18th Annual Maple Syrup Project in Somerville
Josia Gertz DeChiara, Youth Education Coordinator, Groundwork Somerville
At many school garden organizations, the winter months tend to be slower and quieter. At Groundwork Somerville, however, we keep quite busy with the Maple Syrup Project! Now in its 18thyear, the Maple Syrup Project has become a Somerville classic that people look forward to all year.
In New England, the growing season is often thought of as the warm, snow-free time of year. This is mostly true, but ignores the maple syrup that is ready in the winter! The goal of the Maple Syrup Project is to introduce as many Somerville students and community members to this delicious crop through education and taste buds.
This year, 23 volunteers were trained to teach 24 classes of 2ndgraders across seven Somerville Public Schools, about 415 students total. These volunteers went into classrooms once a week for four weeks to teach maple lessons with a focus on science, math, language arts, and social studies. After learning about the process of tree tapping, maple trees, and the seasons, each class came out to the Somerville Community Growing Center for a field trip. A wood-fired sap boiler allowed each student to taste warm sap collected from Somerville maple trees, a sensory experience that is one of my personal favorites.
Soon after the field trips, 700 people came out to the 18thAnnual Maple Syrup Community Boil Down, where many pancakes were eaten, live music set a cheery scene, and many maple crowns adorned the heads of children. Maple season was full of snow, sticky syrup, and so much learning, but as March turned into April, the sap stopped flowing and the leaves began to peek out, bringing us back to the gardens once more!
Growing Places’ 7th Annual Food Gardener’s Gathering
By Sami Dokus, Youth Education Coordinator, Growing Places
On March 3rd, Growing Places held the 7th annual Food Gardener’s Gathering to kick off the growing season! The open-house style event featured a pop-up farmer’s market, informational tables, a seed swap, and breakout sessions throughout the morning. Food enthusiasts and gardeners from across the region gathered to make connections and learn about how to grow their own food. My role as a TerraCorps member serving as Youth Education Coordinator was to make this the first year that the event had youth programming. I hosted a breakout session for youth centered around soil. I taught the kids about how compost worms turn yucky old food into amazing soil that plants love. Everyone got to hold a squiggling worm as we talked about worm facts (did you know that worms have 5 hearts?) and then we had a bin of dirt where everyone had a chance to use some garden tools to scoop, rake, and pat.
I also hosted a tabling activity where the kids learned about up-cycling a 2-liter plastic bottle into a flower that they can decorate their garden with. While the kids were painting their flowers, we were able to talk about why plastic can be harmful to the environment and it is a good idea to keep it out of landfills. We also were able to talk about how excited they were to start gardening with their families! In the words of one of the youth, “Gardening is so much fun, I can’t wait to grow everything”
You can view more photos from the event here: http://photos.sentinelandenterprise.com/2018/03/03/growing-places-fair-at-boys-and-girls-club-march-3-2018/#1
“Walking Through Winter” Event Series
By Amy Pettigrew, Youth Education Coordinator, Buzzards Bay Coalition and Wareham Land Trust
One of my main goals this year as a split service member for the Buzzards Bay Coalition and Wareham Land Trust is to increase visitation to properties in the Greater Wareham region. Specifically for my “Walking Through Winter” series, I chose locations that were in some way connected to the Wareham Land Trust (whether through direct ownership, CR ownership, or partnership). The programs took place on the second and third Sundays from December 2017 – February 2018 and wrapped up with a low tide beach exploration on March 11th. For all seven programs I was assisted by Joe Burroughs, a local volunteer who runs his own survival classes in the area. The general theme for all the programs was local wildlife and some plant identification. We used reference sheets to look at wildlife tracks and scat on the trails we visited and looked for other signs of animal activity. The weather varied greatly from program to program, but even on the most miserable day I had three people show up to explore Minot Forest and part of Bryant Farm. The most well attended program was the Great Neck Conservation Area hike on February 18th. Twenty-one people showed up for the approximately two-mile hike, which was led by Joe Burroughs and Skip Stuck, a Wildlands Trust volunteer.
