Founder, Executive Director, Educator
Lauren is the founder, Executive Director, and is an educator at the Asheville Farmstead School. In the years leading up to founding Asheville Farmstead School, Lauren Brown taught middle school science for a nonprofit boarding school. She was a founding teacher of the middle school program and an integral advocate for the middle school's yearly experiential education trips. Prior to her work at the boarding school, Lauren was involved in a two-year Master of Education program through the University of Washington and a non-profit organization called, IslandWood.
Year one of her Master degree program was held at IslandWood, where Lauren taught environmental education to third and fourth grade students from the greater Seattle area. While teaching, Lauren was also taking graduate courses that ranged from classroom management, to nonprofit management, and child psychology to educational philosophy. Upon completion of the first year of the Islandwood program Lauren received a certificate in Environment, Education, and Community (2011). Before her second year of graduate school, Lauren was a lead instructor for IslandWood’s summer camp program, where she led groups of campers ages 3-14 in a wide range of nature-based activities. During the second year of the graduate program, Lauren completed her Master in Science Education from the University of Washington, while concurrently working for Homewaters, a non-profit program that brings outdoor science investigation activities to elementary schools in the Seattle area.
Lauren is gifted at speaking with kids in a language that they understand, with clear, direct instruction, and boundless joy. She enjoys spontaneous adventures and opportunities to go outside and experience everything nature can offer. Lauren has a passion for travel; she has been to over 17 countries and aims to visit every National Park in the USA.
Lauren is also a passionate advocate of lifelong learning, has maintained a Wilderness First Responder certification through NOLS since 2012. In December 2017 she received a certification in the Cedarsong Way of Forest Kindergarten Teaching, with Erin Kenny and is now a board officer for the nonprofit running the Cedarsong Way. Lauren has been trained in Love and Logic and takes yearly refresher classes. In June 2018 Lauren was presented with the annual Natural Wonder award by the Eastern Region Association of Forest And Nature Schools (ERAFANS) while she was presenting and attending their annual conference. This year Lauren is excited to be helping host a Cedarsong Way Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training at the farmstead in April, working with the American Forest Kindergarten Association (AFKA) to plan and present at their annual conference as well as working with ERAFANS to help teach workshops at their Nature Based Teacher Training.
“Over the past year our son had made significant progress both physically and emotionally thanks to the time he spends at Asheville Farmstead School. The educators are fully invested in the success of each child and are amazing at giving them each the specific attention they need. As a family, we are so happy that this loving school has become part of our lives and would recommend it whole heartedly." - Proud Parent
Tootsie Jablonski was raised on a small farm in Roan Mountain, TN. Growing up, she spent most of her time playing in the woods with her three sisters, where she developed a deep connection with the natural world. She still spends most of her time outdoors; she is a avid hiker, backpacker, climber, snowboarder, and gardener, and is learning to mountain bike and kayak! She believes that time in nature brings out the best in all people, and has spent the last 10 years pursuing her passion of getting people outside. She has worked as a climbing guide in North Carolina, as a natural science teacher and wilderness therapy mentor in Wyoming, and as a hiking guide in Alaska.
Tootsie graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Anthropology with concentrations in Sociology, Archaeology, and Geology. After college, her desire to help those in need led her to join Teach For America, and in 2010 she began teaching lower elementary school in Ruleville, MS. During her first year of teaching, she discovered Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv, and she immediately knew that she had found her calling: to reconnect our children with nature and their natural selves.
In 2013, Tootsie enrolled in the Graduate Program at Teton Science Schools in Kelly, WY, which focused on ecology, place-based education, and instructional strategies. She completed the partner program at the University of Wyoming, and graduated with a Masters of Science in Natural Science Education and Environment and Natural Resources. This program reinforced her conviction that she was meant to be an outdoor educator, and gave her the skills necessary to thrive as a Forest Kindergarten and Nature School teacher. In 2018, she travelled to Vashon Island, WA to train at the Cedarsong Nature School and become a Cedarsong-certified Forest Kindergarten Teacher.
Tootsie joined the Asheville Farmstead School family in April, 2018 and now happily serves as the Lead Educator. In addition to leading the Sprouts and Afternoon Explorers, she has also developed and leads our first academic program, Littlest Learners. Tootsie is committed to using her natural talents and formal education to help students learn through curiosity and exploration and to develop into resilient problem solvers, selfless community members, and strong environmental advocates.
“It is hard to find educators you trust like family to take care of your child. We have found two at Asheville Farmstead School. They balance each other perfectly and they listen (and remember) our parenting preferences as well. Not only did we find an amazing school curriculum but a great second home for our family." - Proud Parent
Frank Andrews was born in Fairfield, California. His favorite activity as a child was to spend time outdoors investigating the plants and animals around his home such as the Blue Oak and the California Newt. This sparked his interest in the study of living things which lead him to study biology in college. Frank received a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Linfield College. His course work covered the fundamental principles of biology with a more detailed study of plants and insects. Frank participated in a research study of the non-native ant genus Tetramorium, in which time he learned about insect anatomy and evolutionary history. His favorite insects are ants, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies. Much of his coursework also focused on the diversity and anatomy of flowering plants.
