THE RTB TEAM
Desa Van Laarhoven
Executive Director & Co-Founder
After years of helping to create RTB on a part-time level, Desa followed her bliss and joined RTB full-time on January 1, 2015. Prior to that, she served as the executive director of the Marion Institute, a local non-profit organization, for eight years. Desa’s work at the Marion Institute involved overseeing approximately 20 projects and programs worldwide, all root-cause solutions based, with a focus on sustainability and social justice. It was an incredible experience and she gleaned so many skills, ideas and loved ones along the way.
Desa went to Stonehill College, where she received a BS in Biology, with a minor in Environmental Studies. After college and before her work at the Marion Institute, Desa spent time volunteering for the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC*), where she was awarded The Total Commitment award from the southeast campus, and the California Conservation Corps, where she lived and worked deep in the forest for many months! Desa firmly believes in the work she does, and her passion was recognized in 2009 when she was awarded Massachusetts “SouthCoast Woman of the Year“, alongside the late Senator Edward Kennedy who was awarded “SouthCoast Man of the Year”. She is a 2010 graduate of the Leadership SouthCoast program, whose mission is to engage, educate, and empower diverse individuals to become active community leaders.
When Desa is not tending to her RTB “mother hen duties”, she can be found mothering her curious, flower-loving and insightful 4-year old daughter. Desa feels so blessed that she is able to live and work in such a supportive community, one that brings the phrase “It takes a village” to light on a daily basis, and she wishes everyone could be as fortunate
Shaun Van Laarhoven
Kitchen Director & Executive Chef
Shaun’s list of duties is always growing at the farm. Shaun’s roots in the farming community go back to his earliest days, participating in the 4-H Club and showing his prizewinning sheep at various local fairs. After graduating from Apponequet High School, Shaun began studying Coaching and Athletic Training at Bridgewater State College, but found a calling in the field of social services. Shaun moved to Boston, where he worked for nearly twenty years in the non-profit human service field, focusing on people with various disabilities. Shaun specialized in working with homeless and formerly homeless individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Understanding the restorative powers of a facility like RTB, Shaun started volunteering in 2009. His renaissance skills quickly made him an invaluable member of the RTB team. A superb chef, constantly creating new and unique recipes to incorporate the farm surplus, Shaun crafts delicious and nutritious farm-based meals for the farm team. A natural leader, he is a 2017 graduate of the Leadership SouthCoast program, whose mission is to “engage, educate, and empower diverse individuals to become active community leaders”.
Benoit is happy to rejoin the RTB team after his stint of being the Resident Foodie over the 2012 season. He graduated from Boston College in 2010 with a B.A. in psychology, focusing on neuroscience, psychopharmacology and holistic clinical practice. A passion for the culinary arts, ecological interdependence and a drive to live in the most direct and sustainable way turned his attention deeply to agriculture and is why he joined the RTB team. Since that time, he has traveled near and far exploring roles, skills and issues in reclaiming and restoring agricultural life — spending time living in the Mediterranean, as well as developing livestock and cheesemaking skills in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. He joins RTB again in a capacity to meet the community’s expanding culinary needs and to work towards preserving the bounty of harvest which comes from the land. In addition to his work in the kitchen, Benoit occupies a mutual aid communal work-share through neighboring biodynamic production farm, Brix Bounty. In exchange for his fieldwork at Brix, the RTB community gleans surplus vegetables for preservation, cutting gaps of lost value through crop spoilage and ensuring bountiful nutrition throughout the winter. Benoit also volunteers time at nearby allied farm Eva’s Garden, and is delighted to help bridge relationships across the larger southcoast agricultural community.
Garden/ Field Worker
Maxx was born and raised in New Bedford, MA but didn’t stay long. He attended college in Washington State where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Whitman College. During his collegiate career, he also studied in Wales and Scotland, researching Welsh waterways, and studying German and Russian to complement his fluent Portuguese. He has continued to travel across North America whenever he has spare time. In 2019, with AmeriCorps, Maxx worked as an outreach member in a national nonprofit organization for recovery and treatment of substance use disorders. In 2020, he began running a national, regional outreach team for the organization. He discovered that he loves nonprofit work and wanted to stay in this sector, but closer to home and in less of a national spotlight. Community has always been important to Maxx, and he has volunteered in his various communities for all of his adolescent and adult life. He has always been environmentally conscious and loves being involved in other ways to bring that same level of consciousness to the public. Round the Bend Farm was the obvious choice to bring those aspects together. In his spare time, Maxx is a (published) writer of speculative fiction, an (inactive) thespian, (decently) plays guitar, and (usually) sings.
