Teaching Team

Lisa DePiano is a certified permaculture designer/teacher and faculty member for the Yestermorrow Design/Build School. She is co-founder of the Montview Neighborhood Farm, a human powered urban-farm and edible forest garden in the Connecticut River Valley, and rides with the worker-owned collective Pedal People. She received her masters degree in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts and loves working with communities to create the world they want to live in. After escaping the suburbs of her youth she headed to the hills of West Virginia and became a community organizer working on issues of Mountain Top Removal, Militarism, Fair Trade and Global Justice.  She discovered permaculture while living in Guatemala and was immediately drawn to its systems and solutions-based approach. For the last decade she has been sharing this passion with others. She has studied permaculture with Starhawk, Penny Livingston Stark, and Dave Jacke and has taught all over the United States, including the Menominee Nation,  Homer, AK, New York City, Miami, FL the University of Vermont, University of Massachusetts, and Wesleyan University. She runs the Mobile Design Lab which specializes in participatory permaculture design and installation.

Jonathan Bates runs Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery, a local source for useful, edible, hard to find plants and seeds. He’s been studying, creating and working with rural and urban gardens in the Connecticut River Valley for the last nine years, and is a co-designer and inhabitant of an edible forest garden in Holyoke, MA featured in the book Edible Forest Gardens. With a bachelors degree in Biology, and M.A. in Social Ecology from the Institute for Social Ecology, Jonathan loves wild crafting with friends, and working with folks to better the world we live in. He co-founded and is on the board of the Apios Institute, is a teacher at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School, works with the Center for Ecological Technology, and is a farmer with Nuestras Raices, Inc.

Abrah Jordan Dresdale is an ecological landscape designer and food systems planner. She studied architecture in Copenhagen, DK, and there she became inspired about sustainable design, urban planning, and co-operative models of business and residential living.

During the past several years, Abrah has taught outdoor education at Vermont Wilderness School and Wild Earth Wilderness School. Her love of naturalist teachings inspired her to study botany and medicinal plants at the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine, Austin, TX. While living in Austin, she received a Permaculture Design Certification and studied the art of hand-drawn landscape graphics.

In 2009, Abrah moved to western Massachusetts to complete her Master of Arts at the Conway School of Landscape Design. Most recently, she started Feeding Landscapes, a sustainable landscape design and planning business in Greenfield, MA. She teaches Introduction to Food Systems at Greenfield Community College, and Permaculture Design Courses at UMASS, GCC, VT Wilderness School, and f.e.a.s.t.-Northampton. Abrah uses her mentoring skills paired with sustainable design knowledge as tools to facilitate positive change in partnership with people and communities.

Javiera Benavente is an artist, popular educator and cultural organizer who has been organizing around a variety of social justice issues for over two decades. She began organizing as a high-school student in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she co-founded SEED (Students Educating Each other about Discrimination), a social-justice education program run by and for young people. Javiera went on to study Latino/a and Latin American Studies and Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz, where she organized for affordable public higher education and against the expansion of the prison industrial complex, and worked with working-class women in Santa Cruz County and Santiago, Chile, to address issues of violence against women in their communities. She credits much of what she knows about organizing to these experiences. A movement-based performance maker and storyteller, Javiera is interested in the relationship between physical movement, intuitive ways of knowing and creative expression. She received her theater training at Double Edge Theatre, where she also worked as an associate artist creating performances, touring and training students. She is currently a cultural organizer with the Arts & Democracy Project and a worker-owner at Food for Thought Books Collective, a not-for-profit collectively-run bookstore in Amherst, Mass. She is originally from Santiago, Chile and lives in Northampton, Mass.

GUEST INSTRUCTORS Eric Toensmeier has spent twenty years exploring edible and useful plants of the world and their use in perennial agroecosystems. He is the author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. His current project is promoting perennial farming systems, including agroforestry and perennial staple crops, as a strategy to sequester carbon while restoring degraded lands, and providing food, fuel and income, and ecosystem services.  Eric ran an urban farm project for Nuestras Raíces (www.nuestras-raices.org) in Holyoke Massachusetts, providing access to land and startup assistance for Latino and refugee beginning farmers. His urban garden is a model of how to apply permaculture to a small space with poor soils, featuring over 200 useful perennial and self-seeding species on 1/10 of an acre.
Scott Kellogg is the instructor for R.U.S.T. (Radical Urban Sustainability Training) and a co-founder of the Rhizome Collective and has served as the director of its sustainability program for almost a decade. He has extensive experience designing and building sustainable systems, including constructed wetlands, aquaculture ponds, biogas and biofuel operations, windmills, passive solar devices, micro-livestock systems and many others. He has taught numerous workshops and multi-part permaculture courses in locations as diverse as post-Katrina New Orleans, Mexico, East Timor, and inner city America. In addition, Scott has participated in numerous campaigns for social justice over the years. He and Stacy Pettigrew are the authors of the book ‘the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A do-it-yourself guide’(South End Press, 2008).

DORI MIDNIGHT is an ordained interfaith minister and intuitive counselor who has come from a long line of tough ladies who healed people in their kitchens. She believes that healing is an “of the people, for the people” practice and works to keep healing accessible, affordable and full of magic. She teaches magic and folk & community herbalism to kids and adults, creates rituals and ceremonies, and provides intuitive counseling and healing for individuals. Dori maintains a practice and teaches workshops in San Francisco, but as of May 2010 makes her home in the woods of Western Massachusetts