Getting Lost on Nantucket

Getting Lost on Nantucket

by Nick Tepper

When getting lost on Nantucket, it is prudent to bring a telescope and six strangers. I advise you, the reader, to do this as it recently happened to me and it was a whole lot of fun. My name is Nick Tepper, and I have spent the year as a TerraCorps member serving for Mass Audubon’s Conservation Science Team. Be it through citizen science or public outreach, most of my job involves sharing the plants and animals in Mass Audubon’s sanctuaries with the public. In this story, I lead my first ever “birding tour” on a spring break trip organized by one of my fellow TerraCorps members: Sam Kefferstan. Sam had planned a Mass Audubon alternative spring break for low income UMass students that don’t have the copious financial support needed to take in an internship or job in land conservation. He asked me to come along to provide the trip with outdoor flavor, and to find birds/ yell things about those birds to college students.

I’m fairly good at yelling about nature, and I had always wanted to experience Nantucket, so I took the offer right away. One of our “marks” for the trip was the Barn Owl, a beautiful and elusive species that can only be seen locally on Nantucket. Barn Owls are to birds as Alicia Keys is to humans, so I thought it would be a wonderful way to get these students hooked on the outdoors. The only bump-in-the-road was that I had never been to Nantucket, and objectively had no idea where to go to see these owls. I checked some eBird reports, but there was nothing conclusive about the location where Barn Owls were being seen. I ended up using some historical reports to pick an address that I thought would give us the best chance to see our quarry. On the first night of the trip, the students and I set off on our hunt while Sam set off to get us some much needed pizza.

I have a long history of phone troubles. Many of these troubles involve water, blunt objects, and the ground (or the “floor” as it’s called indoors). My dilemma concerning this specific trip was that my phone had no idea where I was in time or space. The GPS had succumbed to blunt force trauma, and I was out of directions. When we got lost not five minutes into the trip, I wasn’t too surprised. I knew the owl spot was on the southern part of the island, so I drove our Mass Audubon mini-van south on frightening sand roads with many literal bumps-in-the-road that could swallow a Prius whole (This is not a hyperbole. At a similar point in time, a similar depression had actually swallowed Sam’s Prius with all of our pizza in tow). When we somehow got to the end of the road (literally), we got out of the car to discover we had hit the southern shores of the island right for an amazing sunset. The place we ended up (wherever that was) looked like the moors of Ireland meets the Bahamas. The water was an impossible blue and the heathlands went on for miles. The students seemed to like the cotton candy in the sky, and figuring we were out of luck for owls, we all sat down to enjoy….

Not a minute had passed when one of the students pointed and said “ a big ol’ bird just landed in that dune!”. I picked up my camera, and all of a sudden a Barn Owl exploded from where she was pointing and hovered effortlessly across the moors. Another minute and another appeared further off. I said A LOT of curse words, and everyone was pumped. We were passing binoculars like hot potatoes, and I grabbed the telescope so everyone could bask in our new found glory. At one point one of the owls came in so close that everyone could see his heart-shaped face and golden wings with the naked eye. Once the sunset ended and my blood pressure dropped below the “danger-zone”, we headed back to the cottages, and at one point one of the owls hovered 20ft from the van, dropped and grabbed a vole, ate it in front of us, and exploded off into the night. We all sat speechless for what seemed like minutes before simultaneously exploding in manic laughter.

Once my group’s mania had subsided, we began another quest: find Sam. As aforementioned, Sam’s prius was stuck in a sandy grave. No one will ever know if it was him or I who muttered more curse words that night. Sam had never arrived with the pizza, and after losing communication several times (his phone had died), it became apparent he had gotten stuck. We searched for him for an hour or so, but to no avail. Finally we retreated to the cottages to wait. Sometime later, he appeared, cold pizza and all, towed from the sand by some island locals. As we all rejoiced in cold pizza and shared our successes and failures, it became apparent that none of us would ever forget this once in a lifetime trip. I certainly won’t.

Nick Tepper is serving as a Land Stewardship Coordinator at Mass Audubon Headquarters for the 2018-2019 TerraCorps Service. 

