. He is most familiar with the Cherokee language. He has a degree in Interactive Media Design from the Art Institute of Colorado and is presently working as a Media Specialist for the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center. He designs culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS and substance abuse prevention materials for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians in the form brochures, and other print materials as well as maintaining the NNAAPC website. In addition, he has completed a year of law school at the University of Colorado Sturm College of Law. Mat plans to complete his legal education with an emphasis in Federal Indian Law, International Law and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Paul Shippee
Paul holds a degree in Civil Engineering with a major in Structural Engineering and was the founding President of the Colorado Solar Energy Association. He also helped plan housing experiments in energy conservation research and testing with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
His teaching experience includes courses in Solar/Renewable/Alternative Energy design, at: Colorado State University, Naropa University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Colorado at Denver, (Red Rocks campus – taught first Passive Solar class there). Paul also has taught privately and held workshops, along with presenting at several National ASES Solar Conferences in the 1970s.
Paul has designed and built several passive solar homes in Colorado, including energy-efficient retrofits and zero-energy solar homes. While living in Boulder, Colorado Paul operated a solar design, consulting, and contracting firm as a licensed Mechanical Contractor and a licensed General Building Contractor.

Pavlos Stavropoulos
Born and raised in Greece, Pavlos grew up bilingual and bicultural. Before moving to Colorado Pavlos served on the board of the Oregon Public Interest Research Group, and was the publications coordinator and also served on the board of the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont. Since moving to Colorado he has served as the publications coordinator for the Fourth World Center for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics, been the publisher and associate editor of Society and Nature/Democracy & Nature, the international journal of political ecology, and taught high school at Escuela Tlatelolco. He has presented at multiple and diverse conferences such as Midwest Radical Scholars Conference, Teaching Outside the Box, Colorado Bioneers, Renewing the Anarchist Tradition, National Conference of Organized Resistance, Left Forum, All Power to the Imagination, The Poetics of Healing and the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. His decades of experience in sustainability, environmental, community and wilderness education include being a Wilderness First Responder, a certified permaculture designer and instructor, a Project Learning Tree facilitator, and academic work in environmental studies/social ecology, indigenous studies, and wilderness ethics. Pavlos was a Colorado Political Leaders Fellow and is a certified small water systems operator and the father of three.

Robert Chanate
Robert Chanate is a member of the Kiowa Nation and has lived in Denver, Colorado for several years. He is a volunteer for various Native organizations in which his support role differs based on the groups mission. Some of this work includes Native Youth leadership development, grassroots community organizing and educational presentations. He also is a contributor to Indian Country Today. Robert trained as a wildlands firefighter and served as an engine crew leader.

Shawna Crocker
A Colorado native, Shawna has coordinated the Colorado Project Learning Tree program for the Colorado State Forest Service at Colorado State University since 1993. Under her guidance, 150 volunteer facilitators conduct 40-50 workshops providing PLT training and materials for over 600 educators each year. A Colorado native and natural scientist since childhood, Shawna has a BS in Biology from Colorado State University, and over 80 hours of graduate coursework in science, education and technology.  She has been a certified secondary science teacher since 1971, and has taught science and environmental subjects for 30 years in rural and urban, public and private, secondary and elementary schools in Colorado and Swaziland, Africa, where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer. She has worked as an educator at the Denver Museum of Natural Science, a naturalist at an urban, open-space park, and a scientist-in-residence at several elementary schools.  She returned to Africa in 2003 to conduct environmental education trainings for Peace Corps Volunteers and Zambian educators.
Shawna has received the Enos Mills Award for Lifetime Achievement in Environmental Education from the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Outstanding National Project Learning Tree Coordinator Gold Star Award; and Program Excellence Award from the Colorado State Forest Service.

Tawnya Sawyer
Tawnya is a Colorado native who grew up in the mountains, where her family gardened at 8500’ and raised chickens, goats, ducks, and rabbits for food, as well as tamed a burro they adopted from the Grand Canyon. Tawnya received her BA in business at the University of Colorado at Denver, but found her passion in the Fourth World Center studying indigenous culture and politics. After college, Tawnya spent time visiting indigenous communities and peoples living throughout the US and South America. Since then she has worked as a system engineer, instructor, writer, curriculum developer, consultant and analyst. She too has spent time researching aquaponics, specifically alternative materials, unique design options and various community applications. She is passionate about working with others in a collaborative learning environment where active participation is the foundation for building knowledge, and dynamic discussions are fertile ground for developing innovative ideas. In addition, she has an interest in helping people improve their lives through personal nutrition and community involvement.

Ethan Prantera
Originally from Michigan, Ethan is relatively new to the building world and the great state of Colorado. He first encountered Natural Building on a documentary binge in Portland sometime ago and immediately found his calling. Dedicated to following his new passion, he participated in multiple projects on the West Coast in an almost constant succession of varying techniques and opportunities. His main focus was cob and adobe and plans to push the sculptural and intuitive capabilities of cob whilst promoting these buildings as alternative structures to inefficient buildings in today's modern and wasteful society.

Ethan is currently focusing on his clay plastering skills in Denver, CO while experimenting with the wide range of second-hand and earthen materials available in the surrounding area.

Ben Waldman
A transplant to Denver, Ben has been "dirt curious" now for a number of years. Hailing from Chicago, he has a strong comprehension of conventional construction from his disaster relief work in Haiti and Mississippi. Ben has also had the opportunity to work along side many skilled craftsmen through out his career, gaining experience with trade for seven years. With Ben's instinctual ability to "feel a building" and critical understanding of the roles "sound buildings" play in cultures and the environment, Ben's gravitation to earthen structures was only natural. Having participated with projects in California, Ben is now applying his know-how pursuing plastering and Natural Building projects in the urban setting with a tenacious and driven mindset to redefine it.

Littleton Office: 5808 S. Rapp St. Suite 115 | Littleton, CO 80120    |    Center Location: 2584 N. State Hwy 67 | Sedalia, CO 80135
Mailing Address: PO Box 1253 | Littleton, CO 80160
Tel: 303.380.7984 | Fax: 303.380.9889 | Email:
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