One of the joys of our job is reading the wonderful “illustrative stories” that we request as a part of the application process. We were touched by these two stories that Alison Levine of the Hunterdon Land Trust submitted, which we are reprinting here with permission:
On a grey morning this past December, I hurried into my office at the Historic Dvoor Farm. It was the end of the year end and the usual crush of tasks faced me – wrapping up gifts from donors wanting a 2011 tax deduction, acknowledging the generosity of supporters, thanking volunteers for their help over the past year. I set about sifting through the emails that accumulated in my inbox overnight and found one that stopped me in my tracks.
“Thanks to all of you for making our mother’s dream come alive.”
– The Bodine family
After spending over 20 years working in and being a student of the nonprofit sector, this one simple email summed up perfectly the questions that are at the center of all of our work – why do we care? Why do donors’ support nonprofits? Why do staff and volunteers sacrifice their nights for board meetings and their Saturdays for events? So often the answers to these questions gets drowned out with dry statistics, or lost in a sea of jargon. But this one simple line of text is the answer; we care because together we make dreams come true.
The Bodine Family
Mary, the matriarch of the Bodine family, lived on 28 wooded acres in Quakertown for all of her adult life. She loved to walk through the woods, listening to the birds singing and watching the frogs and turtles splash in the property’s springs which form the headwaters of the Capoolong Creek. Mary was generous with the land she loved. She opened the property for horseback riders to enjoy, and nature lovers and hikers to explore. Mary shared the pond that her husband created by damming a natural spring with her friends and family, but longed for the spring and the stream it fed to be restored to their natural state.
In 2006 Mary Bodine preserved her land with the help of the Hunterdon Land Trust. She created a living legacy and ensured that future generations could experience the peace and joy she felt when roaming in the woods. Last year, the land trust completed a long and ambitious project that removed the earthen dam creating the man made pond and fulfilled Mary’s vision of returning her land to its natural state. Removing the dam allows the property’s waterways to resume their natural course to the Capoolong Creek. Dozens of volunteers, including Mary’s daughter, the author of the above quote, planted over 1,000 trees and plants to re-establish 2.4 acres of wetlands that help to filter water and also reduce flooding.
This project was a big undertaking for the Hunterdon Land Trust, involving years of planning and many months of execution. Its successful completion ushers in a new era of increased stewardship for the land trust, and marks a milestone in our growing capacity. The land trust was nominated for Bowman’s Hill Land Ethics Award of Excellence for this project, but the best prize was the email from Mary’s daughter and the chance to make a dream come alive.
Purely Farm & The Michinis
Clover Michini is three years old. She has her mother Joanna’s dark curly hair and her father Marc’s wide-legged rolling walk. Clover also has something that has become increasingly rare for east coast children: the chance to grow up on a working farm.
Marc and Joanna started Purely Farm after years of being what Joanna called “reluctant mostly vegetarians.” Unwilling to be a part of unsustainable and inhumane big agribusiness, the Michinis only ate meat from Marc’s hunting trips, or from local family farms.
When they decided to go into farming for themselves, it was only natural they would focus on sustainable and humane practices. The Michinis started Purely Farm on rented land with the goal to “provide the local community with quality and wholesome, naturally pasture-raised meats. We are a diversified farm dedicated to sustainable agriculture, the humane treatment of animals and a natural way of life. We aim to recreate the connection between families, farmers and food.”
The Michinis originally contacted the Hunterdon Land Trust to inquire about selling their meat at our Farmers’ Market at the Historic Dvoor Farm, and the relationship has grown from there. The land trust is helping them find a preserved farm they can afford so that they can grow their business. At Marc’s urging, we have also expanded our farmers’ market to include the third Sunday of the winter months, giving him and Joanna, as well as all the other farmers, an additional source of income.
The Michinis live out their values every day on Purely Farm. Their “happy hogs” get plenty of fresh air and exercise chasing each other around and the chicken’s shelters are moved on a regular schedule ensuring fresh pasture, exercise and clean air. All the Purely animals are naturally fed and humanely treated. Sustainable values are, by their very nature, intended to benefit future generations. Marc and Joanna are not only honoring their values by the way they live, they are also showing Clover what it means to care for the land and animals that sustain us.
By working with people like the Michinis, who share a deeply felt desire to live sustainably on their farm, the Hunterdon Land Trust is fulfilling their vision, and our own, of protecting and caring for our region’s most valuable and irreplaceable resources – our land and environment. Together we are also building a community that understands our dependence on these resources and the responsibility to protect them, for Clover and all the future farmers and nature lovers.
Alison Levine is the Director of Development and Outreach for the Hunterdon Land Trust. For more information on HLT’s work, please visit their website.