Want to learn more about our current members?Click here!

Controlling the Invasive Perennial Pepperweed: A Group Effort

Controlling the Invasive Perennial Pepperweed: A Group Effort

by Sara Semanza

Serving at Mass Audubon as a Land Stewardship Coordinator has presented me with many opportunities, one being able to help manage perennial pepperweed, an invasive plant that is widely spread throughout the Northshore. Having never even heard of pepperweed before, I was excited to get started, not knowing where this journey would take me. As I began to dive head first into learning more about this plant, where it tends to grow, and what it looks like I was very intrigued. When the time came to start pulling we had volunteers, school, and other groups come out to help us. Pulling pepperweed is no easy task, there are sites that can take 4-5 hours to pull and getting all the help we can sure makes the process easier. Without these volunteers we would never be as efficient and successful as we are.

As I pull more and more I realize just how difficult it can be. We sometimes have to walk a mile or so into the marsh, trudging through stands of Phragmites and cattails, just to get to a site that we then have to pull and carry trash bags full of pepperweed out of back to our cars. Then add in the 90 degree sunny days and I am exhausted by noon. When I have days like those I have to think about all the good we are doing and sometimes we even get rewarded.

One day a group of us was pulling alongside a marsh close to a street with a couple houses. A gentleman walks out of his house and asks us what we are doing. I go on to explain that we are pulling pepperweed and how it is an invasive plant that can create a mono-culture if not treated. I show him what is looks like and we talk about how the landscape has changed over the years. He is from California, but spends the summers in Essex and has been coming here since he was a child. He couldn’t thank us enough for the work that we were doing, which was very rewarding. He went back inside, but a few minutes later he came back out with a check book and says he wants to make a donation. This was the first time something like this has ever happened to me and really made me realize how grateful people are and just how important what we are doing is. Being out in the field is not always easy, but when things like this happen it helps keep your motivation high. I can’t thank that gentleman enough for his kindness and sincerity.

So far we have pulled dozens of sites accounting for 50+ bags of pepperweed. There are days when I ask myself, while pulling in the middle of a Phragmites stand, is it worth it? My answer, yes! Can the work be difficult and monotonous? Yes. It is never fun at the end of a work day to pull 4 ticks off your clothes, but in the end, it’s all worth it. Every plant we pull now is decreasing the chances it will spread next year. Pepperweed is a battle that has no end in sight, but all we can do is keep fighting and little by little we are making a difference.

Sara Semanza is serving as a Land Stewardship Coordinator at Mass Audubon Headquarters for the 2018-2019 TerraCorps Service. 

Want to learn more about our current members?Click here!

Building a Community

Building a Community

by Emily Boardman

Starting my TerraCorps service year brought mixed feelings. By the time I applied to be a service member in October 2018, I had lived in four different houses over the course of just nine months. When I received the offer from the Buzzards Bay Coalition to serve with them, I was elated. I was so excited to be working with the public and sharing my passion for the environment with them.  Yet, I was most excited about living in one area.

But then the reality hit me: I was starting my service year a month later than most people. While they had all been together for a week-long training, I hadn’t even applied yet. While the other service members at the Buzzards Bay Coalition had been serving for a month, I didn’t even know what the Buzzards Bay Coalition was. I felt lost and out of place.  First, I found it difficult to fit in with the service members who already knew one another.  Second, I found it hard to find my role at an organization that already had another service member in my role.

Slowly but surely, my role became clearer and I fell into my own at my service site. Also, after a few retreats with TerraCorps service members, it felt like I had not started late at all.

I felt like I was starting to get a grasp on living in New Bedford and serving with the Buzzards Bay Coalition. That is, until a monthly report asked the question: “Give an example of a way or a time that you felt connected to your community” and I was at a loss. There were people who I saw regularly, but I still didn’t feel connected.  That got me to thinking about why.

I realized that while I saw plenty of people regularly, the phrase “connected to your community” meant more than that to me. To me, a community means a group of people who share their lives, not just people who share a snippet of their lives in passing. So, I started searching for an outlet, for a group of people whom I could call friends.