Manifest Love Farmer & Distribution Coordinator
Born and raised in Brunswick, ME, Maddie grew up in a family that appreciates good food, nature, and organic farming and gardening practices. These values were cemented during the fall of her junior year of high school when she attended a place-based learning school in Midcoast Maine. For a semester, she lived, farmed, and studied with 40 other students, an experience which showed her the power and beauty of community living.
Maddie attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, where she pursued a major in Italian Studies and a certificate in Food Studies. Through this coursework, she grew passionate about food security and food system reform. She also spent a year abroad studying in Bologna, Italy, where she conducted research on the agritourism industry. Post-graduation she traveled and worked as a bike tour guide, but quickly realized that she wanted to start a career in the food and farming realm sooner rather than later. In 2019, she did a farming internship at Tenuta di Spannocchia in Tuscany, Italy and upon her return home, began work at Six River Farm, an organic farm in Bowdoinham, ME.
Maddie is thrilled to be a part of a team and organization that share her interests in regenerative agriculture, food security, community, sustainability and so much more. She is also excited to set roots in the Southcoast MA region, as she has come to this area every summer and it holds a special place in her heart. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, biking, cooking, and being in, on or near the water.
Garden/ Field Worker
Dane Mainella is a grateful member of the gardening team here at Round the Bend. He is also a poet and orchardist from the East Bay of Rhode Island, who writes and farms with living communities in mind. Lately he has been inspired by the ecologies of forest succession, and the ways in which humans interact with these timescales. Dane keeps a small nursery of friendly perennial plants, and enjoys helping people design, establish, and care for food forests.
Michaelah graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a triple degree in Communication Disorders, Psychology, and Spanish. She is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Education at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. After graduating from Umass Amherst in 2020, Michaelah homeschooled two first-graders and then worked in New Bedford Public Schools in Special Education for approximately two years. Most recently, Michaelah has worked as an Outdoor Educator for the Trustees of Reservations. During her spare time, Michaelah loves spending time with family and friends, reading, crafting, going on walks, roller skating, and crocheting.
Resident Builder & Goatbusters Agripreneur
While Tyler’s relationship with RTB extends back to 2010, he settled back at the farm as resident builder in October 2015. A native New Englander, he learned to travel at an early age, spending his junior year of high school in France. A graduate of Georgetown University in 2005, he promptly left the U.S. again for rural Costa Rica, where he first developed his passion and skills in building and woodworking, ultimately spearheading the design and construction of a community library. After many travels across the Americas, Tyler spent three years at a Quaker semester school in California, where he taught Spanish, maintained facilities and further navigated the intricacies of communal living. Back at RTB, he dove right in and became an integral part of creating the new Learning Center. Since then he has headed up maintenance and repairs, and in 2020 he obtained his General Contractor license and now manages the construction of new buildings on the farm. In 2019 Tyler also became an agripreneur when he joined forces with teammate Hannah in creating Goatbusters. He and Hannah were married on the farm in 2022 and are the proud parents of Sebastian
Online Education and Market(ing) Manager
Hannah joined the RTB team as an apprentice in May 2016, in hopes of gaining a varied experience at the farm. Before farm life, Hannah graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in filmmaking from Montclair State University in 2010. She left the city life in New Jersey, where she was working as a producer in a marketing P/R company, to find a more fulfilling and rewarding career in farming. She brought her knowledge of marketing to the farm, and has been managing our online education on Facebook, what about adding creating videos and all of the promos you do as well as our website. After working with Geoff and his livestock business for 2 years, Hannah fell in love with caring for goats and decided to create an agribusiness with her partner Tyler. “Goatbusters” uses their herd of goats to manage land in a sustainable way. Hannah & Tyler also milk the goats and make delicious cheeses. Hannah also finds passion in working with people, managing our meat CSA program in addition to our Open Farm Days.