The final program was intended to celebrate making it through winter and encourage people to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. However, Mother Nature didn’t see things my way. This week we have seen temperatures vary from the mid-30s to the high 40s. Despite this, I still had eighteen people show up to explore North Water Street Beach, a section of shoreline in Onset owned by the WLT. We were able to find lots of shells from local marine species such as channeled whelks, moon snails, periwinkles, blue mussels, Quahogs, soft-shelled clams, blood arks, and bay scallops. We also found carapaces of spider crabs and a claw of another crab species which I couldn’t identify. On the water we saw a variety of gulls and some buffleheads.
The Standard Times sent a journalist and a photographer to cover the program as well and we made the front page of Monday’s paper! Check it out here: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20180311/walking-through-winter-series-wraps-up-sunday
Harvest of the Month Taste Test in Chelsea Schools
By Libby Wilkinson, Youth Education Coordinator, Healthy Chelsea
Here in Chelsea, we do a monthly Harvest of the Month Taste test in partnership with Aramark, the school food provider in Chelsea, and Massachusetts Farm to School. Every month, we promote a seasonal, local, healthy food and give away free samples of tasty snacks made with the featured ingredient. We do this in all 4 of the elementary schools, and all 3 middle schools. We also go into the Early Learning Center and do more in depth Harvest of the Month lessons with the preschoolers. These taste tests reach about 3,000 kids. February’s featured veggie was butternut squash. On this particular day, we made an apple and squash cinnamon bake, and we tried a new surveying technique using pom pom balls! (I was afraid the kids would steal the pom poms, but it actually worked out pretty well). Usually, I spend the day at the table handing out the snacks and talking to the kids, but this time, the cafeteria staff was shorthanded so I stayed and cupped over 1,000 samples of squash and apple bites in the school kitchen. This event is so fun because each month it is something new and different, and I get to try new things as well!
Farmland Preservation Presentation at the Belchertown Agriculture Commission
By Lee Halasz, Regional Conservation Coordinator, Kestrel Land Trust
On Saturday, I spoke at a gathering organized by the Belchertown Agricultural Commission. I used a Powerpoint presentation to discuss farmland preservation and provide information from a farmland mapping and town outreach project which I conducted in Belchertown in Spring 2017 during my first year of service (TerraCorps was then called MassLIFT). Also presenting was Melissa Adams of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, who outlined the various grant programs that MDAR offers farmers. The talks nicely complemented each other, and it was good to meet Melissa, learn more about the work of MDAR, and understand how that relates to the work of Kestrel Land Trust. There were twenty local landowners in attendance and they seemed engaged and interested in the information.
The event was a great opportunity to meet local farmers and chat with them afterward the presentations, both about farmland conservation and more generally, over cider, coffee, and the baked delicacies that some of the landowners brought with them. It was definitely a low-key, social, farmer-focused event with information built in, perhaps the ideal way for land trusts to reach landowners. The gathering helped raised the profile and hopefully the interest in farmland conservation, and will hopefully encourage some landowners to pursue conservation of their farm. I am sure that further conversations between Kestrel Land Trust and landowners will result from the afternoon. I thank the Belchertown Agricultural Commission for taking the initiative to hold such an event.
2018 TerraCorps MLK Day of Service in Lowell
By Camille Duquet, Regional Conservation Coordinator, TerraCorps
As the Regional Conservation Coordinator for TerraCorps, I was in charge of planning a service day event for the Martin Luther King National Day of Service. This year, TerraCorps spent the day in Lowell MA serving for two organizations: Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust and Mill City Grows. A handful of members spent the morning in the Spalding House of Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust doing some light upkeep and organizing, while a majority of members spent the day outdoors on Mill City Grows’ operated urban farm, also one of TerraCorps service site. While there, members helped to clear the “back 40” of dense brush and weeds, so that the space could be used for more sustainable agriculture in the future. Despite the cold weather, members stayed warm by cutting, hauling, sweeping, and raking the entirety of the back 40! It was a great day of service where members from across the state could come together and provide long term benefit to the Lowell community by creating more space where fresh produce can be grown. I was especially thrilled to be able to plan this large event to gather our whole program together, while creating partnerships and relationships with both organizations!