I was lucky that at the same time, I started hanging out with my co-worker, Claudia, and my supervisor, Rebecca, more. We would go for drinks, trivia, or to catch a glimpse of whales off Plymouth together. This allowed me to build the drive to start branching out to other people who I saw regularly.

As the Buzzards Bay Swim was fast approaching, I connected with some women from the YMCA who were planning on doing the event.  I began swimming with them several times a week in preparation for the event. Even though the event has passed, we still get together to swim at least twice a week.  We catch-up and enjoy a nice swim in the bay – Rebecca and Claudia will join on occasion too!

Almost ten months in, I wish I could have told myself when I started that everything would work itself out. Building friendships and a community take time, so you have to be patient. If you had asked me a year ago if I was planning on staying in New Bedford after my service year, my answer would have been “Heck no!”  Now, I am sad at the thought of leaving thanks to the community I have built for myself.

 

Emily Boardman is serving as a Youth Education Coordinator at Buzzards Bay Coalition for the 2018-2019 TerraCorps Service. 

Want to learn more about our current members?Click here!

S.A.L.S.A/ Kite Festival Promotes Fun with Families and the Community

S.A.L.S.A/ Kite Festival Promotes Fun with Families and the Community

by Mitchy  Alberti

This year was my first time experiencing and participating in the 6th annual S.A.L.S.A/ Kite festival. Every June Ground work Lawrence alongside the Mayors health task force host the festival on the Merrimack river in Lawrence attracting residents of all ages. It’s an event that Is free, family fun offers games, kite making and flying, trolley rides, boat rides, music, face painting and more. Healthy lunch was provided at no cost at all. It was a great turn out this year, where people who didn’t know the event was happening walked into a great surprise at the park.

This year the location was moved because of the remaining construction from the Gas Leak in sept of 2018. It was changed to the Riverfront Park that is right next to the Merrimack River. The goal of this event is getting people active in fun ways. It wasn’t just fun for the children we want to encourage parents/ guardians to be active as well, making it a day of family. S.A.L.S.A stands for Supporting Active Lifestyles for All. There was a DJ, bouncy house, a mini bike obstacle course.

There were about a dozen nonprofit, community groups, stationed along the walkway and the park with tables providing information, displaying healthy eating / lifestyle as well as useful skills like CPR training. Firefighters and law enforcement came out to enjoy the day with the community. Hanging by the river banks and officers giving out ice cream in their own ice cream truck.

I worked alongside coworkers and Green teamers from Ground Work Lawrence. We all helped the community build kites. We helped young and old to decorate their own kites, then help assemble the kite together carefully before they were able to take flight. The kite flying has been a big part of Ground Work Lawrence for years before it joined together with S.A.L.S.A festival. It is a very popular event.

I personally believe even with the location change; the Riverfront park was a huge success. There is an open grassy center of the park open to the public to fly their kites, dance, chase bubbles. Had children and their families participate in group activates like Simon says, and Tag to help get their blood pumping and get their heart rates up. I had a very fun time. Meet some new faces meet some old ones. It was great to see so many families’ out and about during the event. Hope to be part of the action again next year. When I first learned about making kites I had kept one to keep for my own enjoyment. We had made over 250 kites and ran out just near the end of the event. There was a young boy who approached our table to make one but we had just ran out. I decided to give him the one I was saving.  As we started to pack up, I looked up to see him running around enjoying his kite. Right there I knew it was worth it, I had a feeling he would have a better time with it than I.

Mitchy is serving as a Community Engagement Coordinator at Groundwork Lawerence for the TerraCorps 2018-2019 service year

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

Wool Dying

Wool Dying

by Rachel Niswander

On June 2nd, I held a wool dyeing workshop at one of my sites, the William Cullen Bryant Homestead.  This was the first time a workshop like this was held here, and our participants thoroughly enjoyed it!

I first encountered wool dyeing at the living history museum I worked at outside of Chicago before coming here to the Trustees. One program we offered was Civil War Days, a two-day event where we would have wool dyeing demonstrations in our weaver’s cabin in addition to reenactments, a battle, spelling bees, and more. As a relative novice to the dyeing arts, I did a quick test run prior to that August weekend and enjoyed seeing what colors come from a specific plant.

