Senior Model Program Offers Life-Long Friendships and Cherished Moments

Lisa and Peter Marshall first met Matt, the husband half of Allison Ragsdale Photography, when he was teaching math at the Durango High School. As a freshman, their oldest daughter, Colin, was shy. Lisa knew she was a good student, but had concerns about her socially. “I remember going to my first conference and sitting down with Matt,” Lisa shared. “I asked how she was doing, socially, and he just looked at me like I was crazy.”

She found out that Colin talked nonstop in class. “It made me feel good that she felt that comfort level with him to have those interactions and come out of her shell,” shared Lisa, who has three daughters and one son. “Matt had great relationships with the kids, even if he didn’t have them all in class.”

Two years later, Colin applied for the Allison Ragsdale Photography Senior Model Program. Through the program, during their senior year, students are the face of Allison Ragsdale Photography online and in their community while they model for new location shoots, portfolio building and collaborative projects and are featured on prints and canvases locally and nationally. In addition to the business cards they can hand out with their images printed on them, they receive various other perks, such as points that can be applied to prints or other products.

Colin’s participation in the Senior Model Program began a life-long friendship. “I don’t consider them photographers who work for me. I really consider them our friends,” shared Lisa. “The photos are so beautiful, but what’s more important to me is that they bring out a very natural beauty in my children. The pictures I love aren’t standard pictures of them for their senior photos. They’re looking down. They’re looking away. That’s what I love. They’re the moments we’re going to cherish forever.”

Originally published in the August 2015 edition of Durango Neighbors Magazine.


Learning Every Little Thing about Everything


Attention to detail, motivation and ambition make Ryan Cleveland ideal for the position of bar manager at the Ore House restaurant.

Ryan grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, the older of two boys. He started bike racing at age 10, and in 2009, he was recruited for the cycling team at Fort Lewis College. “I fell in love with it,” Ryan shared about Durango. “It was pretty easy to settle here for school.”

Looking to work his way through school, Ryan pursued a job at a local brewing company, working as a busser to start. With his love of beer leading the way, he ended up behind the bar. After a few years, he heard about openings at the Ore House from the current Ore House dining room manager, Chrissy Murrah. He started as server support at the steakhouse, beginning at the bottom of the ladder again as a busser. It did not take him long this time either to work his way up. He expanded his interest in beer, discovering cocktails, spirits and wine. “My intention was to end up at the bar,” said Ryan, who earned his cicerone certification. “Since then, it’s been an obsession to learn every little thing about everything.”

After Ryan graduated from the Fort in 2014 with a degree in marketing and finance, he took on the bar manager position. “I was definitely hired on with the idea of moving up. No one gets to jump right into anything. You have to show your stuff,” explained Ryan, who has taken over additional responsibilities that pertain to his degree. “With it being such a small restaurant, it’s the fairest way to do things. There’s not a lot of turnover. Positions don’t open up all the time. You don’t get to leapfrog.”

It’s been an educational experience for Ryan to learn and create cocktails, who wants to give customers what they ask for without having to look up a recipe. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot, but I’m just scratching the surface,” confided Ryan.

Being behind the bar and managing the bar staff are only part of Ryan’s responsibilities. He also creates new cocktails using local, fresh and sustainable ingredients, designs educational seminars for his staff, maintains inventory, and helps with whatever else is needed for the restaurant. “I get to use some of my background from school and apply it, but it’s still customer service and I still get to talk to people,” said Ryan. “It’s such a small place that you can’t just have one title. You’ve got to do more.”

The creativity, freedom and educational opportunities are more than worth it. Ryan enjoys his job, and has watched, with interest, the restaurant grow and evolve, even during the year he’s been on staff. “It’s a good spot,” Ryan enthused. “Ryan (Lowe) is a great person and he gives us so much freedom to give people what they want.”

The other members of the restaurant staff enjoy the family and team atmosphere as well, as evidenced by the lack of turnover. “Everyone helps everyone,” explained Ryan, who uses the small size of the staff to his advantage. “I can change the drink menu because it’s only 10 people who need to learn it. At other restaurants, it would take 60 people up to two weeks to learn menu changes.”

With the restaurant constantly adapting for seasonal and availability changes in produce and other menu items, there is a lot of room for new, interesting and creative items made from the highest quality, freshest and local ingredients. “It’s really fun,” shared Ryan. “I get to experiment with a lot of things. There’s always a special drink on the menu using something we can get our hands on.”

Ryan hasn’t had to leave his beer roots behind completely. The restaurant still carries a lot of specialty beers, including locally brewed Ska beers. Ryan has also found that one of the most recently intriguing parts of his job is getting to pass along knowledge to his staff. He designs spirits seminars to help give the service staff the knowledge needed to provide Ore House customers with the best possible experience, which includes using high quality cocktail ingredients. One of Ryan’s favorite cocktails is the Boulevardier, which contains rye whiskey, Campari, and sweet vermouth. “I love it because it is the perfect balance of flavor between three rather strong ingredients,” shared Ryan. “It also would not be a great drink unless you use quality ingredients.”

When not in the restaurant, Ryan is busy exploring all that Durango has to offer. He still bikes, plays hockey, and has been exploring rock climbing, golfing and mountain biking. “These past few years I’ve been able to enjoy Durango for what it is,” said Ryan.

Originally posted on the Ore House’s website during May 2015.

Shining Star Caregivers: Finding Purpose after Tragedy

Eight years ago in Atlanta, Mary Cardin packed up her belongings and her little dog Santana and moved to Durango. Having just separated from her husband, Chris, of 30 years, and ready for a change, she remembered a trip to Durango in 2004. “When we separated in 2007, we’d never had children, so it was just a case of, what does Mary want to do and where does Mary want to go?” she shared.
Her husband, a well-known Southwestern painter, had moved to Taos. “I’d remembered how wonderful Durango was,” she added.
When Mary arrived in Durango, she found a job at an assisted living facility. Hurting from the separation, she wanted to care for others. After three years, she decided to start her own business. She had worked in the corporate world while living in Atlanta, which had provided her with a strong business background. “I saw how devastated and sad people were to leave their homes. I decided I could start a business to keep folks in their home as long as possible,” said Mary.
Already well-known by home health agencies and some of the local doctors, Mary had no trouble getting referrals when she started Shining Star Caregivers in late 2010.
Then another blow came. Shortly after Chris moved to Taos, he committed suicide. “I was even more devastated,” revealed Mary. “That’s why caring for all of these people is so wonderful. It got my mind off of myself and onto caring about someone else. He used to call me his shining star, so that’s how I came up with the name for my company. I felt like he was guiding me.”
Now, with close to 50 clients, Mary has found the community’s reaction to be positive. She doesn’t want her business to be the biggest agency in town, but she does want to be known for providing quality care, which she can guarantee with her 21 caregivers. She also continues to work closely with the assisted living facilities in town, explaining that the facilities are important. “But if we can keep them in the home, safe and independent for as long as possible, that’s what we want to do,” she added.
As a non-medical business, Shining Star cannot administer medications or insulin shots or refill bill boxes. As a result, the business also does not accept Medicare or Medicaid. However, most companies that provide long-term care insurance will pay for caregiver services.
Concerned with quality, Mary keeps services contained to Durango. “I feel like if I get too big, I’ll lose control of the quality,” she explained. “I want to continue being known as one of the best quality caregivers in town. I will continue to expand as long as I can get good, honest caregivers. I know the need is only going to increase.”
Mary has found Durango to be a wonderful place to heal. “The people are so loving and accepting,” enthused Mary. “The community has embraced and supported Shining Star so amazingly. I love the weather. I love the seasons here. It’s a very welcoming and embracing community for me and I definitely feel a part of it.”
While healing, she wrote “Peace: My Final Gift”, a short memoir about her journey with her husband’s suicide and the process of grieving and healing. The cover of the book is her husband’s last painting, which Mary considers his suicide note. “It says volumes,” said Mary. “He was such a great artist, so I didn’t want his art to die with him.”
Through her healing and caring for others, Mary has found her purpose in life with Shining Star Caregivers. “It’s the best thing for me,” confided Mary. “I work seven days a week, but it’s not work. It’s wonderful. I know it’s what I should be doing with my life. All of the hurts and loss have brought me right to where I am today – very blessed.”

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Durango Neighbors Magazine.

The Freedom of a Customized Home and Life

Entrepreneurship runs in the Will family.

Kurt Will, who owns Will Construction, grew up watching, working for and learning about business from his father, the owner of a car dealership. Before his father bought the dealership, he climbed the corporate ladder and worked for others, which took the Will family all over the country. “I graduated from high school west of Philadelphia. But Colorado was always home, and as soon as I graduated, I moved to Fort Collins for school at CSU,” said Kurt, whose parents were from Fort Collins. “We had traveled through Durango years earlier as a family, and I fell in love with it. As soon as I had the opportunity to move here after CSU, I did.”

An interest that began as a child continued when Kurt was a teenager. He took a summer job to learn the trade that would blossom into Will Construction. “I always enjoyed working with my hands and building things as a kid,” said Kurt. “One summer I decided it would be fun to learn to frame houses so I took a job on a framing crew. I really enjoyed the work and the building process. When I finally got the opportunity to go out on my own, I started as a framing contractor.”

Kurt quickly grew his client base after forming Will Construction in 1992, realizing his childhood dream. He also met his wife, Terri, in the area, who is from a long line of Bayfield locals and owns an insurance brokerage in Bayfield. Now, with four full-time employees and an average of six subcontractors, he builds custom homes, remodels existing homes and constructs additions in Durango and Bayfield.

Most of the subcontractors have worked with the company since the beginning, and most of the employees are primarily carpenters. Excelling in woodwork often results in craftsman-style homes with large wood posts and beams in and outside of the home, but the company focuses on building homes that are designed specifically for each individual client. “Most of my clients are proud to have built a house that is truly customized,” shared Kurt. “It is designed for them and their needs. It could be in many different price ranges, but in any case it is different from everyone else’s house. They are impressed with how well everyone works together to complete so many different processes that make up a new home.”

With his framing background and carpenter training, Kurt particularly enjoys framing and trimming a house in the building process. “It’s what makes the house take shape,” said Kurt. “The design and details are what makes each home we build unique.”

Kurt has also passed down an entrepreneurial spirit, continuing a family tradition. Two of his four children are business owners, with a chiropractic office in Bayfield and a Crossfit Gym in Sante Fe, and Kurt believes his other two may end up with their own businesses as well. “They got some business background from me,” shared Kurt. “All four have noticed how much I enjoy working for myself. I think what appeals to me most about owning my own business is the freedom it gives me. The more I put into it, the more I get out of it.”

Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Durango Neighbors Magazine.

Hog Farms and Wind Power Have the Potential to Save Local Farms Thousands in Iowa


The top state in the country for producing pork, Iowa produces billions of dollars a year from over 6,000 hog farms. With costs only rising, some farmers are looking for ways to cut down on bills. Combining two of Iowa’s strengths, hog farms and wind power, has the potential to save local farmers thousands of dollars every year by controlling input costs and eliminating electricity bills.

Rob Hach, the owner of Anemometry Specialists with his wife, Tara, started a division of the company called Wind and Solar Specialists, which focuses on developing projects for those interested in renewable energy. They work with the client from start to finish, meeting with farmers and utilities companies, helping with installation, guiding the process and seeing the project to its final steps. “We’ll go out and assess their need and put up a solar or turbine or a hybrid system with utilizing both resources,” said Hach. “Every project is different. We haven’t had an identical project yet. We’ll find out their electrical load, what their tax bill looks like, and we’ll get the right equipment. We really come in and we partner with our customers to make sure they’re getting the right equipment for their project.”

Two of his recent clients, Terry Murray and Arvid Baughman, have both installed Bergey turbines on their farms, receiving state and federal incentives to help build their turbines and erase a long-term cost of running their farms. Murray is a fifth generation Iowa farmer, running a 3,000-head hog farm. Murray is now saving nearly $10,000 a year, while Baughman is saving about $4,000 a year on his 750-hog farm. Murray’s four Bergey turbines have erased his electricity costs for the next 30 years. With land prices, fertilizer and other farm maintenance costs rising, the farmers were looking for a way to cut something out. “They wanted to no longer worry about their electric prices going up, and they wanted to do something about it,” said Hach.

Hach’s experience with renewable energy began when he was a child. In 1977, his father started selling wind turbines, and Hach remembers seeing them sit, temporarily, in the front yard before being transported to a client. In the 1980s, his father began working with larger turbines and following projects all over the nation. The Hach family left their farm in Iowa and traveled to Colorado, Maryland and Illinois before returning to Iowa. There, Hach began learning more about the field, and in 2002, he and Tara started their company. “Growing up, there were always people interested in generating their own electricity. They own it, it’s theirs, and they don’t have to pay for electricity again,” said Hach. “There’s always been an interest. It’s increasing these days, because people are aware of the environment and their surroundings and that they need to be doing something. We have a lot more consumers out there doing their research and understanding what the opportunity is.”

The company, which started with two employees, now boasts 30 people and is looking to expand. They already have a national presence, with projects extending from coast to coast. They are also developing partnerships with companies that provide similar things, in order to provide clients with complimentary services. Because government incentives for building turbines and solar panels are localized, the company looks for areas and clients where incentives are appealing. The incentives help fund projects, and vary from state to state and even region to region. “I like coming to work every day,” said Hach. “You feel good about what you’re doing. You drive by a project that you developed for a customer, and it looks great. You hear how happy they are about the project and it just feels good. It’s a wholesome feeling you have at the end of the day.”

The fight for renewable energy is constant, said Hach, who experiences constant changes in wind and solar energy federal incentives. Other energy resources, such as coal, oil and gas, have fixed incentives and do not face the same struggles. Hach wants to encourage consumers to make the choice to buy renewable energy and renewable fuels. Encouraging the implementation of clean and renewable energy can be done in two ways: “Legislatively by changing laws,  which is slow and has a lot of hurdles,” said Hach, “And going to the store. Your dollars have more impact than your legislatures do. Choose who to buy a product from.”

Providing a demand for clean energy and fuel is the simplest, easiest way to encourage the support of businesses, farms and schools that use renewable energy sources. “They make a choice with their dollars,” said Hach, who selects his own products, such as beer and cell phone suppliers, based on the energy sources the companies use. “Companies such as Google and Microsoft are using more and more renewable energy to power their businesses. When I buy a product, I make sure I buy products from companies that buy their electricity from renewable energy,” said Hach. “We’re really in this together. Renewable energy is about employing people.”

Originally published on DWEA’s website during December 2014.

A 64-year-old Farm Owned by Three Brothers has Recently Added a New Crop: Wind


Kevin, Ed and Rich Doody grew up on the dairy farm their parents established in 1949 with 35 cows and fewer than 80 acres. The farm, now home to 350 cows, is 12 miles south of Syracuse, NY, in a small town called Otisco. The brothers’ parents also grew up in the area, going to local churches and schools. Their father, Larry, passed away six years ago, and their mother, Avis, continues to take care of the farm’s accounting. “It’s been in our blood our whole life,” said Ed.

Continuing the tradition, the brothers raised their ten children on the farm. “The kids have all enjoyed the country lifestyle we have out here,” said Ed, who has three children. “It’s not just a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a full-time commitment. The cows are here and they have to be taken care of. Someone has to always be there on Sundays. Sometimes a cow has a calf at night. I’m usually on call in the middle of the night when something comes up.”

With the commitment to the lifestyle, the rising costs of maintaining a farm, and the increasing news coverage over the past three years on the limited resources of carbon and oil, the brothers began to consider other options. They have three employees and earn all of their income from the milk that they sell, as well as maintaining 900 acres of corn, alfalfa, barley and hay to feed the cows.

Their research began in the west, learning about the use of turbines in Wisconsin, where farmers used and spoke highly of the Endurance 3120 Turbine that Ed was interested in. Encouraged, Ed attended seminars and found CEC Energy, which installs wind turbines and is a division of Cazenovia Equipment Company. The farm has been a long-time client of Cazenovia, which is a large John Deere subsidiary in New York State. CEC Energy helped the farm with permits, qualifications for federal grants, and calculating the amount of wind the farm would receive.

Living on a hilltop in a windy area has proven ideal to harness a sustainable energy source. The 174-foot-tall Endurance 3120 Turbine, which the farm owns, was installed on September 25, 2012, eighteen months after initial inquiry. It has powered about 240,000 kilowatts since then. Rated at 50 kilowatts, the turbine will run at 60 or 70 kilowatts with a strong wind. It is computer-controlled, can take care of itself and possesses a lot of sensors that safeguard against system faults. “We’re happy with the performance over all. I expect we’ll go year after year with the machine,” said Ed. “None of neighbors are close by enough to be bothered by it, and no one has mentioned it’s unsightly. We don’t get a lot of compliments about it.”

Following the success of the farm’s turbine, all three families decided to lease their own, smaller, 10-kilowatt Bergey turbine to power their homes, bringing their turbine total up to four. Bergey Wind Power is a company in Oklahoma, which has been making turbines for the past 30 years. CEC Energy installed the turbines, which are leased through United Wind, a company founded in 2013 that offers affordable leasing to small wind consumers. Some of the farm’s neighbors have turbine-powered homes, and they are all happy with their experience, said Ed. Ed opted to fully prepay his 20-year turbine lease for $20,000 and expects payback in about five years on his investment. The lease guarantees 16,000 kilowatts per year. The turbines for their home were installed this summer and started generating electricity a few weeks ago. With adding an additional source of electricity, Ed and his wife, Kathy, are especially looking forward to eliminating the extensive chore of chopping firewood for heat. “The large turbine is directly across from our home. There’s no noise or interference and it’s not annoying to listen to,” said Ed. “My wife says it’s like change in your pocket. When it’s running, you make a little money.”

In addition to investing their money, they’re making choices for their future. “We pay a large fuel bill to run our tractors. That’s only going to get higher after time. So are electric bills. It makes good economic sense to us to put up the turbines,” said Ed. “It’s the wave of the future. We can’t be committed to carbon and oil forever.”

Originally published on DWEA’s website during October 2014.

A Love for People, Food and the River


Chrissy Murrah, the new Dining Room Manager at the Ore House Restaurant, started as a server two years ago. Her restaurant experience, however, extends back even farther than that. When Murrah was 15, she and her best friend started working at Momma’s Boy, which used to be an Italian restaurant on North Main. Murrah moved on to work at Carver’s, and then, through a friend’s suggestion, she applied to the Ore House. She hasn’t looked back. “Being in the restaurant business for so long makes you really appreciate a really great one,” said Murrah. “I know how lucky I am. There are so many opportunities if I work hard in a really great place.”

Murrah, born and raised in Durango, grew up on the river and conscious of healthy food choices with a mother in the healthcare field. Her food education continued to develop at the Ore House as she learned about sustainability and local food. Currently, Murrah lives on a farm with her boyfriend, Kevin Banash, and their three rescue dogs, Hance, Alabama and Max, and she has seen the production of food and the work required. “Learning the bits and pieces have been interesting,” said Murrah. “Ryan gets these incredible products and stands behind them. It’s cool to work for someone like that with a product that I can stand behind. Everything I’m serving has been well treated and happy. It’s a smart choice.”

Murrah and Banash also continue to spend as much time as possible on the river with rafting trips and paddle boarding. Last year, they completed a 3-week trip down the Grand Canyon and found a two-month-old puppy running across the highway on their way back to Durango. They kept the puppy, who became Hance, a name inspired by their river trip. Hance now goes paddle boarding with Murrah and on river trips when possible. In four weeks, they are heading to Idaho with the dogs for a three-week trip down the Main Salmon River. “My all-time favorite part of rafting trips is planning the menu, then shopping it, prepping it, freezing it and cooking it on the river,” said Murrah. “It’s kind of empowering to be in charge of a trip. Not a lot of girls get to do that.”

With a job that starts in the evenings, Murrah paddle boards or hikes as much as possible before heading to the restaurant to ensure that everyone, from the staff to the customers, has a great experience. Her new responsibilities include hiring, scheduling, and the various bits and pieces of helping the restaurant run smoothly. “The experience starts with the staff,” said Murrah. “The team is important here. We’re not hiring for positions or hours, we’re hiring people.”

Originally published on the Ore House’s website during July 2014.