Manifest Love Farmer
Growing up in Northern New Jersey, Leah has always had a passion for outdoor adventure and went out of her way to connect with nature whenever possible. She left the suburbs of New York City and completed her B.A. in Communications with a minor in Organizational and Community Leadership at the University of Delaware in 2021. Upon graduating, she moved to Colorado to climb mountains, explore some wide-open spaces, and work as an art teacher. Leah spent some time after this working as an outdoor educator on Cape Cod, with the lodge system of the Appalachian Mountain Club in the White Mountains, and at a local organic farm in New Jersey. Right before joining RTB, she also traveled to Peru to teach English. Each opportunity since then has brought her closer to her love for regenerative agriculture and desire to build a closer relationship with her food. Leah is so excited to grow her passion for sustainable living, delve into food system reform, and be a part of an inclusive community. In her free time, she loves to cook, play ukulele, practice yoga, hike, paint, and read.
Office Administrator & Human Resources
Heather feels privileged to be a part of the RTB team. For the past eleven years, Heather has been a full-time mom and, with her husband, has immersed herself and her children in a lifestyle that fosters awareness and social and ecological responsibility. In the seemingly rare moments in between feeding the kids (and goats, chickens, dogs and cat that live on their little homestead), Heather is likely be found out for a run, or on a yoga mat, where she finds rejuvenation.
In her life before kids and animals, Heather graduated from Simmons College with a B.S. in Health Studies. She worked for several years for the WIC program, counseling new mothers on the importance of proper nutrition and the benefits of breastfeeding, and later became a certified lactation counselor. Heather eventually found her way to the Buzzards Bay Coalition (first as a volunteer, and later as an employee), an organization that speaks to her concerns about the health of the environment. It was there that she cut her teeth in the non-profit administrative world. And while the birth of her children brought her away from this professional niche for some time, Heather is glad to have once again found a home in an organization that she believes in, one that speaks to so many of her principles and interests.
Peter grew up exploring the woods and waterways of southeastern Massachusetts and feels inextricably connected to this region. He completed his undergraduate studies at Bridgewater State College and taught in the Mashpee Public School System for a few years before embarking on a Master’s program in Ecological Teaching and Learning at Lesley University, which catalyzed his commitment to place-based learning and living.
After twelve rewarding years teaching at Friends Academy in North Dartmouth, Peter, his wife and their two children sought new challenges and adventures. They traveled, started homeschooling, and doubled down on applying principles of permaculture to their landscape – where they raise chickens, goats, a dog and a cat (and soon bees!); grow a variety of annual and perennial fruits, vegetables and herbs; and make their own ferments, teas, tinctures and salves.
Aware of and interested in RTB since its inception, Peter followed the evolution of the farm over the years and started working here part-time in 2021. When he’s not working with school groups or on farm programming as RTB’s Education Manager, he can be found assisting Tyler with construction projects, processing firewood, or just spending time at the barn with the goats and guardian dogs. He has enjoyed the balance of physical and intellectual work and loves being able to spend so much time outdoors on this amazing landscape. RTB brings many of Peter’s passions and interests together and does so within the context of a thoughtful community that he is grateful to be part of.
Restorative Deconstruction & Farming Specialist
A member of the extended team since 2019, Josh began his journey deconstructing and reclaiming an old dairy barn and farmhouse on RTB East. For Josh, joining the RTB team aligned with his calling to work with natural systems and communities toward regenerating relationships with ourselves, each other, and the world around. A Dartmouth native, Josh’s experiences across the US and abroad shifted his consciousness toward the significance of community living, holistic health, and ecology. With an insatiable desire to learn and immerse himself into growth opportunities, he has experience as an emergency medical technician, a holistic health coach, permaculturist, and entrepreneur. Josh’s work towards the RTB mission continues to make use of his varied skills and diversify as the development of regenerating place continues. When he’s not spearfishing, honing wilderness skills, surfing, volunteering, building with driftwood, or adventuring with his son Bodhi, you’ll find Josh at RTB. There you’ll find him repurposing structures, growing nourishing veggies for “Project Manifest Love”, planting, designing, and developing a diversified orchard, rotating chickens around the pasture, planting berries at twilight, and inoculating logs for mushrooms! In Josh’s words, “life is to be enjoyed while the pursuit and actualization of regeneration continues!”
