David Brownstein, Executive Director – firstname.lastname@example.org, (845) 256-9830 x 4 – In 2004, David co-founded and, today, is the Executive Director of Wild Earth, where he seeks to help regenerate healthy community culture and create opportunities for people to connect with themselves, each other and the Earth. Prior to founding Wild Earth, David worked as a wealth advisor on Wall Street for twelve years before realizing a life dream – fully sharing in the care and parenting of his three children, and creating a small family farm. Today, the Brownsteins raise dairy cows, goats, chickens, bees and vegetables in season. David also maintains an active counseling practice called Root Connections, where he focuses on helping individuals, couples, groups and business leaders identify and manifest their unique vision. Learn more about David at rootconnections.org.Have you seen David’s Wild Earth blog posts?
Simon Abramson, Deputy Director – email@example.com, (845) 256-9830 x 3 – As a child Simon spent countless hours exploring the forest, streams and wetlands of his neighborhood in NJ. Simon has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont where he focused on the relationship between a healthy human psyche and a vibrant natural world. He has staffed and studied with various wilderness schools throughout the Northeast including the Institute for Natural Learning, White Pine Programs and the Vermont Wilderness School. When he’s not in the woods, Simon is designing and building websites and other internet solutions. Have you seen Simon’s Wild Earth posts?
Alisha Mai Frank, Program Director – firstname.lastname@example.org, (845) 256-9830 x 6 – Mai grew up in southwestern CT, where she spent her days clamoring across barnacled boulders lining Long Island Sound, and capturing crickets to feed to her leopard frogs. She studied acting at Emerson College and graduated from Hampshire College with a self-designed B.A. in ecosystem mimicry agriculture and community circus theater. Alisha Mai has run nature-immersion programming since 2008, with Vermont Wilderness School, the Institute for Natural Learning, Wolftree Programs, White Pine Programs, and most recently, Wild Earth. Mai enjoys working with girls and teens, and incorporating physical play into her programs. She draws upon her background in theater and circus to create zany and magical experiences in nature. Alisha Mai is certified in Wildlife Track and Sign (Level II) through CyberTracker, and is a Wilderness First Responder. She teaches vinyasa yoga and aerial silks, and studies at Circus Warehouse in Queens.
Esperanza Gonzalez, Program Director – email@example.com, (845) 256-9830 – Esperanza is, and has always been, a teacher at heart. From the early age of 8 she would hold play groups in her church and tend to the young children who would often disrupt the sermons. This passion to teach carried on through the years, bringing her to SUNY New Paltz where she received her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education and History. While living in New Paltz, she merged her love for the outdoors, her passion for teaching and her organizational and entrepreneurial skills into many different educational programs. She has taught in various local schools, led theater groups, kids yoga, art programs and of course worked with Wild Earth in a number of programs. Her commitment to community connection has guided her community service work in jails, juvenile centers, Americorps, inner-city art programs, soup kitchens and many more volunteer based initiatives. She sees every child’s potential and knows there is no better way to hold their blossoming than through the arts and the exploration of the natural world.
Sarah Nason, Administrative Director – firstname.lastname@example.org, (845) 256-9830 – Sarah grew up in Michigan, where her first introduction to the “wild” was through YMCA summer camps. She looked forward to exploring and getting dirty, and would jump into any body of water that she could find. Her passion for the outdoors led her to the Pacific Northwest, where she spent nearly 20 years on the shores and slopes of Washington State. Sarah has a Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Management and has worked in the fields of environmental conservation, food justice, corporate accountability and civic engagement. A desire to build community and share her love of the outdoors with young people led Sarah to spend nearly a decade volunteering as a mentor and snowboard instructor for Seattle youth. Sarah moved to the Hudson Valley in early 2017 to be closer to family and is proud to call Wild Earth her home. She still loves to get dirty and will still jump into any body of water she can find.
Dustin Lamberta, Program Manager – email@example.com, (845) 256-9830 – Dustin began his wilderness journey playing with his sister and other neighborhood kids in the “woods” (an acre of marshy land deemed too wet for development) near his suburban Long Island childhood home. After focusing his studies on political science, and philosophy at SUNY New Paltz, he began to take in interest in local food and ecology while working at local farms and wineries. In Fall, 2011 he was introduced to Wild Earth by his friend Thomas Meli, and began attending the Dawn Song Village Program. He has since worked at Kestrel Camp. Dustin has also staffed programs for White Pine Programs in Maine and Coyote Club Wildlife Education Programs in New Hampshire. He has a passion for bird language, harvesting edible plants, and sharing stories of deep nature connection. He received a permaculture design certification through Green Phoenix Permaculture and has been to two New England Bird Language Intensives with White Pine Programs, as an attendant and staff facilitator.
Michaela Himelfarb, Program Manager – Michaela Himelfarb grew up on the beautiful and rocky north shore of Long Island. There, she spent much of her time working at her family’s second generation landscaping and gardening business, where her love for the natural world emerged. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Ed, Michaela was driven instead to put her education to use in nature’s classroom, working many years as an outdoor educator and gardening instructor. Then she heard a call she could not refuse: she attended the Wilderness Awareness School’s two year nature connection mentoring program in Duvall, Washington, and left with teachings and stories she will carry in her heart forever. While in WA she also had the privilege of guiding trips with youth and teens at Rite of Passage Journeys. After returning east in 2013, Michaela has recently moved from Long Island to West Shokan with her husband Eric, where they help care take the beautiful property they call home. During her free time you may find her practicing her grandfather’s fiddle, visiting her sit spot, or diving into whatever craft seems irresistible in that moment.
Wild Earth Instructors
Kole Brownstein, Instructor – Kole Brownstein has been a Wild Earth camper since the organization’s first Summer Camp in 2004. Kole has studied with White Pine Wilderness School, Vermont Wilderness School, Sassafrass Wilderness School and Natural Habitat in the Galapagos. Since his Junior year of High School, Kole has been volunteering and staffing with the New Paltz Rescue Squad as an EMT.
Jonathan Gonzalez, Instructor – Jonathan was first introduced to the woods on camping trips with family and friends as a young boy growing up in Southern California. At home, the influences of gangs, drugs and violence were often times literally right outside the front door. But with the fierce love and support of his parents his family made the brave move to New York. Jonathan attended Plattsburgh State University where he earned his Bachelors in Social Work. In 2008, Jonathan met friend, teacher and mentor, Michael Ridolfo. Michael introduced him to wilderness awareness, tracking and greater awareness of one’s self. This brought Jonathan to Tom Brown Jr. and to the world renowned Tracker School. Jonathan continues to pursue his inner tracking and awareness through Vision Quest with Malcolm Ringwalt where he has trained as a Vision Quest Protector. Jonathan’s passion is in sharing his love of the natural world through wilderness skills with kids and adults that are underserved or haven’t otherwise had the chance to experience themselves in nature.
Ellie Gross, Instructor – Ellie grew up in New York City, where she always felt a curiosity for the natural world. Upon arrival in New Paltz for college, she dove into any opportunity she could to explore the outdoors. As Elle also developed an interest in yoga, she observed harmony within the self also meant union with the natural world. Ellie has worked with children in local daycare centers and in private homes throughout her life, so it was an easeful transition for her into Wild Earth, where all of her passions could weave together into one experience.
Katie Grove, Instructor – Going out into the forests and fields, harvesting materials from nature, and sitting down in the sun to weave a basket is Katie Grove’s idea of a perfect day. She is an artist and educator whose passion is to guide adults and children alike in connecting to their creative self through the combination of art and nature. Through nature-based arts such as basketry, plant dyes, weaving, sculpture, and journaling she creates an environment where individuals can explore self-expression while learning how to identify, use, and appreciate locally available natural materials. She has worked with Wild Earth since 2012 and in 2014 co-pioneered the first summer of Wild Earth Art Camp as a lead instructor and program designer. She has a BFA in Printmaking from SUNY New Paltz and continues to teach and exhibit art throughout the region.
