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Sustainable Living Internships


Now accepting applications for 2014 internships




Internship time frame: Early April - Mid November


*Rural and Urban Food Production Internships * - Soil building, biodynamic crop planning, permaculture principals and structures, water systems and management, succession plantings, high-altitude garden crop varieties, sourcing and saving open pollinated organic seeds, solutions to different scales of production; backyard/city lot to large acreage, tiered marketing strategies and development of local food systems (including CSA development.) Learning will focus on biodynamic and organic techniques, the basics of nutrient cycling, growing, cultivating, harvesting, and marketing food for rural and urban applications.

* Livestock, Dairy, and Management Intensive Grazing(MIG) Internship * – working larger tracks of land for the production of meat, milk, eggs and animal fiber is a critical link in sustainable food production and nutrient cycling systems. This internship opportunity focuses on our high mountain pasturelands and Management Intensive Grazing methods that build healthy pasture, the foundation of healthy food for our animals and us. Interns will learn the beneficial relationships of the soil microbes, fungi, major decomposers, and healthy pasture ecologies have with the cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry in the system. Hands-on learning includes rotational paddock development and operation;  irrigation; soil and grass testing; forage development; livestock care; care and feeding and milking of our small Guernesy dairy herd; meat processing; product development and marketing.


*Sustainable Settings Farm To Fork - A Whole Systems Farm to
Table Culinary Stage* /Internship*

For years now at Sustainable Settings we have understood the connection between soil health and our health. That knowing how to prepare food is part of a whole systems perspective, it is an essential skill and a necessary part of sustainability. Because of this we offer an internship specifically for a culinary student: A Whole Systems Farm to Table Culinary Stage*.

As a Culinary Intern you will understand the roots of where your food comes from. Explore the flavors that can only come from freshly harvested, seasonally ripe, nutrient-dense produce. Create rustic farm and ranch cuisine under seasoned mentors in organic farming and ranching and with chefs from the finest restaurants in the Aspen area.

This six month-long internship, on our 244-acre working ranch and Whole Systems Learning Center, runs from May through Mid-October. Interns will work on all aspects of beyond organic food production and sustainable animal husbandry. Including building soil, selecting and sowing seed, nurturing crops and timely harvesting in order to glean the maximum potential from the fields and bring them to the table through sustainable culinary practice. Learn the realities of raising healthy animals for meat, milk, and eggs. Design and create daily staff meals and private dinners that unify the field, the kitchen, and the table. Apply your new found understanding from the field to the table by building menus, orchestrating tastings and workshops, and by collaborating with 4-5 head chefs who gather on the full moon of August to create Sustainable Settings’ Annual Harvest Festival Benefit Dinner for 200 people with ingredients grown and raised within 1,200 feet of our guest’s plates.

We do on-ranch kills, slaughters, and butchering of hogs, lambs, milk fed and pastured veal (baby beef) and poultry. Our 100% grassfed Guernsey cows produce our high in butter fat raw milk dairy products. We raise heritage laying hens for eggs, pasture heritage meat chickens, and grow a full array of heirloom vegetables from micro-greens to root crops for our small CSA, ranch store, and our seasonal booth at the Aspen Farmer’s Market.

Sustainable Settings’ Farm to Table Culinary Stages will also engage in sourcing locally, farm and kitchen tours, food preservation, canning, pickling, curing and smoking meats, sausage making, raw dairy butters, yogurts, kefirs, ice creams, and cheeses, fermenting vegetables, pairing local brews and biodynamic wines, learn traditional Argentine Asado lamb roasting, Mexican goat pit roasting.

How to make it happen

This internship is a debt free opportunity. We do not charge for your learning during you time as an intern. Housing is not provided, though we do have a good network of supports that may be able to offer housing at a subsidized rate.

Interns should plan on spending 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week on the ranch. Weeks that are scheduled with special ranch dinners may require more hours.

If you are interested please contact us via email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call (970)-963-6107

The culinary intern will document their time here with an in-house published cookbook for their final project.



Residential Internships
Sustainable Settings is not purely a farm or ranch.  It is a hybrid - a working ranch and whole systems learning center. We engage all our senses here.  We research, work, think, laugh, discuss, and find solutions leading us to a saner daily life. 

