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!
Owl Pellet Dissection
By: Jenn Reilly serving as Youth Education and Community Engagement Coordinator at North County Land Trust.
Every week I spend time at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Leominster/Fitchburg and Gardner doing nature-based activities with a group of awesome kids. This week, the group dissected owl pellets and had a blast. It was awesome to see the kids willing to dive in and try the activity even though they thought it was gross. They were able to find so many tiny mouse skulls! Through these activities, I help to expose kids who spend most of their time in an urban environment to the nature that exists all around them. Getting them interested and excited about nature helps break down barriers and dispel fears that tend to exist in today’s world.
Store Pond Restoration
By: Molly Travers serving as a Regional Conservation Coordinator at Southeastern MA Pine Barrens Alliance
On Saturday, November 4th, I co-hosted a restoration event at Store Pond in North Plymouth, along side fellow TerraCorps member Tommy, Land Steward Coordinator at Wildlands Trust. Since this is one of the few remaining open spaces in North Plymouth, the goal was to engage local residents in an effort to keep this site clean and accessible. With the help of 10 volunteers, we removed 9 bags of trash, furniture, tires, and more from the site in just 2 hours. I am working on creating invasive species identification guides that can be used by the group when we return to the site in the spring. During the second session, we will provide training to volunteers on the various invasive species on site (Japanese knotweed, Phragmites, and bittersweet) and how best to remove them and prevent their growth. The first session of the Store Pond Restoration was a definite success!