Executive Director Anita Budhraja at her home office in Patagonia. Photo by Aisha Sander

Anita Budhraja has recently started work as the Executive Director of Deep Dirt Institute (DDI). DDI is an accredited 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission, Budhraja says, is to use “hands-on demonstration and inspirational education to empower individuals and their communities to restore the land, restore themselves, and re-imagine the future.” The focus at DDI is on education and spreading awareness about organic farming, especially in arid landscapes.

Many locals know of Kate Tirion and Deep Dirt Farm,
just off Hwy 82, a few miles outside of Patagonia. Tirion
and her partner Richard Connolly bought the property in Stevens Canyon in 2005 and founded Deep Dirt Farm, an incorporated LLC. Tirion “has overseen the design and implementation of an ambitious, and ever-evolving, permaculture for the property and transformed the site into a teaching center,” according to her website www.deepdirtinstitute.org.

Budhraja recently moved to Patagonia from Washington D.C. where she worked for a not-for-profit organization called Bread for the City as the manager of the farm growing the food for the food pantry.

Her interests led her to study Organizational Development, expertise she will utilize in developing programs and strategic planning at DDI.

Budhraja reports to five board members who have ties to Patagonia and Deep Dirt Farm as well as to education. Budhraja says she believes in the cause of “arid land restoration.”

She spent time in India working in a similar environment and remarked, “how easy it is to move rocks and dirt around to catch rain water, build up the water table and affect the ecosystem for hundreds of years into the future.” To witness a simple act have such a great impact motivates Budhraja, she said, adding that restoring arid land is “efficient.”

As Executive Director, Budhraja will be spending less time in the field and more time working from her home on her computer. For now, her typical day is moving through a
to-do list that ranges from strategic planning goals, internal communications, networking, marketing, and fundraising.

She is delighted to have a working board to whom she can delegate tasks. She is focusing on integrating the Institute with donor management software, budgeting, accounting and business planning. She is also the face of DDI, building relationships with new people, and, most critically, making the DDI a resource for the local community.

One of her key initiatives is a weekly “Farm to Fork program with the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center where the kids come to the farm, learn to grow food and herbs and cook what they grow at the Youth Center’s kitchen, connecting healthy bodies to healthy ecosystems,” she said.

For DDI, “local community is first, in which Patagonia is the central zone,” she said, “then the county, state, country and arid landscapes around the world.”