After moving out to Massachusetts in September, I wanted to do something with historic trades during my time at the Homestead. I knew it would have to be in the spring or summer, as it is not open for the winter outside of our Christmas event and a maple sugar event. So, I proposed this be one of my projects to do, and it was selected.

I chose early June for the date, as nice weather is always preferable for outdoors natural wool dyeing. Supplies were ordered and picked up, wool obtained, and June 2nd soon arrived.

As luck would have it, the weather forecast called for thunderstorms during the second half of the workshop, so there was a quick switch around for the day of timeline. Instead of dying in the second half, I had our five new natural wool dyers dye in the beginning, then provided a tour of the homestead when their skeins were soaking in the dyepot.  This was well appreciated, as it started to pour when we moved our pots under the porch!

After the event was completed, I was told how much my participants enjoyed learning something new and bringing home two new dyed skeins of yarn to use in their projects!  New friends were made and I could not be happier that one of my solo projects went so successfully!

Rachel is serving as a Community Engagement Coordinator at The Trustees- Northwest Region for TerraCorps 2018-2019

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

“Hatching” a Plan to Bring Back the Bobolinks

Hatching a Plan to Bring Back the Bobolinks

by Jessica Cusworth

As the Terracorps Land Stewardship Coordinator at the East Quabbin Land Trust, I feel extremely fortunate that I get to spend so much of my time outdoors monitoring and stewarding our conservation land. I’ve found that the most rewarding projects for me are those focused on wildlife conservation. This past March, I started my first wildlife habitat enhancement project at EQLT’s Wendemuth Meadow Preserve. This project focuses on enhancing grassland habitat for Bobolinks, which like the other grassland birds in our region, are facing sharp population declines. This is mostly a result of habitat loss, as these birds require large patches of grasslands for successful nesting.

EQLT has monitored the Bobolinks’ population declining at Wendemuth Meadow for the last few years. We’ve also noticed the grasses at Wendemuth Meadow aren’t growing as tall and dense as they once did, and that invasive knapweed is expanding its range on the property. Our theory is that the declining grassland conditions may be contributing to the decreasing Bobolink population at the property.

With the help of EQLT’s stewardship volunteers, I’ve put together a grassland restoration project for Bobolinks and other grassland birds on a two-acre section of Wendemuth Meadow. I’m hopeful that this is just a first step in a multi-phase project where we can replicate successful grassland improvements on the rest of the property in the future.

Our goal at Wendemuth Meadow is to increase the vigor of the grasses by enhancing soil quality, altering the species composition of the grasses, and treating invasive plants in the grasslands. We’ve started our experiment with grassland improvements on a two-acre section of the property, which has been divided into quarters to create four experimental plots. We’re looking to identify the most successful fertilizer treatment (conventional vs. regenerative) and grass mix combination from these plots based on which plot grows the most dense and tall grasses.

We’ll measure the new grasses just before the annual mowing in late July after the Bobolinks have fledged. The most effective fertilizer and grass seed mix will be based on the dry weight and height of the grasses in each quarter of the field. With more funding, I hope to replicate the most successful methods on the rest of the grasslands on the property in the future.

I spent the last week of March out on the 2-acre field with members of our stewardship team laying down fertilizer and overseeding the new grass mixes. Now, I’m eagerly waiting for these new grasses to grow so I can begin taking measurements and for the Bobolinks to return in (hopefully) larger numbers. It’s true what they say—if you love what you do, you’ll never work (or serve) another day in your life!

Jessica is serving as a Land Stewardship Coordinator at East Quabbin Land Trust for TerraCorps 2018-2019

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

The Year of the Chicken

The Year of the Chicken

by Sara Amish

Last year, I raised some chickens by accident. It started with one broody hen and some abandoned eggs, and then spiraled upwards from there.  Six weeks later, I was packing up the car for a 38-hour drive to Massachusetts and my parents had “acquired” 8 or so new chickens and two lightly used incubators.