Stephanie Hertel, Instructor – Stephanie grew up in the woods of northern New York State. Her early days were filled with playing outdoors and wild harvesting food. Now, as a certified herbalist and seasoned grower for 6 years, Stephanie’s roots are shown in her work as a therapeutic and medicinal garden consultant. She is currently creating and implementing a horticulture therapy program for the Anderson center for autism. Through her love of teaching herbalism, homesteading skills, and other ancient healing techniques, she strives to give others the tools necessary to lead a happy and healthy life. Her passion for making herbal products, natural crafts, and wild harvesting medicinal and edible plants are highlighted in her offerings as a wilderness educator.
Clara Kramer-Wheeler, Instructor – Clara’s love of the woods was born on her family’s week-long summer vacations in the forests of New Hampshire. Her favorite ways to connect with nature are through play and by doing creative meditations with plants. The presence of the Wild Earth community directly influenced Clara’s decision to move to the Hudson Valley area, and she has been working with Wild Earth since 2011. Before Wild Earth, Clara was exposed to wilderness-based programs for children at Thorne Natural Science School in Colorado and at the Little Forest People Camp at Omega Institute. In 2009 Clara graduated from Naropa University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies including concentrations in Early Childhood Education, Contemplative Psychology, and Traditional Eastern Arts. In 2013 Clara was able to dive more deeply and fully into working with plant magic through a 7-month Plant Spirit Healing apprenticeship with Pam Montgomery. She is also a certified Holistic Health Counselor, Reiki practitioner, and has trained in a variety of additional energy medicine and alternative healing modalities.
Jason Lord, Instructor – Born in the island nation Trinidad, Jason spend his first 4 formative years surrounded by the island’s nature-loving culture. After moving to America, the public parks and botanical gardens of New York City became temples and cathedrals where he would play and explore, observing and learning from the local flora and fauna. After studying Sociology and Africana Studies at SUNY Stony Brook, the years afterwards found him moving to the Hudson Valley. Jason’s passion for cuisine and wellness led him to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and he is now a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, and Transitional Coach. He’s also a Reiki Practitioner, as well as the founder/Executive Director of ShowUp4Life, where he shares his services with those seeking wellness and balance. His previous experience in Child Development and Youth Mentoring with such organizations as Family Partnership, Catherine Street Community Center, and Nubian Directions ll have prepared him for his work as a Wild Earth Instructor. His avid love of nature, experience through time spent camping, bushcrafting, hiking, and generally frolicking in the woods, his love of art and handcrafting with natural materials, and his zest for life and happy humans all comprise the substance he feels blessed to share with the Wild Earth community. He loves to share. His life’s purpose is to inspire. Oh yeah… he’s also a Ninja.
Liz Malmstedt, Instructor – Liz first discovered her love of the outdoors in college, where she learned to rock climb, camp and play in the woods. After 5 years in Seattle teaching outdoors and in-schools, Liz spent five years in Japan exploring, learning, teaching and (much to her Tokyo co-workers amazement) most every weekend in the mountains or ocean. Since moving to New York in June of 2016 she has not stopped smiling and being part of the Wild Earth family has played a huge part of that.
Mary Jane Nusbaum, Instructor – As a child Mary Jane spent every season outdoors in Central NY skiing, swimming, hiking, canoeing, and every summer went back-woods camping in the Adirondacks with her ambitious parents and four siblings. Her two boys have grown up attending Wild Earth programs which has had a profound affect on who they are today. She piloted an art program for Wild Earth in 2013 which has blossomed into a full blown summer camp. Mary Jane is a visual artist and art teacher who has traveled extensively and has a love of world cultures, people and the natural world in which we live.
Bosch Purvis, Instructor – Bosch grew up in Accord NY, and has been a part of Wild Earth from the very beginning. Whether it is swimming in streams during the winter, or going for runs before sunrise, he loves to be immersed in nature. He currently runs Bars Beyond Bars, a music program for incarcerated youth in Goshen, NY.
