A short review of the less obvious aspects of two decades of innkeeping. Steppin’ Out Magazine publisher Jeanne Francis asked us if we wanted to represent the “real” Mendocino for their “creative landscapes.” issue. We agreed to be featured and the following article was published. We are re-publishing it here, because the story is about what has become most important to us at Stanford Inn Eco-Resort. – Jeff & Joan Stanford
“When we came here twenty-three years ago we had no idea the twists and turns our lives would take,” recounted Jeff Stanford who with his wife and partner, Joan, are owner-innkeepers of the Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino. “We had fallen in love with Mendocino as so many others,” Joan added, “but never expected to live here.”
The story of how they came to purchase Big River Lodge, now the Stanford Inn, is another story, however, their beginning was auspicious.
The sellers Art and Katherine Williams, who still live in the 1850s farmhouse in front of the inn, provided significant and decisive financial help.
The Stanfords started modestly moving into a 375 square foot guest room, doing most of the work themselves from housekeeping to installing fireplaces. In just two years they had two children and were waking each morning to serve their guests breakfast
“We wanted to create something special and along the way the land began to influence us.” Jeff shares stories of experience with energy. “This is real stuff; not something I read about or sought out, but something experienced and then researched.”
“Transformation takes place here physical, emotional and spiritual. While we were transforming the buildings and the landscaping, it was as if we had opened up a vein of co-creative potential. It is a manifesting process,” Joan explained. “We love living things and it seemed natural to solve landscaping problems with organic gardens.” Jeff and a close friend began digging double dug garden beds, following the work of John Jeavons. He urged those working in the gardens to become sensitive to the energies there.
Jeff is purposefully vague about working with earth energies. “I am not trying to make this mysterious. It isn’t,” he explains. “What I can tell you is how this ‘working’ manifests: When we adjusted the footprints of buildings we planned to build to save a Bishop pine, two smaller trees which were in the way of construction just fell down. There was no storm. It meant for us to go ahead.”
However, Jeff is not an ordinary environmentalist. He had mixed feelings regarding the creation of the new Big River State Park in spite of being involved in the effort. “It’s unfortunate that rather than insure healthy, sustainable logging practices, we are forced to remove land from forestry altogether to preserve it.” He argues that it is irresponsible to damage a forest’s biodiversity and over-log. “Taking land out of production here puts incredible pressure on other timber areas.”
Over the years, the Stanfords have worked to develop fulltime jobs rather than the part time jobs characteristic of a seasonal resort area. Catch A Canoe, the Inn’s canoe and kayak livery operated for only seven months of the year until Jeff added & Bicycles, too!, a bike shop, permitting the staff to become year around employees.
The creation of their California Certified Organic Farm created full time jobs and now supplies the Inn’s restaurant, The Ravens, the area’s only organic vegetarian/vegan restaurant, creating more jobs.
“We get a lot of people who come to work here because we are vegetarian, organic. They believe this is a Shangri La. It isn’t. It is hard work,” Jeff explained when asked why some people “don’t make it.” “When I began experiencing earth energies, I read a variety of books including Dorothy MacClean’s description of working with angels at Findhorn, Scotland. Our angels, if you want to call them that, are not etheric, they are hard workers: ‘buff,’ if you know what I mean. They’re tough and those who work with them need to be tough, too.
Staff often becomes part of the family and Jeff and Joan encourage them to develop interests and aptitudes and to finish school and go on to college. For years they have worked formally and informally with the schools. Joan works in the schools addressing issues of self esteem and peer counseling. The inn provides work experiences, training in everything from cooking to bike mechanics. Students have come to work to fulfill requirements for graduation or simply for money and some have stayed. One began working as a gardener when he was fifteen. Eventually, Jeff made him manager of the new & Bicycles, too! He helped grow the business, became an expert bike mechanic, and worked in the community to raise money for a skate park which unfortunately has yet to be constructed.
The Stanfords look at their operation as a garden or farm. They understand the energies they experience to be nurturing and they believe they must reciprocate by nurturing not only the gardens, but the people with whom they work and the community. They provide meeting rooms at no charge for local non profits and public agencies such as the school district; canoes for local schools’ recreational and educational programs; and their gardens for the local 4-H club where the kids learn propagation, planting, and composting from the staff.
Some teachers bring students who have difficulty in traditional schools to experience how the Stanfords work with nature with the idea that a return to nature is healthful.
This is life at the Stanford Inn.