WHO WE ARE
TOM HURST is a career educator with a passion for sharing his love of the natural world. He developed the family camp program at Isle Royale and is an experienced wilderness guide and has lead over 20 trips on the island. He is also an expedition leader for the Wolf Moose project with a deep curiosity for the effect of the predator prey relationship on the entire island ecosystem. In addition, Tom is a national outings leader for Sierra Club and has lead many science and recreational trips for youth and adult groups. This includes hiking, kayaking and extended road trips (nationally and internationally) since 1990.
COLLEEN HURST is a participant in many outdoor and community service projects including Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and local outdoor groups. She is an active paddler, cyclist and hiker with a passion for sharing the outdoors with children. Colleen started co-leading trips with Tom in 2008 and is the major organizing force behind the family trip programs.
OUR STORY Tom is a farm boy at heart who grew up on a small dairy farm in upstate New York. He spent his youth in the fields and woods, either on foot or on the back of a horse. As a teen, Tom was a full time farmer (as school allowed). He milked cows, tended horses and repaired and operated equipment. He studied Animal Science and then Agricultural Education in college before working internationally for a couple years in agriculture. When he came back, Tom earned a MS from Montana State University in Industrial Education. After earning teaching certificates in Agricultural and Industrial Education, he taught agriculture & natural resources and industrial arts woodworking in the public school system for 30 years. Summers were spent gardening, operating a woodworking / boatbuilding business, traveling with family, taking ecology classes or leading trips. In 2004, Tom took a professional development course in climate change issues at Michigan Tech and, suddenly, life changed! He traveled to Isle Royale the following year with Mich Tech and, within 2 years, was guiding trips on the island for the Wolf Moose Study. Tom has spent from 1 - 4 weeks on the island every summer ever since. Over the course of his career in agroecology, Tom has traveled extensively and learned much. From large corporate farms in the US to subsistence agriculture endeavors in developing countries he has almost completely transitioned from high input agriculture to sustainable small farm systems and ecology.
Colleen grew up a city girl in Michigan. Excelling in school, she knew that she wanted out of an urban environment so she attended Northern Michigan University in Marquette and fell in love with the Upper Peninsula. After completing a degree in social work, Colleen settled into an elder care career in community and residential settings while skiing, biking and hiking in her free time. Colleen has a great love for the outdoors and gardening. She's participated in many adventures from rafting the Grand Canyon to hiking and kayaking in Maine to backpacking in the High Sierra. Upon leaving her social work position, Colleen joined Tom in Loonling Learning. She teaches gardening and co-leads outdoor adventure trips.
Colleen and Tom met on a mountain bike ride in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They have been traveling together for 32 years and raised two daughters in the outdoors! Once the kids were out of the house, they traded city life for country living and established GreenFire Gardens in Sodus, MI. In 2016, they purchased and refurbished an older Alaskan truck camper, mounted it to back of the farm truck and took off on a 5-month, self-funded sabbatical. They backpacked the Canadian Rockies, explored the Pacific Northwest and all 4 corners of Canyonlands National Park (mountain biking when possible). Tom and Colleen continue to wander. They're still learning and still growing while sharing their love of craft and the outdoors with the future generations.