Herbal Teas Agripreneur
Nilsa came to RTB in 2015 as a work-share volunteer assisting Ashley Brister with produce farming. Nilsa completed the Sustainable Agriculture program at Bristol Community College and was looking for hands-on experience. A lifelong artist and gardener, she brings experience from a diversified career that includes perennial garden designer and gardener, art entrepreneur, gallery owner and arts administrator. For 9 years, she served as executive director of Gallery X, a non-profit arts cooperative in New Bedford, MA. Prior to that, she was the coordinator of an after-school city beautification program through the YMCA in Fall River, responsible for painting murals and planting gardens with teens and preteens throughout the city. Currently, she serves on the board of Helfand Farm Community Gardens. Nilsa joins the RTB team with plans to revive the farm’s herb and perennial garden using permaculture principles. She continues to make and show her art, and has recently been making hand-built stoneware fermenting crocks.
Co-Founder & Agripreneur
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Geoff entered AmeriCorps NCCC where he felt an awakening to the interconnectedness of life. Having already developed his skill as a stoneworker, Geoff became interested in farming and its ability to reconnect communities and became a volunteer at RTB in 2008. Under the mentorship of former RTB farmer, Antone Vieira, Geoff quickly learned the necessary skills to farm the land. An entrepreneur at heart he created many small agribusiness along the way include a vegetable production business and a livestock business. Geoff has created an LLC called Paradox Acres where he owns grass-fed cows and pasture-raised pigs which are strategically used to maintain and improve the land by maintaining pasture, eating grubs, and providing manure – thus increasing the overall health of both the animals and the land. Practicing the techniques of low-impact farming, sustainable living, and whole-systems thinking, Geoff’s leadership and intuitive connection to the land and his animals inspires all who come to the farm.
Rachel is one of the Co-Directors of Elements Nature Program. She holds a degree in Early Childhood / Special Education from Rhode Island College. Rachel has a teaching background in both Early Childhood and Elementary Education, as well as six years of childcare experience with children from six months to ten years old. Rachel is also a Certified Lactation Counselor, and worked directly with mothers and infants, with the Fall WIC Program from 2013-2018. She spent several months teaching art to 6-12 year olds with Encompass Community for Independent Learners. Rachel is currently homeschooling her elementary-aged daughter.
Cristy is one of the Co-Directors of Elements Nature Program. She has a Masters degree in Special Education from Endicott College, and an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and English from Bridgewater State College. Cristy has been teaching professionally in various settings with diverse cultural backgrounds for 13 years. She has taught within the Brockton, Freetown/Lakeville and New Bedford school districts. Cristy was lead teacher of a program designed for children ages 10-14 with social/emotional disabilities, ADHD, specific learning disabilities and/or behavioral issues. She has also guided nature lessons at Little Peeps Montessori Naturskola in Little Compton, RI. Cristy is currently homeschooling her elementary-aged daughter and son.
Elizabeth Perry came to RTB as an agripreneur in 2023. She is an Aquinnah Wampanoag artist who has focused both on wampum and on reviving non-toxic Native dyes on yarns and porcupine quills. In her quest to achieve the same quality as the fine old examples of Northeastern art scattered in collections here and in Europe, it became apparent that the species distribution is not the same due to a variety of factors. Tribal Land Stewardship shaped the forests and meadows here for a very long time, and it’s good to see organic farms on the rise especially where care is taken to reintroduce diversity. Elizabeth is planting a few different species of milkweed plants at her RTB plot to specifically support her textile arts practice. The stems provide fine fibers for hand spinning that take natural sustainable dyes well in a slightly different palette than chemical dyes. She enjoys combining milkweed with wampum jewelry, and also uses the milkweed for distinctive soft-fiber twined basketry and sashes.
Joshua started volunteering at Round the Bend Farm in 2021, after earning a B.S. in Biology (with a research focus in comparative immunology) at nearby UMASS Dartmouth and spending several years at Helfand Farm Community Gardens (where he currently serves as a Board of Director). Joshua began as an apprentice to Geoff Kinder of Paradox Acres, learning all aspects of farming including animal husbandry, fencing, land management, compost production, hay making, and vegetable cultivation. He now serves as a herdsman of cattle, pigs, and occasionally goats.In his time at RTB, Joshua has worked with Geoff in implementing intensive rotational cattle grazing systems at both RTB and other local farms. With an eye towards land preservation and conservation Joshua works to raise livestock with the land instead of on it. His primary goal is to keep the land and animals healthy and working together, while producing the healthiest meat possible.