Ashley Sapir Lathrop, Instructor – Peace and play in nature have been fundamental to Ashley since she was a small child exploring the woods at the edges of her family’s Putnam county yard in search of interesting flowers and plants. In college she studied Cultural and Medical Anthropology bringing her to Central America where she explored the native plants and studied with a local Midwife. Along with her passion for plants, Ashley is a teacher at heart with a M.S. in Education and years of teaching experience in the Beacon schools. She has studied with both traditional Native healers as well as gifted teachers in the Herbal Community such as Susun Weed, Sevensong, Matthew Wood, Dina Falconi and Aviva Romm. Ashley loves sharing her passion about plants and has done so through farming and crafting herbal remedies with Wild Wind Herbal CSA and through her own herbal practice Dreamkeeper Botanicals. Ashley in inspired by generations of traditional healers and feels it is our birthright to tap into the powerful relationship between plants and people.
Antonia Estela Pérez, Instructor – Antonia was born and raised in New York City, but would spend her weekends running around in the woods. This experience inspired a deep curiosity to understand the history of the land and the separation/connection between urban and rural. Antonia received her B.A at Bard College where she studied Environmental and Urban Studies as well as anthropology and studio arts. She is currently studying herbalism at Arborvitae School of Traditional Herbal Medicine. She integrates her love of plants, being outdoors and youth education at her full time job with The Brotherhood Sister Sol. Antonia has a passion for learning about plants and different earth based skills alongside youth.
Michael Ridolfo, Instructor – In 1993, having been on the path of the naturalist his entire life, he began to study and train with Tom Brown Jr. at his world renowned Tracker School. During that time Michael began teaching nature education programs for both children and adults at private institutions and organizations. These include but are not limited to: Mohonk Preserve, The Sunwise School, Action Karate, Camp Herlich – all in New York State, the Mohican Center in New Jersey, Appalachian State College in North Carolina, The Rocky Mountain School in Boulder, Colorado, Alex Aiken School in Duncan, British Columbia, Vermont Wilderness School in Brattleboro, Vermont and Tropical Reforestation and Environmental Education in Kailua, Hawaii, among others. From 2005-2007 he ran a year-long program within the science curriculum at Highland High School, Highland NY for 9th-12th graders focusing on field ecology and native skills. Also in 2007 he ran a native skills program at the Mcquade School for youth-at-risk focusing on survival skill and group unity. In 2007 Michael accepted the position of full time naturalist at the historic Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. He currently lives in Accord, NY with his wife Sophia and son Adom.
Connor Stedman, Instructor – Connor Stedman is a field ecologist and wilderness educator based in the Hudson River Valley. He holds an M.S. from the Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning program at the University of Vermont and is an expert in landscape tracking and forest forensics. Connor has shared the mysteries of the natural world with students of all ages for over a decade across North America.
Zoya Teirstein, Instructor – Zoya was a camper at one of Wild Earth’s first summer camps when she was nine years old. At age 13, she embarked on a year of experiential homeschooling, traveling through the United States in a pop-up camper with her family, and stopping to hike, play, and learn along the way. Since then, Zoya has traveled to Mexico, England, Israel, Italy, and, most recently, Australia to study writing, education, and the natural world. She is currently a student at NYU, majoring in journalism and sustainability. Zoya splits her time between the Hudson Valley and New York City, and her favorite thing in the world is singing in the woods.
Paul Tobin, Instructor – A treasured elder and inspiring teacher, Paul’s approach to life embodies much of what Wild Earth seeks to create. (Paul Tobin would not a write a bio for our website.)
Micah Blumenthal, Board Member – In all aspects of his life, Micah is grounded in community – as co-owner of CIXdesigns, a yoga teacher, a board member of the Center for Creative Education, a helping hand at the Uptown Farmers Market (come say “Hi!” on Saturdays), Community Animator at The Lace Mill, and rocket scientist for the O+ Festival – he is dedicated to creating positive change in his community. Most of all, he is a happy father of two. It is through both CCE and his daughter’s involvement with Wild Earth that he came to love and appreciate the work Wild Earth does. He has seen through his daughter the growth that a child can experience through these kinds of programs.