Over the course of the summer, I become fluent in the stages of egg development and the art of raising chickens. Partially out of necessity, not knowing the difference between a pip and a zip can cause you to be brutally lambasted by the passionate people of backyardchickens.com. But truthfully, I struggled to explain my newly found passion for avian husbandry to my very tolerant parents and bewildered partner, as they watched my childhood bedroom fill little peeping fuzzballs.

At the time, I am not sure why I was doing it. I mean, yes it was fun, but there was something deeper I was looking for. See, I was born and raised in Montana, a child of the intermountain west, and here I was, biding my time at my parent’s house until I moved to Massachusetts in August. I had had a plan, a fairly flexible plan I thought, of what life would look like after undergrad, and Massachusetts did not figure in that plan. But, god laughed and last March, my partner got into graduate school on the east coast, the kind of graduate school you can’t turn down, even when it feels like a punch in the gut.

After looking at a map and realizing Boston is north of New York, I felt better but not much. I had never even considered living on the other side of the Mississippi, much less on the east coast. My entire identity was rooted in being from Montana, in being from the west. I chose to study ecology so I could understand and protect the Rocky Mountain ecosystems. My free time was spent on ridges and talus slopes, exploring the blank spots on the map.  I didn’t even know how to begin to comprehend how to process what it would mean to give all of that up, to move across the entire country, to a metropolitan area.

So, I raised a brood of chickens. They were adorable, fluffy and I would fall asleep to their contented peeping. Some came from my parents’ hens, some I got off craigslist from an entrepreneurial twelve year-old because chicks needed friends (An opinion, I will point out, that is widely supported on the backyard chicken forums). And when the time came to move, I left my parents with extensive instructions and cried when they sent me blurry photos.

I won’t lie, it’s been hard. But, I got lucky, because when I got to Massachusetts, I joined TerraCorps.

TerraCorps prides itself on helping connect people to the land. I had applied initially because it seems close to what I wanted to do, but what I now realize is that I needed to see that connection. I have gotten to spend time with people who are passionate about saving the land in their community, who are empowered to protect what is their place. This past weekend, we held our second Discovery Day, a program designed to teach people identification skills. It was amazing to watch people get blown away again and again by the amazing diversity of the natural world. I began to see the landscape through their eyes, to see why this specific spot is so important to them.

I don’t have roots here yet, I may never. But through my service with TerraCorps, I am starting to understand better what it means to love a place.

 

Sara is serving as a Regional Collaboration Coordinator at Sudbury Valley Trustees for TerraCorps 2018-2019.

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

NCLT Opens New Mobility Friendly Trail at Underwood Conservation Area

NCLT Opens New Mobility Friendly Trail at Underwood Conservation Area

by Robin Austin

 

On Friday, May 3rd, community members, families, local veterans, and many more gathered to celebrate the ribbon cutting and naming ceremony for North County Land Trust’s first “Mobility Friendly” trail. NCLT engaged the Hubbardston Center School to hold a trail naming contest with students. The students sent in great suggestions and presented NCLT with a beautiful collage to celebrate the trail.

Choosing a name from the many fantastic submissions was challenging.  The NCLT judges ultimately decided to combine two suggestions: “The Wild Walk”, by Keller Nally, and “The Wheelie Good Trail”, by Ellery Sylvia for a final name of “The Wild Walk: A Wheelie Good Trail”. NCLT greatly

appreciates the input from everyone at the school as well as all the help from Principal Jill Peterson and Art Teacher Andrea Ure who made this possible.

We are so grateful to everyone who has partnered with us to make this project a reality! Thank you to Keith and Debbie Bockus, Tom and Mary Robinson, and Tom Bratko for their help during the trail work; Bob Hatch and Steph Frend who made it possible to install the benches with their tractor; and North Quabbin Trails Association for constructing the trail. Thank you as well to everyone who has donated to the crowdfunding campaign- We raised just under $1,000 in support of this project!

This trail is about 5 feet wide in most areas, with a natural surface— outside materials were not brought in to resurface the trail. However, the terrain IS level with most obstructions removed. NQTA was also able to use a pine tree that had fallen across the trail to build three beautiful benches, which serve as rest stops along the trail.

