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2015 Teachers

Robert “Skip” Backus is chief executive officer of Omega and the visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). He helped lay the foundation for Omega’s environmental and conservation initiatives, including campus recycling and composting, sustainable purchasing and support of local agriculture, water conservation, and 100% sourcing of campus electricity from wind and solar technology.

Laura Weiland, assistant director of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), seeks creative ways to bring people together to find innovative solutions while also learning from each other. Her interests and studies span from farming and permaculture to sustainable development, community development, and eco-social design.

Ethan Roland Solaviev, MS, is an international expert on edible landscaping, permaculture, and homesteading based in the Hudson River Valley of New York. His firm, AppleSeed Permaculture, has designed more than 2000 acres of permaculture landscapes, and manages a multistate installation team each year. Ethan joins the Omega team as the lead teacher in Omega's 2015 Ecological Literacy Immersion Program (ELIP). AppleSeedPermaculture.com

Dyami Solaviev is the principal, lead designer, and install manager at AppleSeed Permaculture. An educator and passionate permaculture designer based in the Hudson River Valley, she holds degrees in nature-based mentoring and in eco-social design from Gaia University, and is an instructor of Permaculture Design Courses from Vermont to the Virgin Islands. AppleSeedPermaculture.com

Lois Guarino, Omega’s chief operations officer, created Omega’s People and Culture department. Her focus is on developing every aspect of the campus as a meaningful part of a learning community while exploring the concept of compassionate service at work as a spiritual development path. She is also an artist and writer and teaches classes on leadership, work/life balance, and the creative process.

Pete A. Muñoz, PE, LEED AP, cofounder of the eco-design organization SEEDS and senior engineer at Biohabitats, is a certified wastewater treatment plant operator. His areas of expertise include wastewater management, constructed wetlands, ecological design, and climate change solutions. biohabitats.com

Tama Jackson, is the lead naturalist, tracker, and soil biologist on all design projects at AppleSeed Permaculture. Tama was certified as a permaculture designer at the Regenerative Design Institute, as a Non-Violent Communication leader and trainer at BayNVC, and organizes eco-social and regenerative agriculture events, including the 2012 Carbon Farming Course and the annual Northeast Permaculture Convergence. AppleSeedPermaculture.com

Ken Kuter is the Audio/Visual Manager in the Production department of Omega Institute. 

Steve Gabriel is an ecologist, educator, author, and forest farmer who has lived most of his life in the Finger Lakes region of New York. He cofounded the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute and currently works for cooperative extension in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell, focused on permaculture and agroforestry research and education. FingerLakesPermaculture.org 

Ken Greene started the Hudson Valley Seed Library in 2004 while working as a librarian at the Gardiner Public Library, in Gardiner, New York. Having developed a strong interest in preserving heirloom seed varieties, he decided to add them to the library catalog so that patrons could "check them out," growing them in their home gardens, and then "return" saved seed at the end of the season. After four years of running the program at the library, Ken and his partner Doug decided to turn the library into a mission-driven, homestead-based small business. SeedLibrary.org 

Martin Ping has been the executive director of the Hawthorne Valley Association for the past eight years. During this period he has balanced his time developing the synergies amongst the Association's diverse enterprises and the 150 coworkers who carry those initiatives while cultivating collaborative relationships between Hawthorne Valley and other organizations in the Upper Hudson Valley/Berkshire region, as well as like-minded initiatives nationally and globally. HawthorneValleyAssociation.org

Rachel Schneider is Director of Place Based Learning at Hawthorne Valley Farm. She is a trained Waldorf teacher, having extensive experience working with children in both traditional and farm-based settings. In her 20 years at Hawthorne Valley Farm, Rachel initiated and developed the farm's CSA program, as well as serving as one of the growers for the HVF market garden. HawthorneValleyFarm.org

Steffan Schneider is Director of Farm Operations at Hawthorne Valley Farm. After finishing his agricultural university studies in Giessen, Germany, Steffan has been a Biodynamic practitioner since 1983, first in Wisconsin, and since 1989, at Hawthorne Valley Farm. He especially loves working with the livestock and the dairy cowes, and his passion for Biodynamics continues to grow. HawthorneValleyFarm.org

Claudia Vispo is the field botanist for the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program. After working on ethnobiology in Venezuela, she returned to look at the plants of farm fields and wilder places in an around Columbia County, New York.  HVFarmscape.org

Conrad Vispo has conducted ecological research on a variety of organisms, including mammals, birds, and fish in a variety of places, including the woods of northern Wisconsin, Columbia County, New York, where he grew up, as well as tropical Venezuela. Conrad's recent focus is on agroecology—what habitats can farmland provide for native species, and, in turn, what can those native species provide to farming?  HVFarmscape.org

Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib, EdD, are founders of Seeds of Solidarity, a visionary solar-powered farm and education center in Massachusetts that provides people of all ages with the inspiration and practical tools to use renewable energy and grow food in their own communities. Through their education programs at Seeds of Solidarity, Baruc and Habib frequently share their 30 years’ of real-life experience growing food and how they took the plunge—off the grid, onto the land, and into their hearts—while building a resilient community and a thriving relationship. seedsofsolidarity.org

Eric Toensmeier has studied permaculture and useful plants for over two decades. He is the award-winning author of Perennial Vegetables, and the coauthor of Edible Forest Gardens and Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City. He is also an appointed lecturer at Yale University, and an international trainer, presenting around the world. perennialsolutions.org

Dina Falconi is a clinical herbalist with a strong focus on food activism and nutritional healing. An avid gardener, wildcrafter, and permaculturalist, Falconi has been teaching classes about the use of herbs for food, medicine, and pleasure (including wild food foraging and cooking) for more than 20 years. 

Carl Big Heart focuses on building bridges between the world's wisdom traditions and on healing the relationship between humankind and all living beings. His work and visions have been blessed and approved by elders of the Abenaki, Muskogee Creek, and Iroquois Nations. They have also been accepted by recognized teachers in the Sufi, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions. He is considered a beloved teacher and medicine keeper in the Turtle Clan; and is recognized by many spiritual leaders from the People of the First Nations as an elder.

John Todd, PhD, is cofounder and president of Ocean Arks International, and founder and chairman of John Todd Ecological Design, Inc., an international design, engineering, and natural resource planning firm. Author of more than 200 articles and seven books, he is the inventor of Eco Machines for the treatment of wastes, production of foods, generation of fuels, and restoration of damaged aquatic environments. toddecological.com 

Michele Bertran, MS, JD, is the assistant director of the Omega Women's Leadership Center. Before joining the Omega staff, she worked for almost two decades on the staff of the New Jersey Courts. An attorney, mediator, and former court manager, Michele Bertran is committed to social justice and creative conflict resolution. She is also a Fellow of the National Center for State Courts. eOmega.org/owlc

Sarah Urech serves as program manager of the Omega Women's Leadership Center. She is a Licensed Master's Social Worker and Certified Practitioner of Pyschodrama, Group Psychotherapy, and Sociometry. eOmega.org/owlc

Ned Sullivan is president of Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit that works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. He is a former commissioner of Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and deputy commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. scenichudson.org 

Joel Glanzberg is an educator in the fields of permaculture and ecological restoration, teaching throughout the United States and South America. A principal with Regenesis Group, his background includes 25 years of watershed management, environmental restoration, habitat design, regenerative agriculture, public education, and consultation to individuals, organizations, and governments. RegenesisGroup.com

Teachers and schedule are subject to change.