About Caleb

I'm an ecologist, environmental educator, sustainable landscape designer, and a naturalist. I work with to restore native pollinator habitat in and around the farms of Southern Arizona. My goal is to forge connections between people and the natural world.

Leaving to Come Home

It’s been a full year since I moved to Patagonia, Arizona – a full cycle of flowering plants and migrating creatures of all sizes. Over this past year, I’ve become more in touch with the natural cycles and flows than ever before. I tally passing time by what’s in flower and which winged creature is hanging out in my back yard.

Two weeks ago, I left my home in Patagonia for the Seeds of Success training up in Boise, Idaho. I left early in the morning with three other trainees for a two day trek up the Rockies to the Snake River Plain. Along the way we passed through many ecozones: juniper woodlands, high desert plains, salt flats, pine forests, and sagebrush steppe. It was a teaser to be able to drive through these unique ecosystems without having the ability to dedicate the time these areas deserved to explore.

Once arriving in Bosie, I was refreshed to encounter enthusiastic young conservationists, restorationists, ecologists and land managers from all over the west coast. I was lucky enough to connect with naturalists from Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana and discuss the ecosystems we all hailed from.

While in Idaho, I was able to become familiar with the natural world – the native plants and animals that call the Snake River Plain home. I was impressed to find many flora and fauna that were familiar to me, the exact species that I have been working with in Patagonia.

Patagonia rests in a riparian corridor within the Madrean Archipelago – a convergence zone of 5 ecozones. I noticed which species seep down the Rockies from Canada to my home: Aquilegia spp (columbines), Ribes aureum (golden currant), Fallugia paradoxa (apache-plume), Penstemon spp (penstemon), Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), Bouteloua spp (grama grasses), Glandularia spp (verbena), and many others. I feel more connected with my home now that I know the path of many of my neighbors.

The Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

Earlier this week, a group of high school girls dedicated an afternoon of their lives to restoring the ecosystem in Patagonia, Arizona. I was lucky enough to work alongside a few masters of their field – permaculture goddess Kate and rainwater harvesting guru David – as they facilitated the construction of permaculture earthworks.

These girls are spending the week at Windsong Peace and Leadership Center, an educational facility located just outside of Patagonia. They’re learning about many different forms of justice (social, food, environmental, etc) and even spending a few days in Mexico learning about the influence of the border to people living on both sides. The forward-thinking facilitators at Windsong put together a program to involve these kids with the Patagonia community in the hope to inspire these future leaders to get involved with their local communities. My work with the Chicago Botanical Garden’s partner organization, Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative, afforded me the opportunity to be a part of the growth of these girls.

After a quick tour of Deep Dirt Farm Institute and the habitat restoration efforts that are underway there, the seven high schoolers, their two mentors, the five representatives from Windsong and four of us from Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative got to work. Together we built rock structures that will counteract erosion while capturing rainwater. We set in motion the framework for ecosystem reconstruction. The erosion control structures we built will hold on to more water, supporting pollinator-attracting plants which are the base of the food chain. An abundance of these plants will support a stable pollinator population (and food for migrating pollinators) which will in turn bolster our food system through reliable pollination. And a resilient food system will create a resilient ecological community (for both human and non-human beings alike).

Engaging with the youth, about our connection with the ecosystem was so fulfilling to me. The steps our group set in place to restore the ecosystem were paralleled within the group. The kids were presented with the experience of Kate and David, while the youthful energy of the girls nourished us all. I’m excited for the future resilient relationships that will form due to my work with Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative.


An Inspiring Workshop

Last Tuesday, a group of high-powered conservationists, restorationists, farmers and foodies convened in Tumacacori, Arizona to spread the word about ecological farming.

Paul Kaiser owns and runs Singing Frog Farm in Sebastopol, California. He’s surrounded on three sides by conventional farms that from aerial view look more like exposed dirt than verdant fields and vineyards. However, nestled among the expanse of brown dirt is the native oasis that is Singing Frog Farm. Paul decided to put his effort into creating habitat for native pollinators and predators along the margins of his garden. And he introduced his ideas to the lucky few who were attending a workshop hosted at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage.

After the inspiration of learning about Paul’s farm and unique practices, we installed a pollinator hedgerow along the margins of an erosion control structure. We designed this hedgerow to flower when there is little other natural forage for native pollinators during the year – specifically during the winter and dry late spring.

Learning from Paul and installing this hedgerow with a fantastic group of people inspired me to rethink farming and the industrial food system. While this is just the beginning of my internship with CLM, I’m already having my world shaken. I’m excited for the future growth and possibilities that emerge from this experience!