This is a guest post by Sean, Steve and Carol’s son.
My wife and I usually head back to New England for a visit with my family in the fall. At this point of the year, the farm and all of its associated projects are typically in the process of wrapping up before the snow arrives.
Our pattern of fall visits started early in my relationship with my wife. I wanted to share the beauty of crisp fall weather and foliage with a Southern California girl who’d never grown up with that singular experience.
As a person who spent his childhood near the Connecticut River, ground zero for fall color, I realize these foliage visits now put me firmly in the “goofy leaf-peeping outsider gumming up the roads” camp. I’m ok with that though, as long as my wife can see a fall as spectacular as I remember them. Unfortunately, the colors seem to bounce around the calendar from year to year more than I recall.
So, we’ve kept trying, in hopes that we would finally be able to catch the right wave of color. After years of trying, last year we finally caught the white whale. Or red, orange and yellow whale, as the case may be.
With my mission accomplished, we figured this year it would be great to visit in the summer, when we can see the farm in full swing.
Having recently returned home from that visit this summer, I can say that what we saw was very impressive. I’ve spent some time looking through pictures that were snapped around the farm. I wanted to share a few, as well as some thoughts.
First, some images:
Several years ago we found ourselves back east, helping my folks empty a life’s worth of belongings out of moving containers. We arrived to a beautiful piece of land full of potential, and clearly in need of some care and attention. My folks had spent a good deal of time searching for an ideal property, and a welcoming community, in which to build a vision that had brewed for as long as I could remember. Through many talks over family dinners and barbeques in the years leading up to my parents’ move cross country, we had discussed what was needed in a space, to build that vision. Looking around at the land they had chosen, I saw what was possible. I also understood that it would be no small task.
In the years since, I have found myself excited at each visit, aware that some new portion of the grand plan has been completed in my absence. Much like a time lapse film, at each visit, new parts of the SCSA project have manifested, undoubtedly through much sweat, effort, and dedication of resources. Barns have been repurposed, workshops created. Refrigerated spaces for produce conceived from scratch. Groundwater understood, and directed to best uses. Seasons (I’m looking at you, winter) fought with, adapted to, slightly modified, enjoyed, and occasionally left behind! Nursery benches filled with seedlings every spring. Greenhouse space leveled, built, improved, and filled with crops. Entire fields filled with weeds chest high mowed, cleared, and backbreakingly weeded annually. Garden beds dug and expertly shaped for plantings. And not insignificantly, cleared of those infamous New England stones. Repeatedly. Annual crops planted, and tended. And harvested. And canned. Thank God for the canning! Best. Pickles. Ever. Fruit trees planted, and replanted. Coppice groves prepared. Crazy dreams of bringing a little piece of SoCal to NH conceived, and achieved. Irrigation methods tested and refined. Roads between buildings, and through forests, painstakingly shaped, and tended to. Manure, coffee grounds, and compost piled as high as a house, just waiting to inoculate soil-building biochar. Said biochar produced, itself no small feat, requiring systems to be engineered and production processes mapped out. Produce sold to neighbors, and connections grown with community and fellow dreamers. Social media, outreach, interviews, and research of all sorts managed. Internsinterviewed and trained. And, of course, an ongoing diary of the ups and downs of the project, dutifully kept. Written, I’d like to think, for those of us on other coasts daydreaming about being there to help.
In retrospect, a staggering and daunting amount of work.
I realize, looking at that previous paragraph, I may have to apologize for getting a little link happy. In written form though, I can’t think of a better way to try and express how impressive the last few years have been to watch, for those of us on the sidelines.
It’s truly been an honor and a privilege to watch this dedicated group of people work with integrity, give all they have to give, and bring forth in their own way a vision of a better world. To focus all of the lessons learned over lives well lived, and build the foundations of an organization that has great potential to touch people’s lives, and contribute to a better world. To everyone involved in building the Sullivan Center for Sustainable Agriculture, thank you for being examples to aspire to and be proud of. I can’t wait to see how things unfold from here!