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About Us


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About Us


OUR STORY

working for a shift towards a life sustaining society since 2005


Megan and Tim Toben founded the Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain out of their love for the Earth and their concern for the future of life.

Since its inception in 2005, a beautiful and resilient community has formed around the Eco-Institute.  Members of this community include parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, students, artists, professionals, activists and children of all ages.

Each year, we host workshops in practical sustainability skills, field trips for school groups, summer camps for kids, seasonal celebrations, community gatherings, and three seasonal sessions of the residential Odyssey Fellowship Program for young adults.

We are one strong local center among many who are part of a global awakening to the detrimental effects of the industrial growth economy, working for a shift towards a life sustaining society. In the words of our friend and teacher Thomas Berry, we dream of a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.


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Our Mission


Our Mission


Healing the Human-Earth Relationship


The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain is an Earth Sanctuary and Learning Community dedicated to Healing the Human-Earth Relationship. Our educational farm and ecological resilience learning center reside on 38 acres in the Piedmont of North Carolina, eight miles west of Chapel Hill.

Our guiding principles derive from Thomas Berry, E.F. Schumacher, Richard Louv, and Joanna Macy, who seek to establish a “mutually enhancing relationship between humans and the Earth.” We share these principles and practices with children, teachers, policy-makers, clergy, and community organizers state-wide.


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The Eco-Institute is operated by teachers, fellows, and community volunteers who manage organic gardens, sustainable livestock production, and renewable energy systems. We are dedicated to introducing children of all ages to alternatives to the industrial growth economy with the hope of finding ways to live more harmoniously within the planetary community. We offer educational programs for classes of children, pre-school through high school, internships for college students, and workshops for adults.

We are community supported and welcome tax deductible donations through The Abundance Foundation.

Our work is rooted in the belief that the fate of future generations will depend on their connections with the land. Since fossil fuels and their extraction are destroying ecosystems and indigenous communities, we have to find new ways to supply food and energy in local, renewable and sustainable ways. By teaching children to respect natural cycles and utilize renewable resources, we offer them keys to survival and world peace in a carbon-constrained future.

Please consider bringing your class or family for a visit!


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Our Team


Our Team



The Eco-Institute team is filled with Educators, Dreamers, Fellows, Community Volunteers, Leaders... and a lot of people who aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty.


 MEGAN
Toben

co-founder & director
COMMUNITY MAMA


Meg and her husband, Tim Toben, co-created the Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain as a sanctuary for nature connection, renewal, and healing the human-Earth relationship.  Meg has twenty years of experience as an environmental educator, and ten as an executive director, during which time she has learned useful techniques for cultivating balance while keeping a holistic level of awareness.  Meg knows and loves the land here deeply, having raised her family on it for the past twelve years.  In 2015, Meg was honored with the Piedmont Environmental Leadership Award.  Her love for art, ritual, Earth, and humanity inspire her to offer healing space of deep renewal to all who are working to heal our world.


SARAH
HAGGERTY

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RITUAL & PROGRAM VISIONARY LEADER 
VOICE OF THE TREES


Sarah helps people get in touch with what really matters. In an increasingly fragmented world, we need connection with the deeper aspects of life more now than ever. She has developed her approach over the past 20 years, and has supported thousands of people on the path of deep nature connection and personal growth. Through this work, she has helped remove the grief of disconnection, awaken attributes of leadership, nourish dreams and bring a sense of meaning back into daily life. She was the 2012 winner of the North Carolina Environmental Educators of the Year award. Sarah is the Program Director at the Eco-Institute and she is the Founder and Director of Natural Mystery School.


SIMON
SPIRE

INploration Guide
Sweet Nudger of Transformative Revelation


Simon’s transformative process, INploration, invites people into a space in which shifts can happen. Drawing on wisdom traditions and contemplative practices, his work enables people to navigate inner spaces and integrate the challenges and opportunities encountered with the whole of themselves. Simon brings to his facilitation years of exploration of non-dual traditions, self-inquiry, and meditative practices; the perspectives of developmental and soul-centered psychology; and his experiences with artistry and the creative process. In addition to his graduate studies in psychology and work in the fields of social entrepreneurship and mental health, he recently completed a 10-month vision quest with Animas Valley Institute and is currently certifying with the International Focusing Institute.


AMY
SCHMIDT

Conscious Communication Guide
Shiner of Light, Diva of Dance


Amy works with people to unweave unconscious patterning and resolve their inner lives so what they truly want flows naturally.  Amy’s work with the fellows reaches deep into the human experience and allows for revelation.  It goes beyond basic physiology, self-help, and team building- teaching how to identify needs in yourself and others and serve those needs.  It is a deep appreciation of the inner workings of human beings.  She has her Master's in Transformative Leadership and is a certified Language of Mastery Instructor, Master NLP Practitioner, and Constellations Facilitator and has worked with groups and individuals in California, Seattle, Mexico and South Africa.  She also speaks many dialects of the language of dance!


