Monday, September 17, 2007

This land is my land, this land is your land

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.


Whirlwind said...

I know what you mean. I grew up in the area where I now live. I hate driving down country roads and seeing what used to be open rolling fields now turned into McMansion subdivisions. I know alot of the farmers are growing older and selling out because their children do not want that type of lifestyle but it still pains me to see this. A few towns in my state are even buying the farmlands to prevent the development under a farmland /open space preservation initiative.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Amen to this! (or whatever one says in agreement) Our town approved a small tax to put toward purchasing parcels of land for conservation. . .and then wanted to use the money to build a football stadium. Arghhh!!!!

Did Chicky eat garlic ice cream?

pinks & blues girls said...

Oh, McMansions scare the hell out of me. They're so cold and sterile to me. I keep on saying I want to join a local CSA. Gotta look more into that. I do try to buy as much locally grown produce as I can at Whole Foods. But believe me, I know I can do better than that.

Jane, Pinks & Blues

cape buffalo said...

Good for you! Joining a Land Trusty/Conservation-thingie is on my list of things to do when I'm an empty nester. For now, I spend my afternoons increasing my carbon footprint as we drive all over creation to activities.

I'll try to do better. I swear.;

Rock the Cradle said...

I see it too, every time I head down to my parents and notice a "for sale" sign on wetlands, new developments in the woods I used to walk in, new mini-malls where there used to be open fields.

And ah. Garlic. Good as Ten Mothers, I hear.

(If you haven't seen the Les Blank documentary "Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers", check it out. Fun stuff)

Cate said...

Y'all should make a list of local farms to support. We go to Flo's Farm Stand in Rutland.

sandy shoes said...

This is a common theme on Cape Cod as well.

The place to be vocal about it is at your local planning/zoning board meetings. McMansion subdivisions only go up because towns allow them.

Massachusetts has the Community Preservation Act (see, which allows towns to impose additional (yes) property tax, which is matched by state funds, and then used according to the CPA guidelines for historical and open space preservation, recreation, and affordable housing. (This sounds like what fairly odd mother referred to, especially with the proposed football stadium. They might've been getting that through under the "recreation" category, but maybe there's hope b/c the CPA money has to be allotted to each of those categories in preset proportions, so one type of project can't hog all the funds.)

ANYhoo, participating in the CPA is not required... towns had to vote to do it. See how your town voted. See if your state has a similar program.

I had garlic ice cream at the garlic festival in Gilroy, CA one year. It was terrible. But garlic jelly was yummy mixed with cream cheese as a cracker spread :).

jenny said...

as someone with some familiarity with local conservation commissions, they serve to administer and enforce only the wetlands protection act and/or a local wetlands bylaw (which would be your town's additional, more stringent measures of protection). Our town's CPA and local bylaw were voted down last support is always welcome.

Your town might have an open space committee or a Master Plan. Both are worth looking into...

Tricia said...

A good place for any Vermonters (or visitors) is this:

Localvore is huge up here!

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