By Emily Swan – August 10, 2021
The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) marked the end of its 2020-21 fiscal year on June 30 with hearts full of gratitude to our members and our community.
First, to our members. To all of the 1,081 individuals, families, businesses, and organizations who joined BTLT or renewed their memberships in 2020-21, thank you. BTLT has worked mightily in this uniquely challenging year to adapt its programs, farmers’ market, trails, and community garden to meet heightened needs during the pandemic. Your continued support is the best validation of those efforts we could possibly hope for.
During a year when the national average for member retention among U.S. non-profit organizations is just shy of 44%, an astonishing 82% of BTLT’s community members and 91% of community partners (donors giving $1,000 or more a year) stuck with us last year. Many even increased the size of their annual gift! We are gratified and humbled by your loyalty to BTLT and its mission of strengthening community through conservation.
The pandemic created enormous obstacles in the ways BTLT has traditionally connected with the community. At the same time, it underscored the value of our trails and programs to the community. This past year has seen a strengthening of our existing partnerships and given rise to new ones.
The Farmers’ Market remains as popular as ever, and each week increasing numbers of food-insecure Mainers are discovering the delicious, nutritious local food available at the market through the Maine Harvest Bucks program. We are grateful to Flight Deck Brewing and Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe for giving up parking space each Saturday morning to allow our Farmers’ Market to operate safely during the pandemic. Beginning Labor Day weekend, the Market will be returning to its beloved traditional site atop the hill at Crystal Spring Farm.
BTLT volunteers at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) have deepened their partnership with Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) this year. A new volunteer-built hoop house has extended the growing season, and new beds in the Common Good Garden mean that this year BTLT is likely to deliver a greater variety and quantity of fresh, organic produce to MCHPP than ever.
We have forged new links with groups of people wishing to grow their own food through a crowdsourcing effort on social media that raised over $14,000 in just a few days from existing and new members to build raised beds. Four tall adaptive beds are allowing people with mobility issues to grow food at the TSCG, and ten beds constructed outside BTLT’s office at Brunswick Landing have created a space for New Mainer families living at the Landing to grow their own food. This garden has become a real community meeting place for these families, and BTLT is looking forward to deepening this relationship through increased programming in this space.
BTLT’s trails remain as popular as ever. Our stewardship staff and volunteers are working hard on improvements to existing trails and construction of new ones. This will lead to the re-opening of some trails that are currently closed and the inauguration of new trail systems in our area. Stay tuned for more information about that!
We are also strengthening our partnership with the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) to offer educational programming, beginning with a series of presentations on climate change planned for this winter.
BTLT is working with several individuals and organizations to increase our understanding of the ways in which conservation organizations like ours have fallen short in serving the needs of all groups in our society. We aim to build trust with historically marginalized groups, and to take concrete steps to make BTLT and the natural places it stewards more just, equitable, and diverse.
These are just some of the ways BTLT is working to connect people to nature and to the land. Although the pandemic is far from over and much uncertainty remains, we can be sure of this: BTLT’s strength lies with its members and its community. Thank you for the confidence you have placed in us through your partnerships and your support.
Emily Swan, president,
Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust