Our cookbook is a collection of inventive recipes inspired by seasonal eating from our biodiverse Mother Garden, orchards and Wildlands Preserve.
Experience the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center through beautiful slideshows of our Guest Houses, Meeting Hall, Kitchen, Garden, Wildlands and more.
Our 100% Certified Organic plant nursery specializes in open-pollinated perennials including edible landscaping plants, rare and endangered food crops, drought tolerant ornamentals and habitat plants - all tested in our onsite gardens and appropriate for our bioregion.
OAEC offers the longest consistently running two-week Permaculture Design Certification course in the West. Immerse yourself in information, ideas and inspiration on how to design sustainable, regenerative systems in balance with your home ecosystem.
Michelle is an ecologist, land steward, gardener, and educator. She has worked for over ten years in regenerative land use and education in California, Europe, and Central America, most notably serving as the Land Stewardship and Education Manager for a 500-acre wildland park in Oakland, California, where she managed a native plant nursery and designed and delivered watershed and land-based learning programs. As she gained a more holistic perspective of ecological regeneration—recognizing that well-being is, and can only be, a mutual act—her work also shifted to regenerative farming, finding it to influence and expose a more systemic and tangible connection between personal, community, and environmental health.
Along with being a lifelong home gardener, Michelle has grown food and managed markets and veg box schemes at Red Dog Farm in Washington State, Milbeg Arts Farm in Ireland, the ‘Slow Food’ University in Northern Italy, Transition Town-Totnes in England, and in the beautiful farm and gardens at Schumacher College in the U.K. With a graduate degree in arts-based education from the University of Gastronomic Sciences, she is dedicated to using food practice to inspire regenerative and future thinking—cultivating new conversations surrounding ecology, economy, identity, and place.
On Staff Since: 2020 Email > Phone: x114
Born in Wisconsin, I grew up surrounded by farmland, expansive prairies, and a landscape spotted with hundreds of glacier-formed lakes. As a child I learned to notice and appreciate the changing seasons—catching fireflies and watching lightning storms in the summer, picking apples and carving pumpkins in the fall, building snow castles and ice-skating in the winter, and watching flowers bloom and butterflies emerge from their chrysalises in the spring. Through these experiences I began to gain an awareness and respect for the natural rhythms of the Earth, and observe and experience nature as one system of integrated relationships.
For over a decade I worked as an ecologist, horticulturalist, farmer, and educator with various community-based rewilding and regeneration organizations in California, Washington, England, and Italy—developing, coordinating, and facilitating place- and process-based learning programs for students and adults through ecological, land-based practice. I spent years teaching, training, and mentoring diverse groups of students, interns, and community volunteers through observation, exploration, and sensory activities, group workshops and discussions, and hands-on land stewardship projects—including native wild seed collection, native plant propagation and planting, food and greenhouse production, watershed and creek stewardship, garden design and tending, and natural crafting. Over time I came to learn that only through awareness, observation, and engagement with the natural world—something I first practiced as a child—can one instinctively understand the natural patterns and rhythms of nature, and how to harmoniously engage and respond within these processes.
Considered an ‘acupuncture point’ of social and ecological systems, food practice has been a decisive element of human culture, directly shaping and reflecting our relationships with each other and our natural environment. By reorienting this critical gesture to be more regenerative, we can not only widen our ecological perception, but can also enliven and regenerate our relational dynamics.
In this sense, the OAEC Mother Garden does not simply model a design for regenerative human living, but serves as a space for reunion—a place to practice and learn radically human, de-colonized ways of being. As we garden, we are not only learning to cultivate relational diversity, but bringing dependency back into our understanding of ourselves—replanting the vital root of existence.
As a steward of the OAEC gardens, my role is to be in dialogue with the land—exploring its composition, meaning, and context through attentive and reciprocal correspondence. As a participant in this process, my role is also to hold a space for others to engage—teaching compassion and response-ability by creating opportunities for others to observe and respond.
For me, the practice of growing food is not simply the making of a product, but a window into the nature of life—a space where we can remember, not only our relationship and dependency to place, but also our place and responsibility amongst these relationships. By becoming more attuned to the pulse of the wind, the rain, the sun, the soil, the seasons, and the stars, I believe we can find our own rhythm in the space between—discovering not only how we reveal ourselves through the world, but how the world reveals itself through us.
With a graduate degree in arts-based education, I am passionate about teaching, learning, and advocating for ecological literacy—seeing it as a way to transform how nature and our role within its processes is perceived and expressed. With an interest in craft as a process of mutual transformation, in early 2019 I founded a consultancy organization—Food Pathways Education—to explore how place- and process-based food practices can inspire an immersive, tactile ontology. This work, which is dedicated to helping students of all ages become more attentive, creative, collaborative, and empowered, has since supported educational initiatives with ThoughtBox Education, the BSc in Sustainable Food and Farming at Schumacher College, and the ‘Fridays for Future’ Climate Forums at the University of Gastronomic Sciences.
Throughout the twentieth century, many waterways in the United States were subjugated into concrete and hidden underground as a way to seize and control the definition of property. Through the compartmentalization and channelization of the commons, we aimed to tame our wildness—unaware we were also removing an element of ourselves. Founded on the idea that natural flowing water is a vital force that renews our sense of community and collective well-being, from 2014-16 I worked on a pilot project to daylight and restore a stretch of Sausal Creek in Oakland, California – removing the culvert, recontouring the creek bed, and planting thousands of native plants along the banks. Once a barren field, now a river flows freely through the heart of the city.