Board of Directors and Staff

Board Members

Rachel Schmitzer

Rachel Schmitzer: President 2023-Current
As a student of Cultural Anthropology and Global Sustainability, Rachel cares deeply about how humans shape their lives, their landscapes, and their futures. Working with TLC allows her a means of exploring these themes, as well as a way to help her community access new avenues of art, education, and cultural experience. Rachel has worked as a seasonal Wilderness and Trails employee with the Paonia Ranger District since 2019. Her work takes her on mule-back deep into the back-country wilds of the West Elk and Raggeds Wildernesses where she works on trail clearing and improvement. She is also a co-owner of Remedios Hemp, a local, organic CBD company dedicated to affordable hemp products for everyone and their pets.

Candice Orlando

Candice Orlando, Vice President 2021-Current
Candice Orlando (she/her) is a farmer, small business owner, filmmaker, mother and wife. Candice has a BA in Environmental Studies which led her to become a farmer and herbal medicine maker. After farming in Denver for 7 years, Candice, her husband and daughter moved to the North Fork Valley in 2016. They are now the stewards of a 5 acre farm in Paonia, CO which traditionally was/is the land of the Ute Indians. Her and her family grow hemp, medicinal herbs, vegetables and fruit on the land that runs along the North Fork of the Gunnison River. In 2018, Rock ‘n Roots Farm was born and now they sell their handcrafted CBD products, teas, salves and dried medicinal herbs. She has also worked on 2 award winning documentaries and is currently working on a documentary called, Still Here. She also sits on the board of Frontline Farming in Denver as the Treasurer which is transforming, decolonizing, tearing down and recreating systems that perpetuate systemic racism and discrimination. Candice loves to creating magic on the farm for kids, taking hikes, cooking delicious vegetarian food and most of all, spending time with her family and friends.

Patrick Liberty

Patrick Liberty, Treasurer 2020-Current
Patrick hails from the mountains of Colorado, and now resides in Paonia, where his family runs a sustainable and biodynamic farm. He has traveled the world over, which has influenced his approach to business and life. To keep him grounded and balanced through it all, Patrick has found time to practice Sheng Zhen, a form of moving and non-moving meditation, every day for the last 12 years. Patrick Liberty is co-founder of Akomplice, an 18-year old clothing brand distributed at boutiques all over the world. Akomplice is known for its sustainable production practices, social and political designs, philanthropic and environmental initiatives, as well as its storied collabs. In 2018 Patrick opened The Linden Health & Wellness Center in Paonia, CO, which hosts leading practitioners who offer a wide variety of healing modalities to the community.

Taya Jae

Taya Jae, Secretary 2022-Current
Taya Jae (she/her) is a documentarian and storyteller whose work is centered on the human experience. Born in the North Fork Valley and raised in small towns all across the US, Taya returned to her birthplace 5 years ago. Taya works as the Production Coordinator at KVNF Mountain Grown Community Radio where she produces weekly public affairs segments, coordinates and communicates with 67 Volunteer DJ’s and ensures that all KVNF content is substantial and high quality. Taya is a Graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Her work with TLC allows her to invest in the long term wellbeing, sustainability and progress of her community and its members.

Asa Hoffman

Asa Hoffman, 2023-Current
As a tenacious child, Asa Hoffman convinced the local pet shop owner to give him a job when he was just nine years old. By the time Asa turned eighteen, he had saved up enough money to buy his first business – igniting his entrepreneurial spirit. Asa also embraced his talents as a spiritual teacher, co-hosting a radio show, and leading educational classes and workshops. When he turned thirty, Asa set his sights on New York City: with only three clients and a hundred business cards, he launched a practice in Manhattan and has been using his extraordinary abilities to guide others as a psychic, medium, and energy healer for over 30 years. Asa’s powerful connection with those who have crossed-over and remarkable understanding of both the seen and unseen worlds helps people transform their lives. In July of 2021 Asa moved to Paonia with his partner, Michael Cooper (Executive Artistic Director of the Paradise Theatre), and their dog, Totem the Dalmatian. Both Michael and Asa are passionate about this community and committed to contributing to a fair, inclusive, and sustainable future for Paonia.

Staff Members

Alicia Michelsen

Alicia Michelsen, Executive Director 2018-current
Alicia (she/her) is the current Director of The Learning Council. She is also a village herbalist in the Wise Woman Tradition. For over 20 years Alicia has been growing medicinal herbs, making plant medicines, and teaching students of all ages how to enjoy the bounty of the green nations. Alicia sits on the board of Viva la Vida, a foundation for developing spiritual agriculture in the traditions of Biodynamic and Trinium methods. She is a Sexual Health Educator and advocate in Delta County, runs the TLC Kitchen, and curates community events and educational opportunities with a focus on Social Justice and Equity. Mother of three boys, Alicia has worked in Waldorf inspired education since 2000 and brought two groups of students through the elementary grades. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and now lives in the North Fork Valley.

Emily Goughary

Emily Goughary, Administrative Team Member
Emily (she/her) has enjoyed living in the North Fork Valley since 2014. With an inspiration to connect more deeply with the community, she joined The Learning Council as an Administrative team member in 2021. Emily acquired a BA in Environmental Studies at Hamilton College, NY focusing on sustainable cultural development, and continued to study these topics in a more village-style hands-on learning environment at Bolad’s Kitchen, New Mexico. She recently spent 3 years working with the Paititi Institute in the Andes mountains of Peru. Emily is currently studying Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and has become a certified Death Doula. She is inspired to bring end-of-life care options and hands-on healing therapies to our community. Emily has a deep love of farming, cooking, playing music, and making moccasins and beaded jewelry.

Rose Costello

Rose Costello, Executive Director of Arts For All
Rose (she/her) has been an admirer of The Learning Council since she moved to Paonia in 2016. She joined the team in 2020, cooking alongside Alicia in TLC Kitchen, deepening her connection to the community through food. In 2021 she became Executive Director of Arts for All, TLC’s youth arts program, where she facilitates memorable creative experiences for Delta county’s youth. Her goals with TLC are to bring more events to the students of NFV, and to provide beautiful meals to the community. Her passions are working with local farmers, inspiring artists to become teachers and dance as therapy.

Aubrie Pohl

Aubrie Pohl
Aubrie is joining us for her second year contributing to the Arbol Market team. She has a wide experience in leadership, communication, and event production. As a small business owner and a new farmer, she recognizes the joy of community togetherness and is excited to be managing the Farmers Market to help the growing connections of our town.