Thoreau Bicentennial Series of Events
By Marilyn Castriotta, Community Engagement Coordinator, Kestrel Land Trust
The Thoreau Bicentennial ignited and shaped the start of my TerraCorps year of national service, as it was the first project that I undertook for Kestrel Land Trust (KLT), my host site. The significance of this commemorative year and nationwide celebration, coupled with the relevance of this great American naturalist, writer, and social reformer to the unprecedented environmental, social, and political upheaval that we are experiencing in America today, made me especially eager to organize a monthly series in Thoreau’s honor. Tasked, as KLT’s Community Engagement Coordinator, with connecting people to nature with heartfelt, joyful experiences and programs, I wanted to bring Thoreau’s words and legacy alive with events that were engaging and compelling. This included two woods walks in conservation areas (September and October), a presentation at a library in an under-served community (November), and a visit to a replica of Thoreau’s cabin (December). I, myself, have gained a deeper appreciation for Thoreau through the process of organizing, preparing, and facilitating these four events. His words still inspire and ring true today as we contend with anthropogenic climate change – “what is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”. Through survey comments received, it is my sense that the fifty nine people who participated in the Thoreau Bicentennial series of events feel more attentive to the natural world and more compelled to speak a “word of nature”, much needed in today’s current environmental conditions.
The West Suburban Conservation Council December Workshop
By Tempe Staples, Regional Conservation Coordinator, Sudbury Valley Trustees
The West Suburban Conservation Council is an informal group coordinated by the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT). The group consists of land protection experts and advocates who annually gather to share conservation, stewardship, and engagement strategies. On December 8th, participants convened at the Assabet National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, MA to discuss questions regarding the main goals of this group, common challenges for conservation organizations and the different visions of regional planning.
As the Regional Conservation Coordinator, I pulled the event logistics together, but also had the opportunity to assist our workshop facilitator, Sarah Bursky of the National Parks Service. In that role, I learned how to interpret the group dynamic, guide the group to lead themselves (as opposed to herding), then gather and make sense of a multitude of ideas.
The WSCC plans to host a second meeting which I’ll be helping coordinate this coming spring. I look forward to planning an even better event by using the skills I learned from SVT staff and Sarah! I’ve particularly enjoyed that through this service project, I am able to help environmentally passionate people expand their community impact.
Volunteer Day at the Stone Farm Conservation Area
By Tommy Blanchard, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Wildlands Trust
This past weekend, Wildlands Trust staff members Conor Michaud and Erik Boyer helped me host our second volunteer work day at the Stone Farm Conservation Area in Brockton. A total of nine volunteers from Brockton’s Boy Scout Troop 17, helped to restore a 600 foot trail near a wetland area in the northern part of the property using loppers and hand saws. The brush collected from this trail restoration was removed from the area and piled at the entrances of several old trails in an effort to discourage illegal ATV usage in these areas. This volunteer day is part of a larger trail restoration project encompassing the entirety of the Stone Farm Conservation Area. One of the next steps for this project will be to build a 400 foot boardwalk through the newly restored trail. Part of my service project on this property is to eventually build, train, and mobilize a volunteer program to meet the stewardship needs of conservation lands in Brockton, such as the Stone Farm Conservation Area and the Brockton Audubon Preserve, in a sustainable manner for the future.
Gorge Après Gorge 5K Run/Family Walk
By: Katie Carr serving as Community Engagement Coordinator at Hilltown Land Trust
The Gorge après Gorge was started 13 years ago by two women, Tanya Rapinchuk and Leslie Charles, who wanted to get outside with friends and enjoy nature even as the weather starts to turn wintry in the hills of Western Massachusetts. Since then, on every Sunday after thanksgiving the two have organized a growing group of friends and neighbors in a potluck and walk along the East Branch of the Westfield River at the Chesterfield Gorge in Chesterfield. The event has grown over the years to include a timed 5k trail run, and three years ago Hilltown Land Trust was brought on board to help plan and run the event.
As the TerraCorps Community Engagement Coordinator for Hilltown Land Trust, I helped with aspects of the event both big and small, from organizing volunteers and seeking sponsorships and in-kind donations from local businesses, to boiling water for the hot chocolate early on the morning of the event and making parking signs. On November 26th, we had 200 people show up to run, walk, and cheer. It’s a great event, and the biggest one that Hilltown Land Trust does all year, but what makes the event truly special are all the personal touches: the hand-knit and -crocheted hats prizes for the fastest runners, the cookie medals for all the race finishers, and the potluck that includes homemade baked good. It is truly a unique, community-focused event, and it has been an honor to be involved. As a knitter, though, my favorite part was watching one of the race winners choose the hat I knit as her prize. I had to run after her to get a picture as she was leaving!