Village at the Bend began as what was jokingly and lovingly referred to as an "Unintentional Community," a happenstance convergence of like-minded folks joining together in the work of creating a better world through sustainability projects such as biodiesel, local food and eco-industrial enterprise. These folks found common ground and over a period of years they bought up the neighborhood surrounding the 140 acres owned by magnetic, community-minded founders Tami Schwerin and Lyle Estill. Folks have come and gone, but a core group remains. New folks continue to arrive, and while some live in town, they are fully present through deep connected relationship and the shared vision of village making.
Bob & Camille Armantrout
Bob and Camille a.k.a. "The Trouts" enthusiastically support the real heroes of the world, organic farmers, renewable fuel makers and other tireless proponents of the grassroots resilience movement.
They are real authors now that Bob has co-authored "Backyard Biodiesel" with Lyle Estill and Camille co-authored "Two Brauds Abroad" with Stephanie De La Garza. Camille is also featured in "Once Upon An Expat" an anthology of travel stories.
The Trouts met in 1990 and soon recognized each other as soul mates, joined forces, got married, wrote a mission statement and jumped off the corporate treadmill. They have lived in Colorado, Virginia, Belize, China, Guam, Oahu, Maui, Nicaragua, Texas and Ghana.
The more of the world Bob and Camille see, the more fervently they wish for world peace.
Whitney Dane is a dreamer, visionary and culinary alchemist. She's a chef and medicinal herbalist, mother to Jack and twin toddler boys, Hugh and Cosmo with partner Ben Schikowitz. Whitney is manager at Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill.
Arlo Estill is the co-founder of Hempsmith, a pioneer of an ancient fiber. Arlo is a musician, a bright light of the Bend. He's studying sustainable textiles at NCSU, loves to climb, ride bikes, tie dye and sing.
Stuart runs Dimensions Family School programming in our Village. He's taught math, science, tech and Spanish for the Khan Academy, Durham's Northern High, and the Chapel Hill Institute for Cultural & Language Education. He's been a linguistics teaching fellow and educational researcher studying the role of self-motivation in computer science education at Harvard University, where he earned his Master of Education. Visit his website to learn more, stuartjeckel.com.
Njathi Wa Kabui
Kabui is an organic chef, farmer and food activist, and he brings a deep knowledge of history, culture and village-making experience to the table.
Understanding food and politics came naturally to Kabui; he was born in central Kenya to a coffee farmer mother and restaurant owner father. Kabui received a dual Masters in Medical and Urban Anthropology from the University of Memphis and is a proponent of decolonization of minds and lands.
Tami and Lyle bought most of the land at Village at the Bend over 20 years ago, lived here and worked in art, house renovation and sustainable land development. She's now the Executive Director of the community resilience non-profit Abundance NC, an Eco-Industrial Park developer and a partner in Fair Game Beverage Company distillery.
Tami likes to take on new challenges especially if it effects change and especially if people say you can’t do it. Working on a healthier community through local food, renewable energy and local economy are a thrill. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, she's a true southern girl.
Tami likes to socialize, and fund raise and make things fun.
Cathy "Brooksie" edwards
Brooksie has developed an integrated personal change model embodying talk therapies, body therapies, creativity and spiritual practices. She applies it in individual and group therapy, and workshops.
Brooksie is a sound healing practitioner and hands on healer at the Village's Open Heart Healing Center, which she runs with massage therapist, Ben Schikowitz and Alisa Esposito of Sparkroot Farm. Brooksie is training to offer services as a Death Doula through the Village's Green Burial Ground Sanctuary.
Lyle Estill was trained as a writer. He published his first short story in 1981, and has been publishing ever since.
Many think of him as a traveling salesman who accidentally became an environmentalist, stumbled into being an activist, and went on to become what some refer to as a “social entrepreneur.”
He has founded companies, grown enterprises, and has traveled successfully through the business world for several decades.
Although he has written epistles, treatises, poetry, fiction, and essays he is best known as the publisher of Energy Blog, and for his newspaper columns, and books.
He is author of Small is Possible; Life in a Local Economy (2008), Biodiesel Power; the Passion, People, and Politics of the Next Renewable Fuel (2005), Industrial Evolution; Local Solutions for a Low Carbon Future (2011), and Small Stories, Big Changes; Agents of Change on the Frontlines of Sustainability (2013). His most recent work is Backyard Biodiesel (2015) co-authored by Bob Armantrout.
Hope & Luke Mcmullen
Hope is a landscape designer, herbalist and florist. Luke is a permaculture designer who offers home systems installations and maintenance. Luke and Hope are homeschooling parents to their three children. Together they operate Branches Ecological Landscapes, offering consultation, design, installation and coaching. A landscape that is designed as a well functioning ecosystem promotes diversity, vibrancy, and a multitude of yields.
Their business is tied into their life directive of health and education for family, community, and planet. They strive to follow an ethic of thoughtfulness and compassion in all that they do from designing and building gardens to raising their three children.
Luke is a partner in Sparkroot's Permaculture programming and farm design.
From a young age, Jay knew he wanted to work with the land in a sustaining way. With the discovery of permaculture, this dream became a reality.
