Some Intern Reflections: 
“What has been most exciting for me at Sustainable Settings is the integration of different elements, and the combination of ideas and tangible production in terms of food, energy, shelter, and education.  Being here has given me an opportunity to be a part of the struggles and successes of an organization grappling daily with some extremely difficult environmental questions.  Without all the answers, and without denying the realities of growing planetary destabilization, I’m thankful that here we find a way to laugh as we work on solutions.”
—Retta Bruegger, Snowmass, CO. Intern Reflection Nov 2007. Retta conducted a Pasture Baseline Study in preparation for Sustainable Settings’ conversion to management intensive rotational grazing.
I am certain that much of my current sense of viable solutions and hope for a sustainable future have come from my time at Sustainable Settings. I will never forget when we worked with 60 middle school students from Denver. We confronted those bright young minds with the truth about the current trajectory of our society’s choices. Next we gave them access to the people who have made and are making a difference. Then we provided a venue so they could tackle the problems themselves through creative expression and discourse. By week’s end those young people went home alert, hopeful, and empowered with practical solutions. At Sustainable Settings I had an opportunity of living out real convictions on level that makes a difference, is winsome, and most of all loving—what constitutes true sustainability.
—Brian Van Stratum 2010 intern reflection

Over the past 7 months at Sustainable Settings I learned how to build healthy soil, grow organic food, raise livestock, kill and butcher an animal with humility and respect, can and preserve food, market our produce, drive a tractor, use power tools, and even write a grant. But the most important thing you taught me was how to truly find the beauty and humor in everything and in every act. You helped me find a sense of independence and self-reliance. You helped me discover what I am truly capable of. There were days at Sustainable Settings where we felt completely immortal. And days where the weight of the world felt heavy enough to demand that I kneel down and cry.But there was a predominant understanding of the brevity of life and a call to arms to embrace its beauty in everything we do and to act. Thank you for teaching me to think systemically.Thank you for showing me how to live, how to love, the importance of community for our selves and for improving the world, and ultimately for teaching me the real meaning and source of wealth.
Lucy Emerson-Bell, Intern 2009

“At Sustainable Settings I had the opportunity a young grower dreams of but rarely realizes. I was given a charge, to run the market garden and manage our Aspen Farmer’s Market booth for the 2008 season.  I had no experience with the initial stages of a garden. You gave me the garden books and guidance when I needed it but let me find my way.  I was able to plant, nurture, and take to market a bounty of the finest and freshest vegetables to feed our Valley community.  I inherited unbelievably fertile organic soil in an ideal and beautiful place and I was allowed to become part of the Sustainable Settings’ community. The learning happened all during the day, in the field and at the table.  I’ll always remember working hard together and gathering for those long lunches. We ate from the ranch’s bounty. Then lingered at the table for intense discussions on the state of the world and what practical solutions might lead to positive change. Sustainable Settings is special because of this and because of the unique individuals that are drawn to it.  I’ve never worked and learned with more intelligent and inspiring people.  I am inspired and motivated to keep learning and feel confident that one day I could have my own land to grow on and teach others. Thank you for this amazing opportunity to learn on Sustainable Setting’s soil.”
-Debbie Krigel, 2007 Intern who became our 2008 Market Garden Manager

The name Sustainable Settings held an instant attraction for me, when I looked at the web site I was overwhelmed with the connections between my interests and this place. Although the rock stairs and retaining wall were my main projects for the internship, I am grateful that I received a much more holistic experience at Sustainable Settings.  During the first week I was given a stack of books to begin my reading.  The whole internship I have enjoyed access to large collection of wonderful books coming from the library.  Although I read very few from cover to cover, I was able to dip into many volumes expanding my appreciation for the depth and breath of the issues that will steer us to a sustainable future. Living at the ranch has provided me with an excellent experience in sharing space with others as well.  By remaining observant of my own thoughts and feelings I became aware of places where I needed to give and grow.

Taking care of the animals, feeding, and nurturing and then harvesting/ killing and processing them for meat was a remarkable experience for me.  There is something so rewarding about caring for other lives and knowing my own food.  Experiencing the whole cycle from hatch or birth to slaughter and cooking dinner and eating what I knew has left an indelible mark on my being.

Along with working on my green building project and in all the sustainable agricultural systems I helped in numerous other projects in and around Sustainable.  For example:

  • helping with the Annual Harvest Festival,
  • digging and using the irrigation ditches,
  • using local materials to build the terraced garden’s willow trellis,
  • sequentially sowing crops and utilizing cover crops for weed control and building soil tilth,
  • learning how to eliminate waste from our systems and integrating one process or organism’s waste as food for another as in weeding and feeding in the gardens and chicken yard and rotating animals across the ranch to harvest what they do and leave behind to build top soil and healthy pasture ecologies,
  • learning about food preservation by dehydrating harvests and making jam and pickles,
  • designing, building the Fourth of July float, and being in the parade,
  • helping to organize and attend the State of the World Conference,
  • bailing and bringing in the hay,
  • and being available for helping other interns and staff with other projects around the ranch and in the community.

All these things have taught me practical lessons and are examples of daily and seasonal celebrations that have helped tie me closer to community and taught me how to better celebrate life, food, and drink!
I did what I came to do and so much more.  I leave enriched beyond expectations and will carry Sustainable Settings, and the practical lessons learned of applied sustainability and living with an awareness of whole systems, with me forever.  I am thankful that I got such a holistic experience at Sustainable Settings, as opposed to just sticking to a ridged program I had prescribed for myself at the start of my internship.  This is evidence of the thinking and way of life promoted at Sustainable Settings, that of integration and connections.
I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity and to have worked with such inspiring people. Everyday was different and offered opportunities to gain a wealth of experience and knowledge. It has opened my eyes and I know that life everywhere offers these lessons and it is my job to remain aware of this and to harvest the best from where ever I am.  My internship at Sustainable Settings was saturated with learning and happiness. <Thank you!!!!!!!
—Intern Reflection, Nancy Siff