This project has been in the works for a long time. NCLT has been looking into how to expand access to their conservation areas. When TerraCorps/AmeriCorps member Robin Austin joined the organization in September 2018, she was tasked with looking into the ways NCLT could expand accessibility. NCLT was then connected with Bobby Curley of North Quabbin Trails Association, a veteran-led trails organization.

NQTA has partnered with the GRIT freedom Chair to get veterans to access to rugged trail wheelchairs. They have been working to build trails in the North Quabbin region that can be used by these specialized chairs. We recognized that many of the features that expand access for these chairs also expands access for many others, including seniors, folks with mobility impairments, assistive devices, or traumatic brain injuries, families with young children, and many other groups. NCLT partnered with NQTA to build a trail that would be appropriate for these user groups.

We hope that you will all check out the trail and let us know what you think. This trail is only the beginning for North County Land Trust- we are looking to continue this project into the future, by expanding on the accessibility of this location, as well as some of our other conservation areas. Whether that means ropes and braille for folks with visual impairments or expanding nature walk signage for those unfamiliar with navigating natural spaces- we value the input and we want our trails to be a useful resource for our community. If you have thoughts on this work or other questions about NCLT, please feel free to contact us at info@northcountylandtrust.org.

 

Want to learn more about the trail? Check out our previous article and GoFundMe.


 

Robin is serving as a Community Engagement/Land Steward Coordinator at North County Land Trust for TerraCorps 2018-2019.

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

Bringing People Together to Protect the Spaces that we Love

Bringing People Together to Protect the Spaces that we Love

by Michael McGrath

As an undergraduate, I was proud of the Jesuit education that I received from my alma mater Xavier University as it instilled within me the resolve to be dedicated to the betterment of my community–both human and ecological. It was that commitment to service for the common good that led me to TerraCorps where I currently find myself serving with Mount Grace Land Trust as a Regional Collaboration Coordinator for the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership (NQRLP). The NQRLP is a regional conservation partnership that serves as an informal network that convenes representatives from conservation non-profits, state agencies, academic institutions, and municipal staff and town boards who all share the same interest: protecting and stewarding open space within the Greater Quabbin Region.

When I originally chose to serve with Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust I was excited by the prospect of coordinating a powerful network of conservation professionals and dedicated volunteers who all shared the same goal of amplifying our collective impact to protect open space on a landscape scale. At the same time, I was admittedly intimidated by the prospect of facilitating a group of land conservation professionals who were experts in their field when I was only a recent college graduate who was also happened to be from out of state and knew little to nothing about the region in which I was serving.

Looking back to when my service year started I had little knowledge of the inner-working of land conservation within Massachusetts and was wrestling with what my role should be at Mount Grace and with the NQRLP considering the transient nature of my AmeriCorps position. Despite initially feeling unsure of my role within Mount Grace and the NQRLP, I was able to recognize that more than anything my role is to support our partners so that they can have access to relevant resources and timely information that helps them be more effective in their conservation, stewardship, and municipal planning activities.

After overcoming my initial uncertainties, I have since been able to coordinate and facilitate partnership meetings on a quarterly basis and support many of our partners on independent initiatives that they are working on. I was even able to take the lead on planning and executing a statewide conference for town boards that were concerned with protecting and stewarding open space. Along with my team of fellow TerraCorps, we were able to provide these town volunteers forum to network, share ideas, and foster peer-to-peer learning. More than anything the workshops demonstrated that a small group of thoughtful and concerned citizen scientists can make a difference within their communities. While as a TerraCorps member I likely won’t be around to see the culmination of their community organizing efforts, knowing that we are all working towards a common goal makes gives me hope that we can each do our part to protect and steward the environment.

While I am not from this bioregion and still do not consider this landscape to be my home, I have learned a great deal from serving as the Regional Collaboration Coordinator for the NQRLP and by serving alongside my fellow TerraCorps peers and colleagues at Mount Grace. With my year of service winding down to the last couple of months, I can earnestly say that I am grateful for having had the opportunity to learn on the fly and occasionally wander in the woods. If there is one lesson to be gleaned from my time at Mount Grace, it is that the behind the scenes work that goes into bringing people together makes all the difference for protecting the spaces that we love for one generation to the next.