On January 2014, he loaded up his vehicle and hit the road to volunteer with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Over the course of six months he spent time on four farms in the Southeast and completed a Permaculture Design Course.
He returned home to coastal South Carolina and began homesteading on his family's land, raising chickens and growing annual vegetables, producing 90% of the family's food.
Jay is now Farm Manager at Sparkroot, co-designing a large scale successional permaculture system involving livestock & cover crop rotation, soil building, permanent beds, and annual and perennial production. As a teacher he provides learning opportunities through Dimensions Family School and Sparkroot programming.
If I had to sum up the universal goal it would be “thrilled to be alive”. I am thrilled to be alive. It took years to cultivate. Ultimately, though I love my work, I attend mainly to what I am rather than what I do. I am what you are. I am a non-physical awareness taking form for reasons unknown. I speculate the reason is to know myself as "THAT" the undefinable singularity.
For me, it all boils down to just two things. By day, I am uplifted by being in simple service to the people around me, essentially dedicating myself to improvements in their physical surroundings. Their joy has become my joy. My goal is to continually recognize everyone and everything as the divine at play. Re-cognizing life in this way brings me daily joy.
I am very happy to have fallen in love with my village and villagers and look forward to a life of living authentically together.
Janice and Joe Kenlan live and work at the Bend. Janice is an incredible tile and mosaic artist. You can find much of her work in the dwellings around the Bend. A self-taught artist, she's creative in fiber, wood, stained glass, metal and cement sculpture, hand made paper, beads and mosaic.
Janice is a landscape designer and gardener, her home is surrounded by floral beauty and the necessities of her art.
Janice is a contributor to the work at Sparkroot, where she delves in to story, myth and poetry.
Ben is kick ass massage therapist, visionary artist, drummer and father. He lives in the Big House across from the Orchard with his partner Whitney, three sons and little dog Snarlz.
He worked and lived at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY for 10 years where he completed a 4 year apprenticeship in Bodytuning with master bodyworker and yoga teacher, Glenn Black.
Ben studied art with various visionary artists while at Omega, including Alex Grey and Robert Venosa. His other interests include playing the drumset and the vibraphone, gardening, and capoeira.
Joe and Janice Rieves live and work at the Bend. You can find much of Joe's incredible stonemasonry at the dwellings and gates here. Joe is a long time member of our community. He's the stonemason's Stonemason, a skilled master craftsman.
Alisa is the Director of Sparkroot Farm, the Bend's Village Making School, Permaculture and Green Burial Services Center. She lives in the Sparkroot Farmhouse which she shares with her children and the many interns and wwoofers who join in. She grew up deep in Chicagoland consumer culture, and from 1999 she lived “on the literal edge of nowhere” in a distant swamp, supporting her late husband's work on endangered Red Wolf recovery. Her husband, Chris Lucash, co-founder of Sparkroot, died of the industrial disease ALS in 2016 at the Bend, surrounded by the Village that would come to raise his children. His life and death are the tree that Sparkroot gathers around.
Her work history includes art projects, wildlife rehabilitation, endangered species restoration, environmental education, bird-of-prey falconry training, and a couple of years in a Park Service Ranger uniform. Alisa co-founded a migratory bird protection non-profit and has won conservation awards this work. She's "Creative Force" at Abundance NC, a Death Doula in training, a soap and cheese maker, and a dedicated scholar of Stephen Jenkinson's Orphan Wisdom School.
Alisa insists on approaching both personal and societal problems by getting to the deep root of the ache. She operates Sparkroot as a Village Making and Permaculture school, which she understands to be the two real human pathways out of the troubled times were in.
After growing up in the suburbs of Massachusetts, the need to leave the nest became clear. I moved to the city with friends, only to uncover the harsh realities of the world we currently live in. A friendly neighbor shared her plans to WWOOF overseas, and taking everything into account, the choice to come to Sparkroot (rather than accumulate stress and debt) seemed unquestionable. If there is anything to be done about what is going on right now, any sign or semblance of progression towards a reconnection with who and what we truly are, this is it.
As a child I was really close to nature, it made a lot of sense to me and felt like home. As I grew up I strayed away from that connection, until recently when a powerful experience reminded me of that strong connection once again. That experience changed the trajectory of my life. I started looking for answers through intuition and the wisdom of nature. I became interested in healing in all its forms and was shown the possibilities that could be accomplished if we worked with nature rather than against it. I am at Sparkroot because this is where that journey led me, this is a perfect place to listen to and act on the guidance received from the natural world. I am interested in learning about sustainability, organic farming and the medicinal properties of plants along with anything related to healing the planet and the people on it.
Eden River Lucash is a permaculture princess who love her dogs, her community, going to summer camps, singing, cooking with Camille and playing ukulele.
Noah Lucash is 11 years old. He enjoys roaming the woods and lanes with his friends, building forts, going to summer camps, sculpting with clay, drawing and playing with his dogs.
Amie Lucash is 15 years old. She likes to draw, play ukulele and guitar. She's homeschooling at Dimensions, enjoys summer camps and spending time with her friends.
GIOVANNA VAN METER
Giovanna found her way here from Detroit, spent a few months wwoofing at Sparkroot and now works as a work-trade volunteer for the Bend.