About Us

Our Mission

Regenerative Roots tends communities of connection through experiential, nature-based programs and gathering forums that honor reciprocity, weave stories, and cultivate mentoring.

Our Vision

We believe that when we create communities of connection — with self, with one another, and with nature — we prepare the soil for all life to grow and thrive. Dedicated to fostering regenerative practices that seek to restore, renew, or revitalize the individual and the collective, it is our desire to lay the foundation for healthy, harmonic, and thriving communities.

Honoring People and Place

We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to the Kalapuya people, across generations – past, present, and future, who have nurtured and been nurtured by this central Willamette Valley where we hold our programs and gatherings.

In addition, we would like to recognize the grief and wounds that still exist today, as a result of coercive actions and interactions where power has been wielded over indigenous people and their lands. We acknowledge the courageous advocacy and agency of indigenous nations as they seek to uphold reverence for reciprocity, between people and land, between individual and community, between actions and words, and between spiritual forces and singing voices. We hope to honor the connection and knowledge held for their traditional lands and ways of knowing, doing, and being by listening and encouraging the re-storying of our own trusting, nurturing relationships with the earth and its inhabitants.

Our Village Builders

Paul McDermott

Co-founder, Executive Director, Lead Mentor

Paul was born in Seneca Falls, New York, and as a young child, played on the shores of Cayuga Lake on the ancestral lands of the Haudenosaunee Nation.  As he learned of the powerful history of the Haudenosaunee and how the Peacemaker brought unity to divided lands and people, the threads of synchronicity touched a deep longing within him and further inspired him to co-create a connected culture where all ages and stages of life are seen, heard, and valued.

He is a father of two adventurous daughters and an educator/mentor with over 25 years of experience working with children and families in a variety of settings. He has taught elementary school in East Oakland, California, high school English in Machida, Japan, and Spanish literacy in a Colombian jungle. Paul’s interest in nature education was sparked by his involvement with the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and NatureBridge’s Headlands Institute, and further developed into a passion for nature connection through experiences with Wilderness Awareness School and studies with the 8 Shields Institute. Paul has traveled the world, touched the soil of six continents, and immersed himself in unique and wondrous experiences. By following the ropes of connection woven throughout our beautiful natural world, Paul understands that we each have a gift or talent that we can offer to ourselves and to the greater community, and it is through intentional mentoring that all of our gifts can be activated and shine.

Shawna McDermott

Co-founder, Strategy & Development, Executive Board

Shawna grew up with an intuitive reverence and resonance of Being in Right Relation, a knowing that honors her Tohono O’odham (Desert People) ancestors. Now residing within Oregon’s central Willamette Valley, homeland of the Kalapuya, she appreciates the nourishing juxtaposition of rain and forest.

Throughout her life, Shawna has sought to expand her understanding of the integration between art and science, the connection between heart and mind, and the reciprocity between agency and advocacy. For the past 25 years, she has primarily worked within healthcare, inviting dynamic dialogue to honor health, healing, and wholeness. She has also pursued doctoral studies with the Watson Caring Science Institute, exploring how Caring Science (a philosophy that arises from healthcare) and Native Science (worldview of indigenous people) can inform and inspire whole child approaches to parenting. Embracing a collaborative action research and evaluation methodology, she engaged six other mothers to define 5 integral pathways of living, learning and loving that activate intellect, imagination and intuition in an integrated ecosystem. Along the way, Nature – through awe, awareness and adventure, has always been a profound mentor to life-giving rhythms, routines, and rituals. It is with deep gratitude that she navigates this dance of teaching-learning with her partner Paul and their two curious and creative daughters.

Sarah "Willow" Beyers

Youth Mentor - The Woods

Sarah was born and raised in the Willamette Valley in Gladstone, Oregon. Sarah’s comfort in nature was cultivated by many camping adventures as a child and spending time on her grandparent’s wheat ranch in eastern Oregon. A passion for social justice led Sarah to pursue a degree in Ethnic Studies at Oregon State University. After graduating, Sarah volunteered through Americorp and worked at a social service non-profit agency in New Mexico. A love of trees, rain and strong family roots brought her back to the Pacific Northwest. She now happily lives on a small homestead in Salem with her husband, 2 kids, 4 cats, 1 dog, 2 goats and 2 chickens.