Michael McGrath is serving as a Regional Collaboration Coordinator at Mount Grace Land Trust for TerraCorps 2018-2019.

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

Birds, Bunnies, Wild Turkeys, Oh and People Too

Birds, Bunnies, Wild Turkeys, Oh and People Too: Don’t Lose Sight of Community Engagement

by Marissa Patterson, she/her

I am serving as the Community Engagement Coordinator at New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. New Entry is a farmer training program that recently relocated from the Merrimack Valley to the North Shore. Farming is hard, and it’s challenging to start and run a viable farm business. We provide resources for new and beginning farmers to make it easier for them. As the CEC at New Entry, my service projects have focused on creative storytelling, outreach, and volunteer engagement.

New Entry’s recent relocation has been a long time coming. The organization chose to move because we have three different sites for on the ground programming- the Incubator Farm which serves as training land for aspiring farmers, the Food Hub which uses food grown by our incubator farmers and other local growers to address community food access needs, and staff offices where the nitty gritty grant and program management happens. In the Merrimack Valley, these three separate sites were located a few miles apart from each other. With the recent move, we have all three program hubs on one property: beautiful Moraine Farm!

Image description: the view up a long dirt road leading up to a big, old, red barn. To the left of the dirt road are dry fields with greenhouses and another barn in the distance. A line of coniferous and bare deciduous trees wraps behind the barns and greenhouses. The cloudless sky is an exceptionally clear blue on a sunny winter-almost-spring afternoon.

Moraine Farm is a Trustees of the Reservation property and a Frederick Law Olmstead landscape. We are extremely fortunate to be able to drive up to this beautiful land every day and explore everything it has to offer. From ponds with lots of wildlife (if you’re patient!) to forested trails and hidden yurts, we bask in the beauty and wonder of this land every day.

The transition to a new site has been a very crucial moving piece in my service projects. New Entry moved in March, but I began my service term in September. How does an organization do outreach for a community to which it has not yet moved? How do you form community partnerships and engage volunteers without yet having a local site? How do you build excitement for your programs and mission in a new community? How do you navigate community relationships with an uncertain timeline? These were tricky questions that I had to figure out how to address during my service term. I still don’t have the answers, but luckily, I have had great resources available to me.

This year, TerraCorps facilitated a Community Needs Assessment Learning Cohort for interested members, led by Angela Roell (they/them). With extensive experience in community-based projects, Angela has spent the last 6 months or so guiding some of my fellow TerraCorps members and I through conducting a Community Needs Assessment. Through this process, they have provided valuable mentoring and feedback as I have helped New Entry move forward with outreach in a new community. They have also provided guidance as I thought about how to build authentic relationships between New Entry and our surrounding community that will outlast my time here.

Though it was daunting to think about doing outreach in a new community, it was also exciting! My service this year lays an important foundation for New Entry in our new home on the North Shore. Knowing the weight of my projects, it was challenging for me to find a starting place. However, because of the Learning Cohort, I received direction and outside mentorship on addressing guiding questions and I will be leaving my service site with an Outreach and Facilitation Plan, a Project Management Plan, and a fully documented Timeline of Outreach and Engagement. On top of the value of spending 11 months doing this work, being able to leave these resources for the next person in my shoes builds capacity, enhances continuity in New Entry’s outreach, and clarifies outreach processes for other staff members.

Moraine Farm is beautiful land and we’re excited to establish roots here. It is relatively easy to put our heads down and get caught up in getting the fields and our farmers-in-training ready for the growing season but losing sight of community engagement can be very counterproductive. I am thrilled to be able to use my service to enhance and maintain that vision for New Entry. As I consider my professional future, knowing I bring these valuable skills and experiences to future workplaces gives me confidence and makes me grateful for the professional development opportunities I’ve had during my service year. I hope to continue to center my time around engaging communities and forming meaningful, trusting relationships that build equity and justice into environmental movements.

Marissa is serving as a Community Engagement Coordinator at New Entry for TerraCorps 2018-2019

Want to learn more about our current members? Click here!

 

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