Frank worked in the butterfly habitat at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. The habitat allowed guests to see butterflies and moths from tropical regions of places such as South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Here Frank learned about the details of lepidopteran (fancy science lingo for moths and butterflies) metamorphosis while caring for developing pupae and adults. More importantly, it is where he discovered the joy of sharing his passion for biology with others and decided to pursue the field of education.
Frank spent four years working at a boarding high school in a rural area of Utah. Frank was a dorm parent where he served as the caretaker and guardian of around 40 students and gained experience helping adolescents with their social/emotional development.
Frank then moved back to California where he spent time training to be a high school biology teacher. He struggled with the inequity and artificial nature of the public high school setting. This lead him to the Farmstead where he could share his love of science and nature in a setting that allows for it to be experienced first-hand. Frank is so excited to be an Educator for the Farmstead in both Sprouts and Littlest Learners!
Sam Grunder grew up in Central New York, close to the Adirondack Mountains. After graduating from college in spring 2019, she found her way to Asheville, ready to call the Blue Ridge Mountains her new home. Sam is an avid hiker and loves being outdoors with nature. She is a certified yoga instructor and regularly guides yoga hikes, striving to cultivate a reverence for nature through the practice.
Sam graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a liberal arts degree in Religious Studies and Environmental Studies. Essentially, her collegiate career was a contemplative study of the human heart and nature, focusing on how place-based connection benefits both people and the environment. During the breaks between academic years, Sam apprenticed on organic farms. The experience of deeply connecting to the land sparked a passion for sustainable agriculture that changed the course of her academic career and ultimately her life path. She spent a summer on a small organic farm in rural Central New York cultivating vegetable fields, learning how to make cheese, hanging with sheep, and roaming hills of wildflowers. The following summer, Sam lived and apprenticed on a flower farm in Vermont where she developed an enthusiasm for floral artistry. She now has a small flower crown business and hopes to keep growing in the future.
In October 2019, Sam joined the Asheville Farmstead School team as Garden Educator, thrilled to share her spirited love for nature with the Sprouts and Little Learners.
Enka-Candler Tailgate Market Manager
Heather Fleming has had a passion for the environment since a young age and finds herself blessed for this to have manifested into a career she loves. Heather grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA with a family that camped and visited parks often, though would say her treehugging ways were not part of her upbringing. While taking a short break from college, she volunteered with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, with many projects focusing on conservation trail work and environmental education – she had found her “thing”. Once the year of service was up, she went back to school and completed her Bachelors of Science at the University of Georgia, focusing on outdoor recreation, natural resource management, and geography. She continued onto her Masters degree at UGA, focusing on environmental education and conservation ecology. While completing her degrees, she worked in the Education Department of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, teaching, writing curricula, and training educators on how to get their students outside in nature. She later worked at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, also teaching, writing programs, and coordinating summer camps and special events.
From college through this point, Heather added a husband and two children to the mix that also share a love of nature and spending as much time exploring the outdoors as possible. A big move for Heather’s family took them to a tiny desert town in New Mexico. Though a completely different environment, Heather found her niche and was able to teach an after-school Earth Club and Garden program, along with being the Market Manager for their local Farmers Market in the community.
Heather is excited to have fulfilled a long-time dream to combine all her loves of the outdoors, conservation, ecology, gardening, farmsteading, local food justice, and children into one. Heather’s family moved back to the southeast in late 2018 and finds herself so happy to be a part of the forest school movement here in North Carolina. Fostering a constant sense of wonder, inquiry, support, and love in the environment is Heather’s outlook for her work together with the other teachers at Asheville Farmstead School.
The Farm Dog
Nugget is a three year old Australian Cattle Dog (Red Healer), mix and he is part of our everyday learning! The children love Nugget, and Nugget lives for the children and the Farmstead. He is kept current on all of his immunizations with the Pet Vet on Patton Avenue. According to the Westminster Kennel Club, "Their intelligence and ability to "problem-solve" guarantee the Australian Cattle Dog excel in herding, obedience, agility or as a vital family member.
Nugget is also Lauren's registered Emotional Support Animal (ESA), through the National Service Animal Registry(NSAR) (ID:D444500). An ESA provides companionship and comfort to a person to help minimize the impacts of emotional hardships. NSAR requires the dog to be able to pass the Public Access Test, which confirms the dog can; walk beside its handler on a leash without straining against the leash, sit on command, come when called, lie down on command, and show no aggression toward humans or other animals when unprovoked.
His favorite activities around the Farmstead include; greeting his friends, chasing his frisbee, joining his friends on forest adventure, being there for his friends when they are sad or get hurt. When he is not working at the Farmstead, Nugget enjoys truck rides, sleeping in sunny spots, and 'pre washing' pots and pans for his mom!