Spring 2018 Greater Quabbin Food Alliance
Kat Kowalski, Regional Conservation Coordinator, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust
As the Regional Conservation Coordinator for the farm conservation program at Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, I am in charge of planning the Greater Quabbin Food Alliance. A twice yearly meeting that brings together groups and people from the region involved in the food system. They then further break into focus groups to discuss progress and actions to take. The Greater Quabbin Food Alliance meeting is a chance to come together as a community and identify ways to further improve our food system!
I received feedback that this Spring’s Food Alliance gathering was the best one yet. We invited local makers to showcase and sell their products, and this really added fresh energy and excitement to the gathering. Not only that, but every working group closed the day with a meeting time and projects to get started on right away. The Food Access and Health group is becoming more independent, which is the hope for each of the groups so we can keep building capacity and relationships within the community. This happened in the past with the Farm-to-Institution working group, so I’m excited that this trend is continuing. The Farm and Food Business Viability group is meeting soon and has many ideas for projects we can all work on to reduce barriers that small producers face, and the Food Waste Reduction and Composting group is planning a workshop series for business owners. I look forward to continuing my service next year and following through on a lot of these great initiatives!
Kestrel Nest Box Project
Jill Fusco, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Kestrel Land Trust
The American Kestrel population has been declining in North America since the 1960s due to pesticide use and loss of habitat. To help its namesake, Kestrel Land Trust built and installed 12 nest boxes in the Pioneer Valley in 2012. What started as 12 boxes has grown to 20 in 2018 through community support with installation, monitoring and upkeep.
Throughout my service year I have been coordinating volunteers to help move this project forward. In the fall we took some time to move a handful boxes to more suitable nesting locations in the hopes of attracting a breeding pair. This entailed lifting a 16 foot pole out of the ground, carrying it across a field, digging a 4ft hole, and leveraging them into place. I then spent a few afternoons that winter with a few brave volunteers cleaning out old nesting material and preparing the boxes for spring.
As the kestrels start to arrive for the breeding season, volunteers monitor the nest boxes for activity. They monitor the boxes once a week and take notes on kestrel sightings, hunting, and potential nesting. After months and months of preparation, the time finally came to band the kestrels. I got to band my first chick!
(Why band kestrels? Having individuals banded and recorded is useful for research and management efforts. This simple process of attaching an aluminum band from USGS allows scientists to learn more about dispersal, behavior, life span and other useful information about the species. Learn more here: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/)
Rose Baker Senior Center Harvests Salads in Nearby Garden Beds
By Mackenzie Sains, Community Engagement Coordinator, Backyard Growers
The Rose Baker Senior Center is located around the corner from the Backyard Growers Office and serves older adults from Cape Ann through various classes, exercise opportunities, and meals. Through partnership with the local food pantry, they provide a free salad bar three times a week. This fall when Backyard Growers built a raised bed outside of our office, we weren’t sure exactly how we would utilize it—we wanted it to be an educational space, and we wanted the produce to directly go back to the community.
Knowing about the preexisting partnership between community organizations, I thought that it would be an incredible opportunity to support the salad bar at Rose Baker by growing lettuce at our corner garden. In the winter I connected with the director of the senior center and began developing a partnership between Rose Baker and Backyard Growers. After months of building credibility and enthusiasm among guests at Rose Baker, I began to advertise a salad planting event; and on a cold April day we zipped up our coats and planted snap peas, radishes, carrots, and a variety of greens into the soil. We wished the seeds well and hoped that spring would arrive soon.
And then I found myself at the end of May watering a garden that was so tall and full of abundant greens it was hard to remember the disheartening chill of April. On a sunny and blissful Wednesday afternoon, I, alongside several new gardening friends, harvested over 5 pounds of spinach, arugula, baby greens, and radishes from our little corner garden. Guests at Rose Baker were involved in every step of the process; from harvesting, weighing, washing, and enjoying. The salad was a great success and many people commented that it was the most delicious salad they’ve ever had!
Local Food Clinic for Community Members in Franklin County
By Sophie Schouboe, Community Engagement Coordinator, Just Roots
The Local Food Clinic provides community members with an easily accessible, welcoming environment to learn about the food access and health resources available in Franklin County. This program capitalizes on strong community partnerships, bringing cross-disciplinary expertise working together to address key barriers to food and health access.
The Local Food Clinic will provide a free, monthly drop-in opportunity focused on connecting residents of Franklin County with local food and health resources aimed at addressing food insecurity. The clinic will take place outside and be paired with the Just Roots market once a month from June through November. Program partners will provide friendly, knowledgeable expertise within their service area; promoting a holistic, healthy lifestyle.
