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Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic

by Deanna Nelson | Aug 22, 2015 | blog |


August! Here we are in the waning days of summer. Evenings are cool and dewy, the garden is full of tomatoes and bursting with cabbage, herbs, squash and all the other delicacies we love. And while we’re still embraced by the warm arms of summer, the crisp days of autumn are looking on from the wings…

It has been an educational summer, with Paul heading to a week with the Armed to Farm program ( designed to assist soldiers who move into sustainable, organic farming after service. What an amazing week! Paul described his time as like drinking from a fire hose of information. He returned to Zoar Road full of enthusiasm and amazing ideas, both of which are infecting all of us around him. The kids have thrown themselves into garlic farming, and we’re taking a hard look at the best ways to hone the syrup operations. The power of community was really evident in this program and I know Paul was the perfect participant with lots to offer and lots to absorb. Several farms on Zoar Road are committed to the principles of sustainable, organic agriculture, and it was exciting to hear how these principles can build economies, communities, and service.

The power of community has also stepped in on Zoar Road to try to protect its character and quality, including (but certainly not limited to) saving an historic school house on our road. Sadly, the school (which we believe was constructed in the 1870s to replace an earlier structure), will likely soon be in the shadow of a large manure storage facility being constructed by a regional dairy CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation).*  What had been rolling pastures of heifers, is transitioning to animals largely or exclusively housed inside on a large scale. While our community struggles with how to interface with industrialized farming in a way that protects the environment and the character of our rural agricultural neighborhood, it is gratifying that the dairy business is at least giving us space to try to remove the buildings to a more secure location so that they will still be standing for future generations. Fingers crossed that this project works out in the short and long term. Although the school will no longer be central to our road in a way that made it a part of the landscape, it will hopefully be preserved.

Be an ant, not a grasshopper! We are digging in to preserve the harvest and prepare for the winter months. Cutting wood, prepping lines, harvesting vegetables, painting, pointing, glazing, and all manner of good things. Grasshoppers, put down your fiddles at least until sundown! This is indeed the time to work.

*Living in a designated “agricultural district” our Zoar Road community has learned means that a 2-million gallon plus open liquid manure containment can be sited in a watershed and near property lines without any notice to neighbors or to the town board, and with no public notice. We are grappling with concerns including reduced water and air quality, health impacts, dramatically increased heavy truck traffic, historic preservation issues (with documented settlements of Native Americans having existed in our neighborhood, and historic farms and buildings remaining on the road), diminution of property values, and overall changes in our historic agricultural character. These types of challenges are unfortunately part of “modern” rural life in America, and we’re working through it, although it is painful. May civility and neighborly concern rule the day!

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