Sarah has homeschooled with her children since 2015 and enjoys exploring down the various paths their curiosities take them. Sarah sees herself as a life long learner and is expanding her knowledge of nature therapy and nature connection. She volunteers with the Marion Polk Food Share. Sarah enjoys being crafty and tackling DIY projects. She can often be found tending the plants in her yard, dreaming of hiking and camping.

Jessi Pongratz

Executive Board

Jessi was born and raised in Colorado (Hinono’ei, Tsitsistas, Nuutsiu, and Oceti Sakowin ancestral lands) and currently resides as a white settler in Oregon on occupied Kalapuya territory. Jessi is outwardly quiet and observant, but inwardly passionate and devoted to discovering ways to nurture true connection to people and nature with empathy and compassion. Jessi has a life-long connection to nature and passion for outdoor adventures. She has experience leading groups of students on backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, and guided whitewater rafting adventure trips with the Youth Naturally organization in Colorado and as assistant basic climbing education leader and assistant mountaineering first aid instructor with the Mazamas organization in Oregon.

Jessi devotes much of her time to involvement in various organizations and volunteerism including Zerowaste McMinnville (public education and outreach and research projects to reduce waste going to landfills), WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and Boy Scouts (rock climbing instructor). Since August 2018, Jessi has served on the Board for the non-profit organization Aprovecho Sustainability Education Center, and in January 2019, she became the Interim Executive Director overseeing an organizational revisioning process as well as their day-to-day operations. In addition, she is the Event Co-Coordinator for the annual Kindle Cascadia Ancestral Skillshare Gathering and was the Event Coordinator for the 2019 Northwest Permaculture Convergence.

Jim Hall

Executive Board

Jim hails from Massachusetts where he lived on a farm before spending grade school years near Buffalo, NY where his fondest memories are the two weeks he spent every summer with his family in a cabin on an island in northern Ontario — a place his family would return to each summer even as they moved back to the outskirts of Boston and then on to suburban Detroit. He is the grandfather of two boys who live near Boston, and a toddler granddaughter who lives a few minutes away, and whom he and his wife care for one day a week.

Jim’s longstanding love of both science and faith, led him to leave a projected career in academic medicine, and to co-found a storefront clinic in an impoverished neighborhood of Washington, DC where he worked as a physician for over twenty years. A vacation return to northern Ontario, land of the Ojibway, and yearly pilgrimages along the coast of Lake Superior by backpack and canoe, led Jim and his wife to move to begin an Earth mission at Dayspring, a 200 acre retreat farm near Washington, DC. Here they teach classes and lead retreats linking faith and ecology, live in a small solar, energy efficient cottage that they built, and join others in permaculture gardening and ceremony on the land. Over the years Jim has been on the Boards of several local nature and retreat organizations. He regularly teaches Contemplative Earth Prayer at the Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC.

Sarah “River” Clark

Executive Board

Sarah was born in Northern California and spent her childhood exploring the woods, rivers, and mountains around her. Her love for nature and teaching was ignited in the many years she spent camping in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She has a great passion for growing plants and gardening, along with a love of art and music.

Sarah has a background in childhood education and environmental science. She has over 25 years of experience working with children. She is a mother of two sons that she homeschools in the beautiful Willamette valley. Sarah maintains an active roll in the Salem area homeschooling community and enjoys all the opportunities to explore nature in Oregon.

Terese Jones

Executive Board

Terese is teaching faculty in Human Development and Family Studies at Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College as well as the department chair for the LBCC JOBS program, a workforce development program dedicated to addressing economic disparities in Linn and Benton Counties. She is a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies, where her research focuses on experiences of poverty and stigma among rural families in Oregon. Terese is committed to research that informs social policies to promote thriving development across the life course, where all are invited and supported to achieve their best self in a holistic manner.

Terese was born and raised in the mid-Willamette Valley. She was fortunate to spend time living in Chicago before returning to Oregon to raise a family. She loved the midwest for its mid-day lightning storms and crisp snow falls, but the longing for the Pacific Northwest coastline and forests pulled her back. Her interest in rural communities has taken her to every county in Oregon.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

R. Buckminster Fuller