BTLT in the News, “Guest column: Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust connects people to nature”

Guest column: Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust connects people to nature

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

 

 

 

BTLT in the News, “Your Land: Hunting for home”

Your Land: Hunting for home

By Sandy Scott, November 6th, 2020

 

Consider your eyes: set just above your nose, less than two inches apart, designed to zero in on what’s before you. There she is, nostrils working, tail twitching, taking one cautious step at a time, eyes wide to her head’s sides, designed to know what’s all around.

You and this deer are complements of aimed and spread awareness: predator and prey. You are hunting, and your prey is not the slow, shrink-wrapped meat of a supermarket aisle.

Whether we choose to hunt or not, we are of this relationship; it is part of our design. We are, of course, descendants of eons of hunter-gatherers, who found both a living and a place in a natural world tucked full of such relationships. Our social organization turned us into apex predators, and as we grew numerous, we chased other predators (see wolves or lions, e.g.) away.

During hunting season, common wisdom holds that hunters are filling an old role. Less common is an understanding of how vital hunting is to our valued, conserved, and agricultural lands.

In my last column, I wrote of tagging along with a local bowhunter as he looks for deer. To deepen my understanding of the role of hunting in our eco-system, I turned to a number of familiar and new writers, among them Leopold, Thoreau, Dillard. What’s grown in me, as a result, is an appreciation for the ways hunters know and value the land they walk.

My October example came from nearby Crystal Spring Farm, a more than 300-acre mix of farm and forest owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and farmed on over 100 of those acres by Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon’s family.

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BTLT in the News, “Grant helps Crystal Spring Farm switch business model, zeroes in on carrots, blueberries”

BY HANNAH LACLAIRETIMES RECORD

Seth Kroeck, manager of Crystal Spring Farm

The growing season for carrots and blueberries might be over, as evidenced by the snowflakes falling on farmer Seth Kroeck’s shoulders Wednesday morning, but there’s still plenty of work ahead for the owners of Crystal Spring Farm as they move forward with plans to break into the wholesale business this fall and winter.

Kroeck and Maura Bannon, managers of Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farm, are recipients of a $250,000 USDA Value Added Producer grant that, when matched, will help the farm process, market and distribute organic carrots and blueberry products to local retailers.

The 320-acre organic farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Seth Kroeck has a 50-year lease on 115 acres of agricultural land and farm buildings along with a separate lease from a local family for 72 acres of wild blueberries. Kroeck and Bannon have been growing organic carrots since 2004 and organic blueberries since 2014.

Over the past decade, Crystal Spring became the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Maine, according to a news release.  In 2018, they grew over 160 varieties of vegetables and served over 600 members from the Midcoast to Portland.

 

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BTLT in the News, “Land trust moves to Brunswick Landing”

We have moved our office to Brunswick Landing! Check out the recent press coverage on the big move and what we hope will become of this beautiful new space.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has moved from offices on Brunswick’s Maine Street to Brunswick Landing at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The new location is at 179 Neptune Drive, formerly the Navy’s non-commissioned officer’s club.

The new location places the land trust near Neptune Woods, Kate Furbish Preserve a branch of the Bath Area YMCA and the Town Rec Department.

“Because we are now in the Landing community — where there are residences and businesses — and because we are adjacent to recreation lands, people are going to be able to more easily use our office space as a resource. We’d like to offer things like a library of guidebooks, guided outings, and maybe one day trailhead restrooms,” said Nikkilee Cataldo, the trust’s director of programs, in a statement.

The new facility has a large deck, shared meeting rooms, parking and outdoor spaces. The Cathance River Education Alliance has already moved into the adjacent office space.

“We’re looking forward to the space being shared with partners in our work,” said Angela Twitchell, executive director of the trust. “Having CREA and other organizations right next door is exciting because it will allow us to all do more collaborative work together.”

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BTLT in the News, “Redevelopment authority seeking input on uses for 144-acres on former base”

Recently, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority put together a survey to gather public input on the future use of 144-acres on Brunswick Landing. The survey closed recently, but you can learn about the plans and the project at the article below.

