Welcome to Two New Members of the MALT Stewardship Team

November 18, 2021

For the two newest members of the MALT stewardship team, joining MALT means returning home to Marin County.

Both Scott Dunbar, Stewardship Program Manager—Sustainable Agriculture, and Tristan Brenner, Stewardship Associate, have followed their passions on interesting journeys that have led them back to Marin.

Scott Dunbar: Pursuing a Symphony of Food Production

Growing up in Marin, Scott Dunbar always had a love for wildlife and the natural world and appreciation for the beauty of where he grew up. “My parents took me on hikes before I could walk, and I’ve never taken for granted the view of Mt. Tam.” For four summers, he worked as a seasonal park aid at Mt. Tamalpais State Park.

He also has a love for music. A formally trained bass guitar player, he began his college education as a music major. Transferring from the College of Marin to UC Davis, he switched majors to find a harmonic connection between nature and science and earned a BS from UC Davis in sustainable agriculture and food systems, while serving as both a lead student farmer at the UC Davis Student Farm and a member of the UC Davis jazz band. After working in production agriculture and raising livestock, and a stint as a production manager of a cider company, he continued his education with a master’s degree in rangeland ecology and management from Colorado State University.

“I discovered that hands-on agriculture connected my love of music and improvisation with a science component,” he said. “In a jazz band, if the drummer drops a stick, how does the band react? In agriculture, if there’s a drought, how do farmers react?”

In his role at MALT, Scott uses his training in holistic management of livestock and rangeland systems to bring a compassionate, measured approach to West Marin agriculture: always considering the producers, the ecology of the land, and what kinds of projects are feasible.

“It’s important to understand a system at a ground level so we can ask how best to improve sustainability—economic, social, and environmental,” he said. “MALT has been vital in conserving the agricultural land in Marin. Now, MALT is responding and adapting to the changing dynamics of climate change as well as increasing awareness of the need for more equitable and inclusive farming practices. I want my work at MALT to contribute to creating the world we all want to see.”

Tristan Brenner: Working the Job He’s Always Wanted

MALT has been part of Tristan Brenner’s life for as long as he can remember. “My mom was a long-time MALT volunteer, setting up events on weekends, and she often took me with her to the events,” he said.

He’s always been drawn to agriculture and working on the land. He spent many summers as a youth development professional at a farm camp, took a gap year to work  at farms in New Zealand, and did some grant writing for Marin Organic. Through a tip from his mother, Tristan got a job as herd manager at the MALT-protected Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery.

After 3 years at Toluma Farms, he did internships with the Marin Municipal Water District, using geo-referenced aerial photographs to assess grassland conversion, and with the Point Reyes National Seashore, doing plant surveys and range management and monitoring. He attended Prescott College off and on during this time, in 2020 receiving a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with an emphasis on agroecology.

Tristan is currently performing easement monitoring in his role at MALT. “It’s a great way to meet and get to know all the producers on MALT-protected land,” he said. “While I’m interacting with individual ranches and farms, I’m always aware that the whole Marin area is one giant ecosystem in which agricultural habitat is just as valid as the beach dunes, and where it’s important to remember that humans are not separate from nature.”

He’s discovered that most ranchers in Marin want the same thing, which is to learn how to be as good a steward as possible for their lands.

“The ranchers and farmers I interact with work really hard,” Tristan said. “I love my job because I get to live vicariously through them—enjoying the wildflowers, the sweet calves, the baby goats, the rolling hills, the fresh cheese—without having to get up at 3 am every day!”

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