Environmental Educator
Her spirit animal may be glitter

CHRISTELLE
SIOHAN

Christelle is a sparkling polyglot environmentalist from Geneva, Switzerland. Her academic background is in natural resource management, sustainable development, and permaculture. She’s worked for international environmental organizations, including the United Nations Environment Program, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund. Most notably, she developed reforestation and sustainable agriculture projects in Ecuador with OneAction. She currently teaches the Permaculture Foundations Certification series, bringing fun and excited possibility into every moment.


COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
VISION INTERPRETER, SPIRIT WEAVER

INDA
LUCIANO

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Inda was raised by the sea of a Caribbean island. But recently moved from the Bay Area of California, where she lived for many years, to be closer to her family who has settled in this neck of the woods. We are so blessed to have her join our team at this important time of transition. Her academic background is in journalism and communication arts, and she recently earned the nonprofit management certification at Duke. Inda is also a tad of a wellness "jane of many trades," with certifications in yoga, healthy lifestyle coaching, and skin healing therapies.


KaitLIN
JUNE

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PERFORMING Arts Director
Songcatcher


Kaitlin June is a voice-doula and a lover of the sun, soil, and song. She has been receiving music her whole life from whatever land she stands on and loves to offer it back. She is passionate about the role of expressive arts in the transformation of our world and each individual's uniquely creative role in the new paradigm. For more on her life and work please visit www.kaitlinjune.com


Bobby
FAIR

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Garden Manager
Life taster, World Tester


Even growing up in a tiny farming community in Kansas, Bobby always felt that society as we know it could be vastly restructured.  After exploring many subjects in college, he found himself interested in healthy eating and all that it meant. He set off to work trade on a farm in Maui and his eyes were opened to a rich and expansive way of living that is emerging in our world.  Now an Odyssey Fellowship graduate, Bobby is the on-site builder, electrician, goat-whisperer, poet, and philosopher.  A Swiss Army knife of skills and wonder in his pocket.


DAVE
BROWN BEAR
POLLMILLER

Garden Manager
Fungi Fanatic


Guitar-toting Dave started his journey wwoofing and traveling before coming to the Eco-Institute as a fellow. He has a passionate love for all things outdoors and is continuously learning how to deepen his connection to the land, himself and his community in meaningful ways.  He has become the human mycelium, creating webs of connection that make the Eco-Institute even more productive- from its garden and mushroom cultivation to local community cultivation, to its exploration of other impact centers in the world network pulsing with the same vision.


Chris
Cricket
LeRoy

PROGRAM ORGANIZER, Event coordinator
Master of the Clipboard



Out of Boulder, Colorado, Cricket brings her creative and gentle spirit to all that she encounters. She sees the light and values the differences in others, and her soothing nature and limitless wit provide a friendly atmosphere for those she cares about. Chris is an avid and skilled potter, bringing beauty into three-dimensional form through her exceptional craftsmanship and artistry. She has a passion for reversing the dangerous culture of overconsumption. Those around her are constantly inspired by her endless patience and maturity, contagious laughter, and humble resolve.


SARAH
WAGGONER

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OFFICE MANAGER, bookkeeper, yoga instructor
organization and mindfulness yogi


Sarah keeps the Eco-Institute team and office organize, and makes sure we get paid! She is a smoother, weaving together pieces to create efficient systems. She also keeps the team and guests in balance in her role of yoga teacher on Sundays, and loves getting her hands dirty gardening. Another multi-talented part of the team.


REBECCA
DOWNS

PHOTOGRAPHer
COMMUNITY CREATIVE CONSULTANT


Leaving conservative small town Virginia, Rebecca sought bigger, deeper answers and fuller expression.  She lived one formative summer in a tent among the elderberries at the Eco-Institute orchard and became deeply connected to the land.  Rebecca is an artist, activist, former educator and former manager of the website and creator of materials that speak for our work.  She documents the work of the Eco-Institute in photos and spews brilliance a mile a minute in 8 different directions, everything she touches becoming beautiful –and professional.


NATHAN
TOBEN

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Groundskeeper
Seeker of Intense Truths


Nathan spent much of his youth on the land here, and holds a special love for it.  Nathan is another handyman, a talented pianist, and an occasional mentor to the fellows.  You can find him running circles around the Eco-Institute, literally, over 10 miles a day as he trains for marathons.