BRUNSWICK — The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority is trying to decide what to do with 144-acres on the west side of the former Navy base and is seeking public input.

The parcel, which includes a cranberry wetland, a radar tower, abandoned military bunkers, airport access roads, a quarry and land formerly part of the town commons, was originally part of a roughly 275-acre area given over to Bowdoin College for educational purposes in 2006.

But according to Bowdoin spokesperson  Doug Cook, the original terms of the agreement required the college to make “substantial investments in new facilities on the former naval air station land by the year 2020.” Instead, the college made an outright purchase of about 13 acres last year. The Navy conveyed the remaining land back to the redevelopment authority, which is overseeing revitalization efforts at the former base, now renamed Brunswick Landing.

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BTLT in the News, “Local organizations step up to help feed people in need during pandemic”

The midcoast Maine region is home to a particularly high density of farms and organizations committed to promoting food access. Over the past months, a number of

Volunteers at Growing to Give at Scatter Good Farm in Brunswick harvest, pack and donate hundreds of pounds of fresh, organic produce to send to local food banks each week, but Farm Manager Theda Lyden worries it’s still not enough.

Once the coronavirus pandemic hit and thousands of Mainers lost their jobs, Lynden and the others at the nonprofit farm immediately felt an urgency to get more food into the system.

Since March, the weekly haul has been steadily increasing as the growing season has progressed, Lyden said. Last week, 735 pounds of vegetables were harvested and distributed across Cumberland, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties. It’s starting to feel like they’re making a difference, she said.

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BTLT in the News, “Local organizations promoting food access with seedlings”

The midcoast Maine region is home to a particularly high density of farms and organizations committed to promoting food access. Over the past months, a number of local farms, along with the Merrymeeting Gleaners and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT), have been working together on an ambitious project to collect and distribute hundreds of seedlings to dozens of food access programs across the southern midcoast region. The project is already proving hugely successful, with thousands of plants having been distributed. In time, these seedlings will mature in various gardens around the region and yield significantly more food per unit than redistributing already grown vegetables.

“We hadn’t done much seedling donation before this year,” said Ben Whatley, co-owner of Whatley Farm, one of the farms who has taken the lead in donating seedlings. “It was always just excess produce going through… when we’ve had the gleaners out to glean the crops on the fields. [Gleaning seedlings] was a new idea [for us].”

A few months ago, Whatley reached out to Kelly Davis (gleaning coordinator for the Merrymeeting Gleaners) and Jamie Pacheco (program manager at BTLT) offering to donate a variety of excess vegetable seedlings. Pacheco and Davis contacted a network of partner organizations in the area to gauge interest, with the Merrymeeting Gleaners managing the logistics and distribution. The response was rapid and enthusiastic.

“Seedlings aren’t really something we’ve gleaned before, but [Whatley] reached out to us asking if we could use the seedlings and I was like ‘OK, let’s try it,”’ said Davis. “I put an email out to all our partners and I got an overwhelming response—within half an hour, I had to stop taking requests!”

Since that initial proposal, about 2,000 seedlings have been distributed to a wealth of organizations in the midcoast Maine area, with Milkweed Farm, Six River Farm and Goranson Farm also contributing seedlings.

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BTLT in the News, “Spring Slippers”

Sandy Stott, BTLT Board Member and local writer, recently began a regular series published in the Times Record all about the Mere Brook Watershed here in Brunswick.

Your Land: Spring slippers

By Sandy Stott on June 11, 2020

Perhaps the days have you talking to yourself, or, better yet, revisiting an old ability many of us developed in childhood — that of talking with imaginary friends, perhaps from other eras. Surely they can be helpful making sense of a time that seems beyond our experience.

The other day, I did what I do daily: I went for a walk in the woods, and, after a long, stuttering start, I noticed that our coastal Maine woods have begun to say, “It’s the warm season; take a look at this.” Three favorite flowers colored this voice in my head — the trout lily, trillium and, finally, the pink lady’s slipper. I love each, and they arrive each spring in an overlapping sequence of their mention above.

