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. Lauren is an active member on the Board of Directors for The Cedarsong Way as well as the American Forest Kindergarten Association. In 2019 Lauren was recognized as Alumni of the year from the preschool she attend and inspires a lot of her work today, The Childrens Garden School.
“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 an 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 12 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, she also developed and now 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!
Rainbow Ridge Garden Manager
Raised in Northeastern Indiana, Michelle Gualandi moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina to attend college. Little did she know 20 years later she’d still call the area home. She and her husband put roots down in Candler, NC a community they love, got some chickens, welcomed an adventurous, sweet little boy to their lives and continue to work towards creating a sustainable lifestyle for their family.
All of her educational background was focused on Fine Art with an emphasis in Art History and Ceramics. While in school, Michelle supported herself through working in the thriving Asheville food and beverage industry. And to ground herself she has been gardening, weeding and starting seeds are two of her favorite activities. Her first garden was a small stone circle at a rental house in East Asheville with her husband and their dogs. That hobby continued to weave its way through her life, moving from a hobby to a way to feed her family and neighbors. When their son was born both Michelle and her husband realized that showing him a sustainable way of life was a top priority. The first garden at their “homestead” was ridiculously large, full of weeds, tomato blight and bugs. But from those failures plans were hatched and successes were had. The great outdoors is where you will find her family, whether working or enjoying together.
Working part time on a small local organic flower farm has given Michelle an even broader understanding of farming on a small production scale. She cannot wait to put that knowledge to work in the gardens of the Farmstead. She joined the Farmstead in late winter 2020 as the Garden Manager for Rainbow Ridge Gardens. She is thrilled to be connecting children to nature and the garden, growing garden goodies to sell at the Enka Candler Tailgate Market and furthering the mission of the Farmstead to help create a sustainable community in WNC.
Enka-Candler Tailgate Market Manager
Heather Fleming grew up in Georgia with a family that loved camping and being outdoors, though would say her treehugging ways were not part of her upbringing. After a year of volunteering with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps in a variety of environmental and education projects, a lifepath was decided. Heather received 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. She persued her career in environmental education and program planning at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center. A big move to a tiny desert town in New Mexico brought a new position as Market Manager of a local Farmers Market, in conjunction with an after-school garden and earth club. Heather fell in love with this new addition in her career path, as it married a love for local agriculture, handmade goods, and environmental education.
Heather and her family (husband, two kids, a dog, and two cats) were excited to move to North Carolina in 2018 to be closer to family and an environment where they felt home. Heather joined the AFS school family as an Educator in the fall of 2018. In the Spring, she also started the Enka-Candler Tailgate Market, as part of her role at AFS. As the Market took off in its first year, a decision to mainly focus on the Enka-Candler Tailgate Market was made. However, working with the children at AFS brings so much joy, that Heather has continued to teach part-time with the Sprouts program. The love of environmental education and the love of community supported agriculture merged, because they really are so connected! As the Market grows, Heather is excited to bring more community members in, as well as having more special events focusing on Wellness, Education, Environmentalism, and the many wonderful earth-based things WNC has to offer.
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. 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, Enka-Candlert Tailgate Market, and the community.
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!