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Star Barn Farm star barn farm

Star Barn Farm

“To be whole again is to know what nourishes our families. It is to measure wealth not by the size of our bank accounts but by the stories we can tell about the places and people in our lives. To be whole again is to be proud to serve one another, to trust and be trusted, and to find the deep satisfactions of life that arise from diverse community.” —PETER FORBES, FROM WHAT IS A WHOLE COMMUNITY

star barn farm   our idea in bird's eye view

We are creating Star Barn Farm as a place of home and healing where young people can come and reconnect — to themselves, community, and the land. Star Barn will be a place where young adults can return over and over again whenever they need time to reflect on their lives, regain a sense of inspiration, and feel loved by a supportive community. It will be a place for people of all ages to come and pause, recharge, remember again what is most important to them and renew their own unique dreams and passions.

We are asking for money to support this vision, specifically in the form of helping us purchase land in Nevada City, California, as a home for Star Barn Farm. We believe this project is a unique opportunity for all of us to invest in a beautiful future not only for our young people but for our world. By supporting young adults in being passionate, resilient, kind, savvy, and whole, we can seed our challenged world with hope and possibility.

By rooting this work on a special piece of land, we can create a powerful fulcrum point for systemic change locally, regionally, and globally.

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Not just a farm or a youth development program, Star Barn will combine common practices in uncommon ways, intersecting a successful youth nonprofit, an organic/biodynamic/permaculture farm, visionary leaders, family life, cottage industry, therapy and counseling, community organizing, land restoration, cross-cultural and diversity work, alternative education, and systems change.

therapy and counseling

cross-cultural and diversity work visionary leaders

systems change

community organizing alternative education

family life cottage industry

successful youth nonprofit

an organic/biodynamic/permaculture farm


nonprofits education systems


We have both worked with youth, communities, education systems, and nonprofits for more than 15 years and this vision is the next full iteration of our life’s work. This is an opportunity for us to bring our communities

proven track record of dynamic youth programming and social justice work to a new level of integration, effectiveness, and creativity.

A Vision   for Star Barn’s Effective Support of Young People and Their Families

We are interested in thriving sustainability that produces tangible results, transforming negative environmental and social impacts from out-of-balance human habits into fodder for great leaps of the imagination, for implementation of leading edge thinking and technologies. Specifically, this means we want to help the diverse, interesting young people we work with find their way in the world. We already do this through providing outdoor trips, licensed therapy, international and local service learning experiences, farm visits, and mentoring. Now we want to combine all of these programs into one place, providing a higher level of interwoven services for youth in the Sierra foothills, Oakland/Bay Area, and beyond. For our young friend who found herself homeless and needing consistent adult support, Star Barn would be a source of day-to-day logistical resourcing and emotional support. For our young friend and her mother in Oakland who were evicted and temporarily could not find housing, Star Barn could provide a temporary respite, a base from

which to regroup and find new work and living accommodations. For our Oakland participant who has witnessed numerous deaths from gun violence and who dreams of opening a safe community center for kids in her neighborhood, Star Barn could be a retreat place in which to design her center, create a business plan, and hone the practical skills she will need to successfully effect the change she envisions. We have seen the joy, nourishment, and resilience that young people can experience through the activities of a land-based life: working with the soil, growing food, raising animals, making artisanal cheeses and products, cooking and preserving food, learning ancient crafts, building with natural materials, and spending time in nature. At Star Barn Farm, these activities nourish young people’s capacities for living in these complex times: agility, curiosity, imagination, problem solving, adaptability, and collaboration. Star Barn is about expanding beyond the technology-nature split to give young people an experience of their own humanity, wildness, and connection to the earth that will form the ground from which they leap into following the things they love, whether that be building apps and beekeeping, or making moccasins and movies.

the star barn land

While this book focuses on one possible site for Star Barn, as an example of one way this vision could unfold, we are open to any and all possibilities for implementing this project. This particular property is 20 acres, 5 minutes from downtown Nevada City, with multiple sources of water, building sites, power and septic, old-growth trees, wooden cabins from the mining days, open areas for farming, and is subdividable. We want Star Barn to be close to town so as to be readily accessible to young people, but we also want to be in a place that feels wild, quiet, and expansive. We see water as perhaps the most important factor in purchasing land in California that will be viable for food production and livability in the long-term. The first time we looked at the land, we found a bird’s nest waiting in our path, like a gift, or invitation, lined with mud and made of grass. In