Just so in the woods I walk or run often — our Town Commons and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s trails at Crystal Spring; each flower has been a welcome flag of the season. and each has nudged me to pick up a reread a favorite small volume, Wildflowers of Maine — The Botanical Art of Kate Furbish, and resume conversation with the painter.

Furbish (1834 – 1931) lived in Brunswick throughout her life and became one of the era’s better known botanists, and then, late in life and after her death, as her illustrations gained a broader audience, a revered painter. She was, it turned out, that rare combination — scientist and artist (though by now we should be alert for the core of curiosity and close observation that brings alive both disciplines; they seem deep complements). This little book (DownEast Books, and available at Bowdoin College’s museum) of narrative and illustrations helps me look more fully at what’s rising.

Being brought to season by the emergence of flowers and imagined talk with a former resident seems a steadier route than that of our daily weather, which often packs all seasons into short stretches of time. Frost and rogue snowflakes can give way to sudden sun and intense warmth, especially in corners away from the wind; then the clouds can make muddle of what just was. What to wear, what to be? seem fair weather questions each day. “Be aware; pay attention to what’s at your feet,” Kate Furbish says to me.

For me, spring’s emergence culminates with the pink lady’s slipper, our common orchid of the woods, and my habit of notice spans enough years so I know specific patches of them, look for them each spring in remembered places. There is, for example, a stretch of lady’s slippers to the left of the main trunk trail just as it leaves the second development and turns left to the central Commons.

Like many slipper-gatherings in the Commons this one exceeds my numeric tic of counting these flowers as I pass by, though, during one spring, that impulse grew strong enough so I’d end my foot-time with tallies in the hundreds. But what keeps me swinging my eyes side to side as I walk or run are the outliers, those lady’s slippers that rise solo or duo, that possibly foretell a collection of descendants some years from now.

Just yesterday, I stepped off a trail near Crystal Spring to allow another walker good distance for passing by, and there, next to my feet, was a lady’s slipper, the only one visible in this patch of forest.

Neighbors tell me that, before the Bowdoin playing fields south of the campus were hewn from forest some years ago, those woods were rife with lady’s slippers. Now, they say, there are none in the narrow, big-treed remainder between

those fields and the first of the Meadowbrook neighborhoods that fringe also the Commons. Ah, but there has been one flower in recent years, not far above the gully that guides Mere Brook in an intermediate mile.

And this year, they are two, with a third plant that hasn’t flowered. Solo, duo… perhaps trio next year? And then?

What, I wonder aloud to Kate Furbish while we are searching our local woods, is the word for a grouping of lady’s slippers? It turns out that there is no word, even as aardvarks — for instance — have their own collective noun. They, in their numbers, are an armoury. Some snakes too — you may one day meet a sum of adders, or you may hope to avoid such an addition. But flowers? Bunch or bouquet of…ho hum. Shoes? pair…yawn; but, shoes, scandal of…ears perk.

Your suggestions?

BTLT in the News, “Brunswick-Topsham land trust’s farmers market numbers down amid pandemic”

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market has temporarily moved to Brunswick High School in order to adapt to COVID-19 and despite the promising start at the first market of the season, the numbers are down. Alex Lear recently covered the topic in an article in the Forecaster.

Despite a slight uptick in traffic from the year before on opening day, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market has seen decreased numbers in the following weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Several factors are at play, according to Jacqui Koopman, the market’s manager: Not all vendors are back, only one member per household is asked to attend, and the market is at a different site this year.

Koopman said 632 vehicles were counted at the May 2 start of this year’s market, up from 625 on opening day the prior year. But last Saturday saw 599 cars, down from 829 last year.

“We didn’t know what to expect” prior to opening, she said. “I know that we are a very popular market and we have a loyal following. And I also know that people are shopping more at farmers markets because it’s outdoors and it’s safer, and access to local food is easier that way.”

Still, “things are in flux,” which may have an impact on numbers, Koopman said.

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