We have land. It is conservation land. So what do we do with the land? Pretend like it is a precious jewel to be locked away from people? Hide it so no one knows it is there? Don’t touch it!
At first, I thought that our greatest value as an organization was to hold conservation and make sure that is stayed just the way it was. And then we got some land. Then came the realization that we have this land. What would you do if you had some land? I had no plans, but I had ears and eyes.
We heard about a group that is helping resettle refugees through a United Nations programs. They would bring these refugees into communities that were mostly home to other refugees. They would get them apartments, jobs, and support. But surveys of refugees that had been here for a few years kept exposing a flaw in the program. Many of these refugees came from many generations of living as subsistence farmers in small family based communities. Now they were living in crowded apartment complexes doing low wage service jobs. They were separated from their families when they worked. They missed farming. They missed having their families with them when they are farmed and they missed the very foods that they used to grow. So this group said let’s get these folks small pieces of land of around 1/8 acre so they can grow some food for themselves and their neighbors. And then they realized they were in the edge of a dream. They saw these farmers bringing fresh produce native to their homelands back to these food desert apartment complexes. They realized that the refugees could make a better and more fulfilling living by farming just a 3-5 acre plot. Yes 3-5 acres could yield enough income to get these families out of the working poor demographic and into the lower middle class. They saw the American dream. But they needed more land. They needed enough land for many families to have 3-5 acres plots. They needed room on this land to keep communal equipment such as a tractor. And they needed land for free. We have 150 acres of farm ready land. Farm land is a fine use for conservation land provided the farming is gentle on the land. And we are on the way to partnering with this group to grow food, improve families, and let them really grab hold of the American dream. How’s that for using conservation land?
We also heard about a group of university students engaged in developing and promoting permaculture agriculture. This is a technique in which a wide variety of produce can be grown in a very small area with very little pest and weed control. It is a type of system that was used for countless years when many families and small community groups had small gardens. This group needed some land to provide demonstration gardens. We are providing that land.
We saw that much of our land had been planted with pine trees for pulp wood production. The trees were too dense to grow properly and to provide habitat for a diverse forest. We are carefully thinning these areas with the goal of producing a more natural and diverse forest. We will receive income from that process which will fund other projects to improve the conservation value of our properties.
We saw community groups selling pumpkins for fundraising. We are offering some of our pasture land for that purpose.
We heard that public school and university students needed natural areas for scientific study and observation. We are in the process of formalizing an agreement with one major university and beginning the same process with two other universities.
We see the benefits of having walking trails available for the public and we have provided them.
Our land is saved for the people of tomorrow, but serving people every day.