In June there will be representatives from Just Roots, the Franklin County Community Co-op, the Center for Self Reliance, the Community Health Center of Franklin County, the Food Bank of Western MA and Project Bread. Between those organizations we will be offering information about SNAP enrollment, HIP updates, Health Insurance enrollment, nutrition information and information about how to access other local resources. There will also be a food demonstration put on by Project Bread that offers free samples and recipes for people to take home. The clinic is co-sponsored by Just Roots and the Franklin County Community Co-op. The food demonstration will feature vegetables from Just Roots that will be available at the Just Roots CSA pick-up and market that will take place next to the clinic.
“Bee Clean, Bee Green” Event with the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston and Sudbury Valley Trustees
Paige Dolci, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Sudbury Valley Trustees
In a partnership between Sudbury Valley Trustees and the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, Tempe Staples, Regional Conservation Coordinator and I (Land Stewardship Coordinator) ran a workshop for big and little sisters with various interactive activities on environmental science. Big and Little sisters played a game to learn about pollinators and their impact on our food system, built model landfills, and planted beans to take home and grow on their own. This is one of several workshops we are running to support girls’ empowerment and help expose youth to hands-on environmental science.
Edible Wild and Invasive Plants Event in Westhampton
By Alana Carveth, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Hilltown Land Trust
On April 29th, Hilltown Land Trust (HLT) held an Edible Wild and Invasive Plants event, in partnership with Kestrel Land Trust (KLT). The inspiration for such an event first came about as a way for Hilltown Land Trust to assist the Westhampton Conservation Commission in training their volunteers to identify invasive plant species. With an educated volunteer pool, both organizations would have increased capacity to monitor their conserved lands. Adding an “edible” component to the training seemed like a fun way to better engage the participants. As the idea continued to evolve, it expanded to involve the general public, not just volunteers. A local organization, Grown In Westhampton, had been interested in collaborating with HLT on such an event in the past and was willing to sponsor the event and promote it on social media.
The town of Westhampton, is one of the two towns where Hilltown Land Trust’s and Kestrel Land Trust’s service areas overlap. Since both are host sites for Terracorps Land Steward Coordinators, it only made sense for the two organizations to partner up to put on the best Edible Invasive Plants event this side of the Quabbin. So Alana and Jill of Hilltown Land Trust and Kestrel Land Trust, respectively, put their heads together and pooled their resources to find the best edible wild plants expert they could to lead this event, Russ Cohen. Russ Cohen is the author of Wild Plants I Have Known…And Eaten, a well-known book, popular among foraging enthusiasts and is one of the foremost wild edibles experts in New England, having taught about wild edible plants for over 30 years.
Despite the morning rain on April 29th, the event couldn’t have gone better. Russ surprised the attendees with delicious treats of his own recipe, using the invasive plant known as Japanese Knotweed. The attendees consisted of foragers, nature enthusiasts, plant hobbyists, and other passionate outdoor-educators. Russ, as a speaker, was incredibly informative and engaging. The event invoked many discussions between other experts within the crowd and, upon its conclusion, was lauded with high praises from the participants.
TerraCorps Service Day at Carvalho Farm
Logan Johnson, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Buzzards Bay Coalition
On April 9, Buzzards Bay Coalition teamed up with TerraCorps to move 5 tons of wood a quarter of a mile across a hay field. As a TerraCorps member serving at Buzzards Bay Coalition, I was tasked with coordinating the project for the Carvalho Farm Trail. I designed a 1.2 mile trail, half of the trail winds through portions of a forested swamp. For every section of trail that meanders into the swamp, bog board must be placed in order to protect the valuable wetland resources. Upon a bog board assessment it was determined that 700 feet of bog boards would be needed to protect this resource area.
In order to construct 700 feet of bog boards, we needed to move 1,400 feet of rough cut white pine and 576 feet of 6 inch x 6 inch pressure treated pine a quarter of a mile to the trail head. The amount of lumber was estimated to be around 10,000 pounds, or 5 tons. The obstacle we were faced with was how to move the wood to the trail. We did not dare drive a truck across the field, to limit damage and likelihood of getting stuck, so we called on the help of TerraCorps. In just under 4 hours the group of 37 was able to move all 5 tons to the head of trail! Not only this, they were able to cut and clear several portions of the trail. This event was an inspiration to me as it is the perfect illustration of what team work looks like. I was faced with a challenge and the TerraCorps team I am proud to be a part of came to help me accomplish a successful project!
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