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.
The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain is 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.
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!
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 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, was Program Director at Schoolhouse of Wonder, founded the Natural Mystery School, and is the current Director of Education at Piedmont Wildlife.
Simon has been driven by two interrelated core questions: what is the nature of full human development and human flourishing? and how can we create more life-supporting economic dynamics in our world? He facilitates a process for the Odyssey Fellowship that he calls INploration, incorporating aspects of self-inquiry and contemplative exploration. Simon holds degrees in economics and psychology, works in social entrepreneurship as the Program Director for Nourish International, and is a Co-Director at the Post Growth Institute. He found himself on a ten-year odyssey of his own when he was led from his native New Zealand to the US by his career as a recording artist and songwriter.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Michelle recognizes the difference between living in a mechanistic way that the industrial society promotes and living deeply rooted in the flow of nature. She courageously stepped into the unknown by quitting her promising job in chemical engineering in Michigan and coming to the Eco-Institute as a fellow to reconnect to the heart of Earth. She is passionate about co-creating a culture that heals and unifies the family of life, and is a huge part of planning and facilitating the curriculum and workshops for the fellowships.
Jimi came to us as a fellow and stayed as a mentor for the next fellowships. He was born in Taiwan, raised in the states, and is fluent in Chinese. Jimi is a voice of heart-felt reason, honoring feelings and explorations of opinion and possibility while looking to greater images and contexts. He will drop wisdom and intellectual epiphany on you like a bag of bricks, then frolic away to the music of his magical flute. He loves creating polished videos and sick computer generated beats. He is not thrilled with the prospects of traditional college for now but instead has decided to create his own higher educational experience through exploring movements and impact centers doing the work that reconnects.
Los Angeles native, Brenna, is another Odyssey Fellowship graduate. She handles the annoying details and fragments that go into the events and movements of the Eco-Institute. She is a smoother, weaving together pieces to create a whole. She also loves to get her hands dirty building- or tearing apart- but manifesting ideas with her hands and hammer. She has left her old way of living behind, bursting out of the worldview provided for her to then slowly begin building her own path of change for our culture on Earth.
Leaving conservative small town Virginia, Rebecca sought bigger, deeper answers and fuller expression. She lived one formative summer in a tent among the elderberries in The Eco-Institute orchard and became deeply connected to the land. Rebecca is an artist, activist, former educator and the creative force behind the website and 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 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.