many following visits, we opened the creaky doors of the old miner’s cabins, imagining them cleaned up and sparkling, housing a simple kitchen, milk room, counseling space, and root cellar. We wandered among the towering cedars, madrones, oaks and sugar pines, wondering what stories they’d be able to tell us from their hundredsome-year lives. These days we continue to walk the Snow Mountain Ditch, one of the open irrigation canals running from the high mountains down into our community, carrying snowmelt to farmers and homes. We think of where that water comes from and where it goes, alongside area streams and rivers. We wonder how we can help care for the water where we are so that those downstream have water that is plentiful, clean, steady, and vibrant. We play in Willow Valley Creek, which runs year-round through the length of the property. We envision a village of whimsical tree houses in the ample woods past the stream. We see the farm sprout before us in the front field and open areas, with hedgerows and habitat for bees and birds, and a welcoming atmosphere for neighbors, community members, our Oakland partners, and visitors from afar. We mentally move things into the large newly-built garage storage barn in preparation for building a simple cob or strawbale house and living on the land someday soon. We ask questions about the existing well, power, and septic on the property. We investigate what it will take to mitigate the contamination from the old gold mine, brainstorming how we can help the land recover and heal.

We ask, “How and what can we give to this land, just as this land will give to the people who get to live here?” We catch a whiff of future chestnuts, gathered from the trees by the cabins, roasting mid-winter in an open fire. We remember the amazing French hand-crafted long wooden farm table that our friend is holding for us in her storage and we see the future dinners with old and new friends gathered ’round. We hatch the idea of bringing this table on a trip from the coast up to the land, holding popup dinners along the way, during which we feast and share our vision with friends and strangers alike. We sit under one of the apple trees and look up and see another nest, twin to the first one, eggs and chicks long gone. We gather blackberries and see a bear meandering through, looking at us quietly then turning simply and trundling on his way. Vultures sweep hugely overhead, but instead of thinking death and carrion, we see a message of seizing ripe opportunity, using what’s here, diving in, recycling life. We bring local teens out to see the place and ask, “Is this crazy? What we’re wanting to do here? What do you think?” and one says, “Yeah it’s crazy. Crazy cool. I think it’s amazing.”

Our now-teenage friend Theo began talking to his mom when he was 3 years old about a beautiful place he remembered from very early on, which he called the Star Barn. We are here on earth for this brief, meaningful life and the Star Barn image can remind us of the mysteries, infinities, and purposes stretching all around us. A barn full of stars, or made of stars, or among the stars can be a home place, a place of belonging and of remembering our gifts, life tasks, and reasons for being.

Training and Internships

The Farm

The Hermitage

The Healing Practices

The Artisan Collective

The Constellation of Star Barn’s Work The following elements are key pieces of our vision for Star Barn. Each is important in its own right but when combined with the other components forms a bright constellation whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The farm and artisan collective help the therapeutic work, the counseling deepens awareness initiated by community conversation and time in nature, the IWOW leadership training takes Star Barn’s work to new levels and spreads it globally through supporting young adults as powerful change-makers.

1 THE FARM • Organic permaculture vegetable garden in collaboration and communication with nature: current goal is homesteading and gift sharing of healthy, high-energy, nutrient-dense foods, rather than market garden or CSA • Nut trees, fruit orchard, berry patch, hedgerows • Animals: ruminants (sheep and goats) for land management, milk, meat, and fiber/textiles; chickens and ducks; eventually horses for equine therapy and non-petroleum transportation • Bees, pollinators, honey, and flowers • Seed saving: working with local seeds and traditional seed practices Who else is involved: other farming partners in Nevada City and Oakland, farming and healing organizations, travelers and other volunteers.


2 THE ARTISAN COLLECTIVE • Studio for art and working with hands: ceramics and sculpting, print-making, drawing, sewing, and traditional crafts such as moccasin-making, basketry, and felting • Woodshop: for crafting furniture, bowls and utensils, and small structures • Natural building, construction projects around the land: cob oven and refrigerator, tree-houses, small wild retreat spaces Who else is involved: local craftspeople and guest instructors, traditional-skill organizations, other programs working with innovative models. We are continuing to see the rise of vocational training programs, especially as traditional liberal arts higher education becomes financially out of reach for many young people. We believe in the excitement and viability of stimulating intellectual interactions and learning. We also believe in the power and therapeutic potential within “real life” skills. While we do not currently have plans to create a vocational school program, we do see how the craft collective could eventually grow into this type of more formalized structure. Your hands have purpose. Eating from a wooden bowl with a spoon you carved, walking all day in felt-lined moccasins you sewed, giving a friend a beautiful clay cup you coil-built or a plate you threw on the wheel, carrying eggs for breakfast from the chicken coop in a small willow basket you wove, drawing a bird or fern: these can bring young people flashes of purpose, self-worth, and the ability to effect change.