Mischa Cohn, Board Member – Mischa hails from Colorado where he acquired an appreciation of natural environments during summer hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains. After studying Marketing in college, Mischa lived in San Francisco and then spent a year traveling the planet – including living and teaching English in a small town in S. Korea. That adventure culminated in NYC where Mischa launched a career in digital media strategic partnerships, met his wife and started a family in Brooklyn before moving to New Paltz in 2011. Wild Earth has been an enriching influence for his family and friends, and he looks forward to helping the organization impact diverse communities.
Matt Elkin, Board Member – Known by many families in the New Paltz community as “Mr. Elkin,” Matt is a teacher at Duzine Elementary School. In more than ten years in the district he has worked with first/second grade students, including Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. Also known at Duzine as “The Garden Guy”, Matt co-founded and currently chairs the committee for the first school garden in the New Paltz district called, The Green Classroom. So passionate about helping to shape the world of education, Matt collaborated with two other local teachers to create Inspired Learning Connections (ILC), an education consulting firm. Since childhood, the forest is where Matt feels most at home. Hiking, biking, camping and backpacking have always been favorite pastimes bringing him closer to the natural world. Matt Elkin has lived in Gardiner, NY for 12 years. In that time, he and his wife have had two children each of whom have adored Wild Earth programs since they were old enough to participate.
Joan Ewing and Wilton Duckworth, Board Members – Joan Ewing and Wilton Duckworth are founders of Lost Cat Farm and co-founders of Green Phoenix Permaculture. Prior to moving to Lost Cat Farm, Wilton and Joan, lived for 8 years at Epworth Camp and Retreat Center developing a super-effcient timber-frame passive solar farm house, supporting annual gardens and perennial orchards/food forests, and running educational programming for children and adults. They are certified permaculture teachers and offer all that they can in a spirit of service and reverence for life.
Dina Falconi, Board Member – Dina Falconi is a clinical herbalist with a strong focus on food activism and nutritional healing. For over twenty years, she has been teaching classes about the use of herbs for food, medicine, and pleasure, including wild food foraging and cooking. She produces Falcon Formulations natural body-care products and Earthly Extracts medicinal tinctures. She is a founding member of the Northeast Herbal Association, a chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation and on the board of Slow Food-Hudson Valley. An avid gardener and wildcrafter, Dina is passionate about agricultural ecology and has completed the Permaculture Design Certificate Course. She is author of Earthy Bodies & Heavenly Hair: Natural and Healthy Personal Care for Everybody.
Abby Graf Subak, Board Member – Abby grew up in Western Pennsylvania, a landscape that taught her the value of wilderness and natural beauty, and also gave her an awareness that we humans are not always very good stewards of that beauty. After starting her career with environmental advocacy and activism in California, she expanded to working with a variety of non-profit organizations focused on the environment, education, equality, dialogue, and the arts. She has worked as a grassroots organizer, a program manager, a fundraiser, a recruiter, a grant-writer, and a director. With Wild Earth, she has found a way for her whole family to nurture their connection to nature, to people, and to community. She wants to share that opportunity with others. Abby lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children and spends weekends and summers in Ulster County.
Aja Hudson, Board Member – A lifetime resident of the Hudson Valley, Aja grew up in the beauty of the Shawangunk and Catskill mountains. Inspired by the magic that surrounds us, she began a Landscape design and Installation company that was founded in sustainable and organic practices. After over a decade in the industry she transitioned the company into a worker-owned cooperative that is now known as ‘Earth Designs Cooperative’. Aja currently acts as the Executive Director, President of the EDC Board and Lead Landscape Designer. Earth Designs Cooperative is pioneering a path towards a more equitable workplace that is rich in the culture of community. Our goals include a stewardship of nature as well as promoting social change in our society. Through watching her daughter grow up attending year round Wild Earth programs, Aja came to realize the amazing benefits that these programs offer to the youth that are so immersed in this current day, technological age. Through the grounding that only nature can offer, the heart connection that happens through the programming – filling that primal need of returning to the tribe, Aja believes this is some of the most important work to be done. By investing in our children through programs like Wild Earth we are actually investing in a brighter and more sustainable future.
