Yesterday, my husband, daughter and I took a meandering drive down rt. 140, past rolling hillsides and dense woods, before finally getting on rt. 2 to our final destination - the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, MA.
This was our second time attending the festival. We believe the abundance of fresh, locally grown garlic and other organic produce is well worth the crowds, as this event has gotten to be quite popular. Especially on a sunny, 65 degree Sunday in September.
The garlic is plentiful and you can find it in everything from freshly baked bread to ice cream. The faces of the people are happy and relaxed and there are local artists selling their wares and demonstration on everything from cooking to renewable energy. Peace, love and garlic. It's cool, man.
But beyond the drum circles and farm animals and wool blankets made on wooden spinning wheels there are booths dedicated to educating the masses on the importance of maintaining open land. In this area land seems to be plentiful, as most people in the state are reluctant to live that far away from any major city, but residents of the surrounding towns feel differently.
They see the farms going bankrupt. They see their children moving away and developers moving in, driving up the housing prices. Slowly, the older woman with the steely gray hair tells me, but it's happening.
I understand where her concern lies, I live in a town that has seen an explosion of growth over the last decade. McMansions and cul-de-sacs are much more profitable than the horse farms that used to dominate the landscape, and town officials have allowed the building to continue in the name of the almighty tax dollar. But there are groups who, like the women at the booth in Orange, are dedicated to the conservation of undeveloped land. They're small but mighty and they're not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
New England used to be an area of thick forests and in some parts the old trees are still there, thriving. But in parts of our region the influx of home owners looking to live near their technology jobs or take advantage of our first-rate hospitals and colleges and universities, not to mention the natural beauty of our states, has overpowered the landscape.
I'm not an expert on land conservation so it feels wrong to include a bunch of facts and figures with this post. I wouldn't know if they were true anyway. I only know what I see. But I am a concerned resident of this state and this region and I do wonder what's the next step. I can't stop people from moving here and I certainly can't stop a development company from clearing another field to slap up a bunch of condos.
I do know this: I can support the garlic farmer, the organic vegetable farmer, the local chicken farmer where I can get fresh eggs. I can try my hardest to join the local CSA. I can, possibly, join my town's land conservation commission or, at the very least, support their efforts through fund raisers and town meetings.
After that, I don't know. But I'm up for suggestions. It would be a shame to lose this beautiful land we're so lucky to be living on to 3,000 square foot houses with media rooms and four car garages.