THE HEALING PRACTICES • Psychotherapy, as a means for facing old wounds and realizing latent gifts—depth therapy, somatic and body-centered practices, mindfulness, art therapy, EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), attachment-based approaches • Nature-based therapeutic mentoring • Farm-based therapeutic inquiry • Equine therapy: EAGALA approach of working with horses as therapeutic allies for clients • Body-work: massage, nutrition, yoga therapy Who else is involved: other private practice therapists, MFT and LCSW Interns, therapeutic agencies, nutritionists, yoga therapists, body-workers. Healing is promoted by place. Science has noted that the heart, when in the presence of other hearts, entrains itself to the rhythm of those beating around it. We have observed that by creating a space of deep beauty, human connection, and vibrancy, the tendency of the individual is to become like that place. Of course there are the parts of us that resist, but with patience, care, and skill those resistances can be transformed into new energies. Many of the youth we have worked with through the years are trying to heal from trauma. Unresolved trauma continues to play itself out over and over again in the body/mind, often creating an underlying and mostly unconscious state of discomfort. Traumatic experiences cause us to disconnect from our bodies, to flee from these unpleasant states. Our concept of therapeutic practice is one that allows people, through safety and beauty and support, to find their way back to a state of integration in their bodies, minds, and brains, from which they can experience life in a fuller and more integrated way.

4 TRAINING AND INTERNSHIPS • Inner-World Outer-World Leadership Institute (IWOW): A year-long intensive training for adults in their 20’s who are looking for ways to combine personal growth and socialenvironmental leadership. The training will include contemplative practices to sustain the inner capacities of self-care, nourishment, and vision necessary to carry on socio-environmental work in the long term, as well as interpersonal and group facilitation skills necessary for successful collaboration. • Transition Age Youth Internships designed to support 18-25 year olds in developing skills and visions for their future. Offered on a selective basis up to 1-2 youth per year. • World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WOOF): Selectively hosting people who are choosing to travel through exchanging work and learning with organic farmers. • Training Marriage and Family Therapist Interns. MFT Interns in California need to earn 3000 hours of supervised experience before becoming licensed as therapists. There is currently high demand for MFT internships that provide unique, engaging opportunities for upcoming therapists to develop and enhance their skills. Who else is involved: IWOW partner programs and leadership trainings, supporting Foundations funding the IWOW work, numerous guest instructors, visionaries we visit on our change-maker tours, MFT Interns, and other licensed therapists with whom we engage in regular consultation.

5 THE HERMITAGE A quiet, secluded tree house that is open and available for solo retreat, a place to visit for deep renewal time. Imagine receiving healing foods lovingly prepared and left on your doorstep. Counseling sessions and healing protocols designed specifically for you. Art supplies available for your use. Body-work sessions or quiet time in the garden. Good books found in our library. Meaningful conversations. Walks along area streams, woods, and meadows.

“I call Daniela and Rob my second mom and dad, and being with them feels like home away from home. I love being with them because they are kind hearted and they make me feel very safe. I always envisioned them purchasing land so that youth like myself can go there to find peace of mind and gather to talk about life, how to better our future, how to help each other grow as humans and expand so we can become mentally mature, just as Daniela and Rob are in life.” —HERNACI’ONA HENRY

Ways to Invest and Support

star barn farm

There are several avenues through which you can invest and participate in this project: • Donation to Movimiento, tax exempt nonprofit organization. • Contribution toward conservation easement. • Non-residential partial ownership. • Low- or zero-interest private loan, although our goal is to purchase the land outright so as to devote future income and resources to infrastructure development, farm development, and eventually building our own home. • Contribution with perks, such as farm bounty package each year, yearly retreat timeshare option, updates and letters from youth participants. • Possibility of land-partnership in the long term (property is sub-dividable and we have had a surveyor research various subdividing options). • Gift of services or equipment: e.g., legal advice, surveying, engineering, biology/ecology consulting, construction, farm/garden equipment, NID/irrigation setup.

star barn farm

example phase structure

Example breakdown for this particular property (may look slightly different depending on which site we purchase) 1

Phase 1 (years 1–2) For which we are currently fundraising Land Purchase $450,000 Mining remediation $50,000 Bath House $20,000 Farm Improvements (irrigation, fencing, clearing) $50,000 Total Phase 1