Doree Lipson, Board Member – Doree is a clinical social worker in New Paltz with a focus on embodied self-growth and spiritual integration with all aged people from late adolescence to elderly adults. Doree grew up in central New York but found her first nature home in the Thousand Islands region as a camper on a beautiful lake surrounded by trees and cliffs. Her nature connection has been a steady guide in her spiritual study within the Soto Zen lineage of Buddhism and her birth religion, Judaism. Doree has served on a number of boards prior to joining the Wild Earth Board of Directors including Great Lakes PeaceJam, People’s Food Co-op of Kalamzoo and Phillies Bridge Farm Project. She can be found hiking on the Shawangunk ridge, gardening or playing with her two young children and husband.
Zena Nason, Board Member – Zena Nason has been many things in her life. Always a seeker, Zena lived in an ashram for 10 years, where she learned how to cook for hundreds of people. She’s been a food business owner, an R.N. serving adults with developmental disabilities, and a union organizer. She ran the kitchen for 5 years, for the Vermont Wilderness School at their Art of Mentoring Program. This is where she made her connection with the nature awareness community which has since, been very dear to her heart. She served for several years on the Board of Directors for SageArts. Zena currently lives in High Falls where she tends sheep, and enjoys spending time with her granddaughter Ayyah.
Rovika Rajkishun, Board Member – Rovika Rajkishun is a fundraising consultant specializing in helping nonprofits identify opportunities and challenges and developing and executing strategies with results that consistently meet, and more often exceed, measurable goals and expectations. Utilizing almost 15 years of experience in fundraising, Rovika’s expertise includes strategies for increasing revenues and diversifying funding streams, individual donor and board stewardship, and maintaining and establishing relationships with foundation and corporate grantors. Rovika has a B.A. in Comparative Religion from Barnard College. She has lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for the last 15 years with her husband. They now have two sons (Noah, 6 and Leo, 3), both Wild Earth participants. Rovika is also on the board of directors of Girls for Gender Equity and volunteers with Atlas: DIY.
Jason Stern, Board Member – Jason Stern is Founder and Publisher at Luminary Media. He launched the flagship magazine Chronogram in 1993, with the aim of nourishing and stimulating the creative and economic well-being of the Hudson Valley. Since then Jason has led the launch of several magazines, web-sites, and participated in the development of a full-service marketing agency, Luminary Media. Jason attended SUNY New Paltz prior to founding Luminary Publishing. In addition, Jason serves on several not-for-profit boards of directors including Wild Earth, Re>Think Local, Institute for Creative Studies, and the Gurdjieff Heritage Society. He is a firm believer in local living economy principles and the power of a small group of dedicated people to make a meaningful difference in the world. Jason is the author of Learning to Be Human (Codhill Press, 2010) and writes regularly for Chronogram magazine and other publications. He teaches meditation and inner work internationally. Jason lives in New Paltz where he was raised, with his wife and business partner/cofounder Amara Projansky, and their two boys (who have been Wild Earth campers for ten years).
Michelle Williams, Board Member – Michelle is a mother, actress and nature lover. As a Wild Earth parent, she has seen first hand the impact on her daughter’s life and she wants to see every child afforded the same opportunity.
Yolanda Wu, Board Member – Yolanda lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and spends summers and weekends in the Hudson Valley. A lifelong violinist, Yolanda recently left the practice of law to teach Suzuki violin. For many years, Yolanda practiced women’s rights law and taught at the NYU School of Law. She is co-founder and Board Chair of A Better Balance: the Work and Family Legal Center. Yolanda grew up in the Boston area, hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and camping with family and friends. She is grateful to Wild Earth for helping her family build a stronger connection to nature and community.