Recently, Joshua became one of our agripreneurs, focusing primarily on raising pigs and keeping a mixed flock of poultry for egg and meat production. In the future, he plans to breed and raise purebred Gloucestershire Old Spots, with an eye towards integrating the pigs into land management as well as compost and food production.
Board Members and Supporters
Ellen and Duncan McFarland
Ellen and Duncan McFarland have ardently supported the acquisition of RTB and our ongoing educational and farming activities. Ellen is a former teacher who cares passionately about education and opportunities for disadvantaged children, the environment, and the protection of animals and their habitat. Duncan serves on a variety of boards such as RARE, Inc., New Profit, Inc. and Panthera. The McFarland’s foundation, the Bromley Charitable Trust, has provided millions of dollars in grants to environmental and educational causes. We are inspired by their belief in us and all they do to provide a better world both now and in the future.
Nancy Dempze works at Hemenway & Barnes, LLP located in Boston, MA. She serves as a professional trustee, executor, estate planner for individuals, families, and non-profits. Her training and experience as an oncology nurse, leadership in land conservation work, and service on non-profit boards has made Nancy more sensitive to the needs and perspectives of her clients. Nancy is active in her Westwood community, and in organizations across the state. She is a Trustee at The Boston Museum of Science, Old Sturbridge Village, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, and past President and current Vice President of the Westwood Land Trust. Nancy’s list of credentials and accomplishments are impressive- it is no wonder why she was named to Best Lawyers in America and as a New England Super Lawyer.
Glenn Oliveira has been an event and community organizer for more than ten years. Using his marketing, programming and project leadership skills, Glenn maximizes efficiencies and impact for organizations looking to create deep change in the community. Glenn is the Education Director and Statewide Education Event Organizer for the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter. He is a graduate of Leadership South Coast and recently married his better half, Lindsay, on the coastal farm he once lived and worked on. Currently, Glenn and his wife live in Boston with their two dogs.
A New Bedford native and lifelong city resident, Bernadette is deeply committed to her community, especially its youth. She is a longtime youth advocate and has significant experience in youth programming by virtue of her long tenure at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater New Bedford. She is the Executive Director for Youth Opportunities Unlimited and has been for the past 13 years.
What motivates her the most about being involved in her community is her love for this beautiful city of New Bedford and the SouthCoast area. There are so many resources available and she feels that it is her job to connect the right families, youth, and people to these unique resources. Growing up, she was very fortunate to have the right mentors and many moms who kept her on that narrow road and now she feels it’s her turn to “pay it forward”. She loves people and helping people. It completes her and gives her a warm feeling in her heart knowing that she has the opportunity daily to make positive changes in this city.
Bernadette is one of Our Sisters’ School’s founding Trustees and has served on their Board of Trustees for eight years. She is now serving on the school’s Advisory Board. She is 2nd Vice Chair of the New Bedford Whaling Museum Board and serves on the Executive Committee and is Co- Chair of the Museum Learning Committee. She is a member of the Board of Corporators for BayCoast Bank, a Board Member for One SouthCoast Chamber, and a member of the Greater NB Youth Alliance. She is a Celebrant and Greeter at Dignity Memorial/Waring Sullivan Funeral homes. Bernadette attended Rhode Island College and attended Assumption College/ Worcester Diocese, where she received a Certification in Youth Ministries and is a graduate of the Class of 2013 Leadership SouthCoast. With enormous energy and a deep seeded passion for youth development, Bernadette is a powerful asset to this community and its youth and their families.
- Massachusetts Unsung Heroine of 2018 – Senator Montigny
- Graduate of the Class of 2013 Leadership SouthCoast (a rigorous leadership training development program)
- YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts. “Women of Distinction” award
- “Grand Marshall” for Cape Verdean Recognition Parade
- Community Service and Partnership Recognition –UMass Dartmouth
- Martha Briggs Educational Club, Inc. “Women of Vision” award
- NAACP New Bedford Branch “Community Service” award
- University of Massachusetts Dartmouth “Professor Gloria Waite African American” award
- Elks” Distinguished Citizenship” award