Phase 2 (beginning year 2–ongoing) Launch Star Barn, Inc., Business Ventures for Income: Wilderness therapy programs Workshops, retreats, & trainings: for parents, therapists, teachers, and nonprofit managers Supervision services for MFT interns (required for their licensure) Possibility of land subdivision if necessary (30k cost @ surveyor estimate, $150k–$300k income potential)



Phase 3 (years 3–4) Build Permanent Home Phase 4 (years 4–6) Continued Improvements/Retreat Structures (Miners Cabins/Office Space, Tree house, Tent Cabins)



rob and daniela   our story From the time we began working with youth, each of us imagined a piece of land that would house a homestead, a small community of people, and a place where young people could come to learn, play, take part in meaningful work, and re-engage the world with greater confidence and purpose. Now more than ever, we see the need for a place that invites coming together across differences and provides sanctuary. We originally fell in love as we watched each other work with kids, realizing that here we had each found another who approached young people with a belief in their hidden gifts, an authentic interest in what they think and experience, and a willingness to enter into activities that meet young people’s need for risk, initiation, and impassioned living. We view the seeking and existential grappling of adolescence as key gifts for our culture, important reminders for us all about living our lives with fullness, adventure, and presence. As for our credentials, we list some of our professional background information below. But our overall orientation is that curiosity and learning are keys to living an engaged, meaningful life. With our

5-year-old son Alder and 1-year-old son Luca, we continue to delve into the topics that interest us, via workshops and ongoing training in homesteading, permaculture, beekeeping, fermentation and food storage, natural building, trauma recovery, EMDR, mindfulness practices, couples counseling, woodworking, ceramics, traditional/ earth skills, and other various crafts and arts. We completed a 10-month permaculture farm apprenticeship at Bluebird Farm in Nevada City, as well as a cob-building intensive with California Cob. We both have private therapy practices in Nevada City and we run the youth nonprofit Movimiento, working with teens in Oakland, Sacramento, and the Sierra Foothills. Movi's main website is www.movimagine.org and its branch of boys' integrative therapy, Crows Calling, is detailed at www.crowscalling.org. We run adventure trips for adolescents and young adults, in the wilderness, close to home, and internationally. We provide wilderness therapy experiences that can either relieve the need for or provide followup to more intensive wilderness therapy immersion programs. We love shooting bows & arrows, playing instruments, and making things. Rob climbs mountains and Daniela rides horses. We continually try new recipes and love cooking for people. We look forward to keeping farm animals, learning the language of birds on the land, and traveling when possible. We are both former public school teachers.

Rob holds a BA and secondary teaching credential from CalPoly and a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Meridian University. He co-founded and directed San Luis Obispo Sober School, a high school program for students self-identified as struggling with addiction and substance abuse. He helped create Whole Hearts, Minds, and Bodies, a program of Gateway Mountain Center in Truckee, that offers therapeutic mentoring for high risk youth in need of alternative mental health services. He is founder of Crows Calling, the branch of Movimiento that focuses on outdoor adventures and rites of passage offerings for boys and young men. Rob is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is trained in Brainspotting. He speaks and teaches on innovative approaches to working with teens, addiction, and parenting. He is also a woodworker, craftsman, and inspired outdoorsman, incorporating these skills into his mentoring work with young people.

Daniela holds a BA and Masters in Teaching from Brown University and a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Meridian University. She is the founder and director of Movimiento, a nonprofit that has been serving young people for 14 years through cultural exchange, service learning, mentorship, travel, and creative community activities. Daniela helped design and pilot a leadership training for young adults with the Academy for the Love of Learning, and has consulted young activists aiming to start their own organizations and projects. Daniela is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is EMDRIA certified in EMDR. She is owner of Growing Home Counseling, a private counseling and coaching practice specializing in perinatal counseling, as well as working with individual adolescents, adults, couples, and children. She is an artist working with ceramics, print-making, fiber arts, basketry, and traditional skills like hide-tanning and moccasin-making.

Daniela Di Piero & Rob Steffke PO Box 2608 Nevada City, CA 95959 510-388-4106 (Daniela) 805-459-8742 (Rob) danieladipiero@gmail.com robertsteffke@gmail.com

Profile for Daniela Di Piero

Star Barn Farm  

A place of inspiration, connection, and hope for all ages, in particular support of young people who are struggling or looking for direction...

Star Barn Farm  

A place of inspiration, connection, and hope for all ages, in particular support of young people who are struggling or looking for direction...


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