Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt
Suzanne is a third generation Californian, and a chosen Oregonian. Born in Santa Cruz, she spent her younger years in Idaho’s Sawthooth Mountains and near Yosemite, later moving to Eureka/Arcata and the Pacific Ocean. Open vistas with mountains and forests call to her.
Lanita was born in the Texas High Plains with the vast horizon in all directions, a dark star- filled sky, and a vegetable garden. Her family roots were in German homestead farms in South Texas. Higher education included undergraduate at Texas Woman’s University, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, UCLA Hospitals and Clinics Residency in OB and Gyn, and a house building course in Bath, Maine.
Suzanne and Lanita met in 1979 and in 1984 searched out a place in a rural environment – not too deep in the woods, with a good school for their daughter Brooke. The 445 acres that is the land of Willow-Witt Ranch, and now the home of The Crest, met those needs and more. Suzanne and Lanita learned about forest health and resilience through the Master Forest Manager course at OSU Extension in their first years on the ranch. Since 1985, they have focused on restoring balanced working forests and wetlands, and improving wildlife habitat. They are committed to land conservation, restoration, and regenerative organic agriculture.
Daniel Collay grew up on his parents’ farm outside of Eugene. There he gained an early appreciation for farming and the environment. In high school he enrolled in the Rachel Carson Environmental Science Academy where he learned broad sustainability concepts, practical restoration skills, and became a certified master recycler. He followed his passion for the environment into college, graduating with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and a Minor in Outdoor Adventure Leadership from Southern Oregon University. During his studies, he learned about sustainable development, food systems, and environmental policy. For his Capstone, he designed, created, and implemented a botanical tour showcasing trees on campus. Daniel grew his farming knowledge while interning with the Berggren Demonstration Farm in Springfield Oregon. He also was Trip Leader for the SOU Outdoor Program in college.
After starting in January of 2018 he has found a lot to love here at the ranch. The land seems to offer endless opportunities to support the community, not only with the bounty of food but also with its wealth of knowledge, history, and beauty. He thinks the work here is an excellent way to grow his love of farming, environmental education, and leadership.
In 2010, Christine arrived in southern Oregon through her passion for organic farming and western herbalism. Originally from Arizona with her ancestral roots in China, she developed an enduring affinity for the Pacific Northwest through its unique botanical diversity and the connections she has made with those who share her appreciation for the natural beauty of this region. Over the last ten years, she has assisted in the operations of many local farms and institutions with her organizational expertise. She is honored to offer her administrative skills to Willow-Witt Ranch and The Forest and to play a part in supporting its mission to preserve and regenerate our precious woodlands. Outside of service, Christine is an artist and lifelong learner.
Leonard (Lenny) was born in La Honda, CA and has lived all over California since. His father was a horse trainer and farrier, so he spent his childhood helping on ranches and learning about care-taking animals. Leonard spent the last 12 years in the agricultural industry working at various farms all over California. In 2014, Leonard and his partner Sam moved to Medford, where they continue to live today with their daughter Vera. In 2022, Leonard found Willow-Witt Ranch where he has enjoyed being a part of the team of folks who have the pleasure of working and maintaining this special place.
Jake was born and raised near his family’s farm outside the Twin Cities metro area of Minnesota. His siblings and parents fostered a sense of adventure and an appreciation of the outdoors, leading to several summers working at residential camp and extended backpacking trips across the country. Jake earned a degree in outdoor education and recreation from the University of Minnesota – Duluth on the north shore of Lake Superior and gateway to the northwoods of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He also discovered the sport of ultimate frisbee and would spend two decades playing, coaching, and organizing the sport. Jake has always worked in experiential youth programs, from nature centers to team building and leadership development field trip destinations. He was the first executive director of Minnesota Ultimate, a youth sports-focused non-profit governing the sport in Minnesota. In 2019, Jake sold his urban St. Paul home and has been living and working remotely from his off-grid converted campervan; largely in the mountain west. He is taking the next step in his pursuit of simple living and access to wild and natural places, joining the team at Willow-Witt Ranch with his constant companion and adventure buddy, Cedar.