Sustainable Settings fosters intensified learning-working in the various field areas the Whole Systems Learning Center. To accomplish this we have established a limited number of internships, two to four and no more than six people at any one time. Seven month sessions are the normal intended length of internships. The specific duration is negotiated between each intern and the Director. Interns may be offered additional time in the program or an opportunity for more permanent employment upon completion of their internship, at the discretion of the Director and contingent on funding, however this should not be expected.

Sustainable Settings’ internship is a subsidized learning situation. Subsidized in the sense that at this point we do not charge tuition. Interns are temporary staffers who come to Sustainable Settings after completing advanced study (ordinarily they hold a bachelors or graduate level degree, or have equivalent experience in their area of emphasis) and now wish to apply and expand their knowledge and skills. Interns have exceptional reading and writing skills, a strong interest in sustainability and culture issues, a high degree of self-motivation, and a desire to apply themselves to practical problems.

The intern's responsibilities include project-specific hands-on research and demonstration in sustainable agriculture, on-site green building, report writing, general office work, leading site tours, educational offerings and assisting in the development and upkeep of Sustainable Settings’ facilities and grounds. Daily tasks can include such activities as reading, writing, talking to others in related fields of expertise, designing, building, gardening, animal husbandry, working on value-added products, marketing, Web site development, helping with programming and fundraising, mentoring students from area schools, and occasionally helping/volunteering in the greater Roaring Fork Valley community. i.e. making costumes and sets for a local elementary school’s spring musical, volunteering for Carbondale’s Potato Days, and/or designing, building.

It is taken for granted that interns are extraordinarily able. Much of getting along in the world goes beyond this. Hard work is not enough. Personal qualities such as initiative, empathy, adaptability, flexibility, and persuasiveness are also necessary.

Interns joining Sustainable Settings understand that:

  • They are responsible for their own learning. There are no gurus at Sustainable Settings. The Director and permanent staff focuses on managing the overall development of the organization and Whole Systems Learning Center. If interns need help with their progress and/or learning, they are expected to seek assistance from the permanent staff. If the permanent staff do not have the knowledge or time, they will help the interns to find expertise appropriate to their current endeavor.
  • At any time, due to Sustainable Settings’ changing priorities, local politics, regulatory hold ups, or lack of funding, the interns may not be able to pursue exactly the things they came to learn.
  • Although they may be responsible for all or part of the research and development of a particular project, they may not be able to see that project to completion during the internship, and that project may be re-assigned, delayed, or cancelled.
  • Interns do not come to Sustainable Settings to accumulate money. This is at best a subsidized learning experience. For the first seven months interns are unpaid volunteers. During this initial period each intern is responsible for all of his or her living expenses. After seven months interns and the Director meet to determine if another period would be beneficial to both the intern and the organization and set the parameters for that period. Each intern is strongly encouraged to arrive with $3,000-$4,000 in her/his personal bank account for housing, food, and personal expenses.
  • Housing is provided to most interns. We can currently provide one or two housing situations on a first come first serve basis. Limited camping until housing is found is available. Otherwise interns are responsible for obtaining their own housing off-site. Unfortunately, housing and food costs in the Aspen/Carbondale area are expensive and must be paid for by each intern. For example: a one bedroom apartment or room in a shared two-bedroom home can rent for $700 per month.
  • Internships vary in the different areas of the organization. For instance, Sustainable agriculture focused interns may have a different arrangement than green building focused interns. Although there are basic understandings and agreements between all interns and the permanent staff, as in most aspects of life, individual internships are negotiated between the intern and the Director.
  • Scholarships are a possibility to help offset costs of living during the intern period. Interested applicants may contact the Director for more information


Sustainable Settings offers two to six internships per year ranging from seven months to two years in length. Internships are built around the whole systems approaches that guide the dynamic integration of sustainable strategies on the ranch.

Interns, though working predominantly in an area of emphasis (organic farming, green building, renewable energy, sustainable community development, etc.), collaborate and study in all areas of Sustainable Settings during their internship.

To apply for upcoming internships send a resume, a statement of intent, and a list of three references with addresses and phone numbers (Please no letters). We prefer email applications. Email attachments are accepted. Once you have been accepted and arrive at the ranch all interns will be required to sign a release of all claims.

Send to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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 community¾for 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