Kate Tirion

Founder & Program Director

"We are part of the ecosystem, not apart from it, and once you understand the difference you make decisions from an entirely new perspective."

Kate Tirion grew up on a small farm in West Wales. She attended the Center for AgroEcology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she was certified in Eco-Horticulture. Since 1990, Kate has applied permaculture principles in a diverse array of climate zones and scales throughout the Western hemisphere. She began teaching permaculture in 1994.


Since 2005, Kate has overseen the development of Deep Dirt Farm Institute, a 34-acre teaching center near Patagonia, AZ. What was once a heavily grazed, eroded grassland is now a productive, resilient eco-system that inspires students and volunteers from throughout the world through workshops and internships that support regional habitat development and restoration.


Today, Kate Tirion is a renowned permaculturist with over 25 years of experience in permaculture design and teaching. Read Kate Tirion's full bio.


Richard Connolly


"It is my dream to help teach the next generation of blacksmiths; to pass on the skills and respect for this
trade and art to individuals who will carry it forward far into the future."

Richard Connolly, Co-Founder, grew up in southern Arizona and has been a blacksmith for over 40 years. He has trained and worked with several of the best-known blacksmiths in the country.


The work he creates ranges from the practical—such as wagons, carriages, tools, hardware, gates and fixtures—to the artistic and whimsical, as well as items that are a blend of both. He is very passionate about his craft, and wakes up every day excited about what he is going to tackle next.


Richard's focus right now is to build Red Mountain Forge, a school for new blacksmiths, so that he can share his enthusiasm and skills with others.

Anita Budhraja

Executive Director

Anita Budhraja served as executive director until June, 2020. Anita believes that for survival and success in today's world, we need to let go of the attitude of competition and embrace cooperation.


Anita brings over 8 years of experience living and breathing cooperation in intentional communities, where people live together in pursuit of a meaningful common purpose. In her career with volunteer-driven nonprofits, Anita managed a farm to pantry program at Bread for the City that engaged over 1,800 volunteers to grow 17,000 pounds of produce per year for Washington, DC residents. She also led 1,000 volunteers in dryland reforestation at Sadhana Forest in southern India.

Anita is trained in Permaculture Design, Organizational Development, Nonviolent Communication, Conflict Resolution Skills, and Rethinking Anti-Racism. She lives in the Tucson/Patagonia, AZ area. 

Mackenzie Martin

Permaculture in Action Intern

Mackenzie Martin joined us as an Intern in April 2019 and stayed for three months. She then returned to Canada to finalize her visa and was with Deep Dirt until March 2020, when she had to return home early due to coronavirus restrictions.


Mackenzie has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Linguistics from the University of Victoria, British-Columbia. Her passion for sustainable food systems, food security, and eating good food drove her to seek an opportunity to learn alongside Kate Tirion. She learned everything from permaculture techniques and facilitation skills, to marketing and fundraising.


During her internship, Mackenzie also began an informal partnership with the local Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center.

Board of Directors

​Kate runs a successful software and training company online, working to break down communication barriers in classrooms and workplaces across North America, by providing accessibility services for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, who have learning disabilities, or who need additional support to achieve their educational goals.  


Kate has educational and professional experience in environmental science and policy, city planning, geographic information systems, and community development. 



Mark is a retired travel industry executive, owning a travel agency for over 28 years. His company specialized in Mexican vacation packages, giving him the opportunity to visit Mexico’s beautiful resort destinations, its fascinating archeological sites and its historic colonial cities. His love of travel has taken him to Nepal’s Himalayas, Peru’s Inca Trail, the Saharan sands of Morocco, the palaces and mosques of Iran, and paradises of the South Seas. In 2009 he joined the United States Peace Corps for 2 years, serving as an ecotourism advisor in the island nation of Cape Verde.


Mark has been a permanent resident of Patagonia since 2016, hosting a world jazz radio show on Patagonia’s community radio station KPUP, singing with the Santa Cruz Singers, and hiking with Lady, his rescue dog and happy companion.



Doni Nicoll was born on the Western Slope of Colorado and raised by ranchers and farmers in the Four Corners area. He moved his family to the Patagonia area in June of 2018 to pursue his dream of being off-grid and self-sustainable. Doni's overall ethics include respecting all forms of hard work from physical labor to community building.


Doni has been successfully running his own Photovoltaic Engineering company, Astraea Design, for over 9 years and has his Associates Degree in Experiential Education and Outdoor Studies. Doni has used his degree and overall ethics to institute education programs and teach everybody—from youth to the youthful at heart—about his passion of renewable energy. Doni’s hands-on approach to education programs and knowledge of electrical systems has him in high demand across the country.


When Doni is not working on a design for a client or volunteering in the community, you may catch him on a local trail going on a picnic with his family, or out at Patagonia Lake cooling off.


Board Member

Cynthia Bower is a long-time member of Women Grow Food who joined the DDI Board as treasurer in January 2019. She grew up on an avocado ranch in southern California and has been passionate about environmental issues since the early 1970s. Her interest in sustainability is at least partly genetic: one of her grandfathers designed, built and began distributing solar water heaters in the Los Angeles area in 1911. One hundred years later, she moved into a passive/active, net-zero solar home she had a large role in designing.


Prominent among Cynthia’s heroes are Margaret Mead and Pete Seeger, who agreed that the problems of the world can be solved by the small deeds  of millions of individuals acting with thoughtful, caring intent.


Cynthia retired early from a career as an academic librarian and curator. She recently completed her water harvesting certification from Watershed Management Group in Tucson. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Stanford University and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of California, Berkeley a long time ago.



Shawngela Pierce, is an author and a meditation, law of attraction, and spiritual life coach. She has a master's degree in the field of education with over 3 years of post-master's education in naturopathic medicine. She has also studied the art of yoga and qigong for over 10 years.


Shawngela has a qigong meditation DVD and her latest book titled, Healing and the Law of Attraction, empowers people to understand their role in the health and healing process. Shawngela offers private and group coaching, retreats, guided meditations and more.  


Board Member 

Advisory Board

[Advisor bio]


[Advisor bio]


[Advisor bio]


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Deep Dirt Institute


Campus Address:

#76 Stevens Canyon Road

Patagonia, AZ




© 2019 Deep Dirt Institute

Deep Dirt Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit # 82-1550846 

Mailing Address (general): P.O. Box 765, Patagonia, AZ 85624

Mailing Address (donations): P.O. Box 121, Patagonia, AZ 85624