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PMEI Elderberries in Flower and Solar Farm.jpg
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About Us


About Us


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 the residential Rising Earth: Transformative Permaculture Immersion 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.

PMEI Elderberries in Flower and Solar Farm.jpg

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.

The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC

The Eco-Institute is operated by teachers, professionals in different fields, fellows, and community volunteers who manage organic gardens, sustainable livestock production, renewable energy systems, and the administration of the organization. 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.

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!


Our Team

Our Team

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



co-founder & director

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.


The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC



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.



INploration Guide

Simon’s transformative framework, Emergent Inquiry, invites people into a space in which shifts can happen. He brings to his facilitation years of exploration of self-inquiry, non-dual wisdom traditions, and meditative practices; the perspectives of developmental and depth psychology; and his long experience with artistry and the creative process. Simon holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Auckland; a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University; is a Certified Trainer of Focusing, a mindfulness-based, somatic approach to psychological healing and development; has completed a yearlong soulcraft immersion and quest with Bill Plotkin and Animas Valley Institute; and is currently pursuing doctoral studies. He has been a director with organizations active in social entrepreneurship, leadership development, and mental health, and was led from his New Zealand homeland to the US by his career as a recording artist and songwriter.



Conscious Communication Guide

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!




Inda Liza Luciano The Eco-Institute Chapel Hill NC Environmental Education Permaculture

Inda manages the website, marketing, and overall communications of The Eco-Institute. She exhibits a natural, clean aesthetic that is fresh and lovely. Inda also helps organizations and individuals with healthy missions in conscious industries metamorphose, clarify, and communicate their message; connect with their audience; and artfully cultivate and nurture new and old relationships. Her academic background is in journalism and communication arts, and she recently earned the nonprofit management certification from Duke University. Inda is also a tad of a preventative care "jane of many trades," with certifications in yoga, children yoga, healthy lifestyle coaching, and skin healing therapies.


The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC


PERFORMING Arts Director

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



Garden Manager

Garden Manager, wild food enthusiast, bee-keeper, mushroom grower, chef, seed saver, grounds keeper, musician, student and teacher – Farmer Dave Pollmiller has many passions in life. It´s not hard to see that his greatest passion in life is food. Dave has an infectious passion for growing food, foraging for food, cooking food and without a doubt, eating food. A native of Kansas, Dave left Kansas University in 2013 in response to his heart´s message to pursue his passions. He found himself working on organic farms in Hawaii and lived there for two years learning the basics of small scale agriculture. Dave came to the Eco-Institute in 2015 for the Odyssey Fellowship program. Fully inspired by the work of The Eco-Institute, Dave stayed at the farm and became staff that winter. You will see the reflections of his passion in both the gardens and the kitchen.


The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC


Immersion Program Director

Alison balances curiosity and skepticism when designing programming for a better world. She comes to The Eco-Institute from her native New England, where she facilitated a land-based gap year program at a Waldorf camp and farm. A gap year alumna herself, and current chair of the Gap Year Association Alum Committee, she has mentored dozens of emerging adults—mostly gap students—on diverse experiences all over the world. Her facilitation style is largely influenced by her backgrounds in intercultural and outdoor education, as well as her training in contemplative practices including yoga and the Buddhism-inspired eco-philosophy The Work That Reconnects. Most recently she is growing her edge as a gardener, herbalist, and fermenter's apprentice.


The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC Megan Toben


OFFICE MANAGER, book keeper, yoga instructor

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

The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC