Introducing the writers who regularly contribute articles and columns to the Patagonia Regional Times

Alison Bunting

Alison Bunting

My husband Wade and I moved from Los Angeles to Sonoita in late 2002 to build our retirement dream home. We chose Sonoita for its beauty and dark skies – Wade loves astronomy. 

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and lived there until I was 12, when my parents relocated to Southern California via Oklahoma. I retired from a 32-year career at UCLA, having served as the Director of the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library and as interim University Librarian. 

Retirement provided the time to read and participate in several local book clubs. I also joined the Crossroads Quilters to learn quilting and make friends. The highlight of each meeting was lunch at the big round table of the Crossroads Café where the Collie sisters, Marka Moss and Jane Woods, entertained us with stories of growing up in Elgin. I was hooked on learning more about the history of our new home. 

When I was recruited to organize the Empire Ranch Foundation (ERF) archives I quickly became interested in documenting and sharing the history of the ranch and its families through the ERF docent program, website, and publications. My first contributions to the PRT were about the Empire Ranch history, and later evolved into the Glimpses Into Our Past column in the PRT. The subject matter for ‘Glimpses’ is drawn primarily from research of and local newspapers. I welcome suggestions for topics for ‘Glimpses,’ so let me know if you have any ideas.

Cassina Farley

Cassina Farley

I am a proud fifth-generation Arizonan with deep roots in Santa Cruz County. Although my parents moved to Tucson before I was born, much of my childhood was spent in Patagonia with my grandparents and great-grandparents. My father, being an avid hunter and outdoorsman, took us on every back road in the county and taught us a deep appreciation for where we are from. 

As a kid I aspired to be a teacher and a writer and was doing well until my teen years. Bad boyfriends, bad decisions and bad luck made getting out of high school a contact sport. In an attempt to get myself together, I moved to Patagonia to live with my grandparents. 

I took a job at the Circle Z, and spent a couple of years working on the dude ranch circuit. After returning to Patagonia I landed a job at the Steak Out where I learned the art of grilling and butchering. It was during this time that I accepted a ride from a boy with a jar full of moonshine that I ended up marrying in 1997. 

For the next ten years I honed my restaurant skills and ended up managing three local restaurants. I also spent six years as a “produce specialist” at Red Mountain Foods. It was here that I really got to know the community and all of its quirks.

My first experience with nonprofit work came with the Patagonia Community Garden and KPUP. During my time with KPUP I discovered my skill at fundraising and non-profit management. I joined the board of the PRT, became a regular columnist, and was hired as the director of another non-profit, the Patagonia Creative Arts Association. 

I have rounded back to my childhood dream of being a writer and a teacher. Currently I have the privilege of providing art classes to grades 6-12 at the local school, write a monthly column for the greatest little newspaper in the world and I get to live with the love of my life in the town where it all started. How about that for full circle? 

Cami Schlappy

Cami Schlappy

My family helped settle Arizona. In Laveen, they had a dairy farm, an orange orchard, and grew cotton and alfalfa. I grew up working on the dairy and raising a menagerie of animals. I was active in community organizations including 4-H, barrel racing associations (a rodeo event), and dairy cattle breeder associations. I competed in team roping, barrel racing, and showing dairy cattle.

I attended UofA to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in animal sciences pre-professional option minoring in chemistry. I worked in a genetic lab that mapped genes leading to progressive, degenerative neurological diseases in dairy cattle. I continued my education, earning my Master’s in animal science working on several projects that focused on genetics, nutrition, anatomy and physiology. 

I started a PhD program focusing on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I worked primarily in the fields of cell culture and microscopy. 

During this program, I realized my passion for teaching science. I was able to transfer mid-program to the College of Education to earn a Master’s Degree in teaching and teacher education and to complete a certification program to teach at the college level.

Since then, I have taught multiple college biology courses, ranging from nutrition and allied health courses to microbiology. I love the opportunities that this gives me to teach people about the world of biology!

That being said, I am a total science nerd. I share my love of nonfiction, nature, and exploring the outdoors with my husband and daughter. I still ride horses everyday and compete most weekends barrel racing. When not at a barrel race, my family and I roam the back country birding, nature watching, and exploring historic areas and archaeological sites.

Clare Bonelli

Clare Bonelli

I grew up in Connecticut near the mouth of the Connecticut River. The river was beautiful and clean – at least on the incoming tide. 

When I left in the 70’s, the blue crabs, sunfish, ospreys, eagles, shad and others were all gone due to the pollution. You couldn’t see three inches down into the water. Thankfully, the river has been cleaned up and you can now see the tip of a canoe paddle and the critters are back.

I was voted the shyest girl in my high school class of about 70 kids and thought, “Is that all that’s wrong? I can do something about that!” I went to Colby College in Waterville, Maine where I excelled in goofing off and driving around the state. I only graduated because Colby was one of the colleges that went on strike in 1970 and I didn’t have to turn in the dozen papers that were due in the next two weeks. 

After college, I did some hitchhiking and traveling in Europe and Canada, waitressed, worked as a veterinary assistant, and finally went to nursing school after my dad died. Paying my own way made me a much better student. Another trip to NW Canada and Alaska showed me it was time to leave CT and I moved to Tucson where I became an ICU nurse. 

Around 1986, I ran an ad in the Tucson Weekly looking for a husband. Mike Sweedo answered, and we’ve been married ever since. Sparky came along in 1991 and, thankfully, was a really easy child. We moved to Sonoita when she was a month old and she attended Elgin School and Patagonia HS. She got her PhD in biomedical engineering last summer, then went to Pima College and got her automotive mechanic’s certification. 

At the moment, Mike and I are building a house in Wildlife Haven, just outside Patagonia. I’m also involved in saving the Patagonia Pool, the Patagonia Recycling Task Force, and Mountain Empire Rotary. Thankfully (yes, I have a lot to be thankful for!) the PRT took over my newsletter – and they are doing a wonderful job!