Working at Rancho Mastatal for three weeks was a deep look into democratic space and program. The continued functioning of the small farm and education center entailed many different and constantly changing jobs, such that it would have taken a few people working solely on management to run it. However that was not how Mastatal worked.
Every morning all twenty something of us would gather after the communal breakfast and choose our tasks for the day. This ‘morning meeting’ process happened every day, and though maybe not always the most efficient, allowed the ranch to be run by each and every one of us.
No one was forced to do any task they didn’t want to, and people were encouraged to try a variety of different tasks so that everyone would have the skills necessary to do everything if need be. Trust in each other came not from idealism but knowing that we all shared the necessary skills. There was a core team of interns who were able to assist and lead, but even their jobs constantly changed.
This kind of management is necessary in a place where volunteers come from one week to two months, and interns stay from three to six months. Constantly in flux, the ranch needs to have dynamic leadership to reflect the dynamic working environment. The owners, Tim and Robin are the models of collective leadership, not only letting go completely of any top down management (which is amazing to actually witness functioning full on), but also welcoming a constant stream of new faces into their home.
During my time there I was able to see and work on site development for increased food production, soil management, rainwater management, natural building, food preparation, gardening, animal husbandry and preparation, and communal living, among other projects. It was incredibly full, and I look forward to returning when I get the chance. I had not thought about going back at first, but the richness of the community completely changed my mind.
Ownership is a theme that has come up often during my field study, and I have found it to be a major factor in quality of work. I need to feel connected to the work I am doing, that it is being done for a good cause, and that my work is not perpetuating some problematic element of our society. Feeling comfortable in that allows me to give my all to the project. Mastatal provides this in spades, as it simultaneously seeks a healthier role in the environment while diversifying the management to equitably overcome changes and hardships. If I had stayed for the three-month internship, I could see getting very deep into making the place work better, which is an exciting thought.
All in all, I was blown away by Rancho Mastatal. My expectations were very high after having it recommended by three separate people, but I was not let down. I cannot speak highly enough of this place, and hope to see it grow and flourish in the years to come. Thanks to all the beautiful people whom I shared my time with, I love y’all!