Member Spotlight: Mark Tollefson of Fairview Gardens

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This week in our Member Spotlight, we are heading south to Goleta, CA to meet Mark Tollefson, the Executive Director of Fairview Gardens. Fairview Gardens is a non-profit educational farm 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

Mark originates from Alberta, Canada and comes from many generations of farmers. He is a chef, owned his own restaurant, and has been a survival skills instructor. He is the past Executive Director of another non-profit – Wilderness Youth Project, and has traveled worldwide, including helping open an international high school in New Zealand, and building a sustainable agriculture organization in Belize.

Since the late 1800’s the land in and around Fairview Gardens has been used for agricultural purposes and rests on some of the richest topsoil in California. In 1997, the farm manager, Michael Ableman purchased the farm with a group of local activists, formed a non-profit and placed it in the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Today, the farm runs a robust CSA program, farm stand, hosts classes for adults and children, camps, and tours.

Read on as Mark talks about his views on wilderness, urban communities, and how places like farms can be the pillar of a community.


FarmsReach: Wow, that is a broad background! What inspired you to begin working for Fairview Gardens?

Mark Tollefson: Being a non-profit education farm, Fairview Gardens offered me the perfect foil to be able to blend my talents and passions into one place.

While I was working with youth and adults in wilderness settings, I realized that I could help them effect powerful transformation in a very short time. Then we would get back to our camp or vehicle and they would open a bag of Doritos potato chips.

I realized that not only do we have a huge disconnection between people and nature, we have an even bigger disconnection between people and food.

If we were lost in the wilderness, the first things we would do is find shelter, water, and then fire. These three things would need to be accomplished in the first 3 – 5 days. After that, 80% of our time would be spent gathering food.

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