The Farmscape Ecology Program * KYPP Nugget 19: 9 June, 2011

KYPP Nugget: Who We Are.

A Pocket Guide (heck, your i-phone is in your pocket, isn't it?) to Connecting with the Columbia County Landscape.

There are many organizations (and individuals) in and around Columbia County who help us connect to our landscape.

This little guide is meant to help you find some of the groups that you were perhaps unaware of. It is surely incomplete. Our apologies ahead of time; please don't hesitate to let us know of links that you think should be included. Regional or national organizations are only listed if they are active in or near the County.

Organizations are listed in alphabetical order, except for Flying Deer Nature Center which, since they invited us to give this little soliloquy, gets to go first.

Flying Deer Nature Center, "draws on the wisdom of earth-based traditions the world over and seeks to empower individuals through development of naturalist awareness and self-knowledge."

Allan Devoe Bird Club, "promotes the conservation of natural resources and the enjoyment and protection of birds, flora, and fauna."

Audubon NY, "conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity."

Berkshire Natural Resource Council, "is a non-profit land conservation organization working throughout the Berkshires in Massachusetts to preserve threatened lands."

Boy Scouts of America Twin Rivers Council, "provides an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness."

Columbia County Historical Society, "is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the history and culture of Columbia County, New York."

Columbia Land Conservancy, "works with the community to conserve the farmland, forests, wildlife habitat, and rural character of Columbia County, strengthening connections between people and the land."

Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District, "provides technical assistance and education on water, soil, and related natural resources to municipalities, landowners, and residents with the aim of facilitiating conservation and proper land use decision-making."

Columbia County Sportsmens Federation, "works with local groups to promote favorable legislation for sportsmen of all types."

Copake Lake Conservation Society, "endeavors to protect the quality of the Copake Lake watershed, preserve the ecological balance, and promote safe recreational use of the lake."

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia County, "enables people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work."

Friends of Hudson, is "dedicated to ensuring a healthy, sustainable and fulfilling quality of life for our region's economically and culturally diverse population."

Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, "helps every girl discover who she can be and what she can do, wherever she chooses to put her energies."

Greater Stockport Creek Watershed Alliance (encompassing the watersheds of Claverack, Kinderhook and Stockport Creeks), "To explore, understand and protect our watershed ecosystem through community involvement and stewardship."

Hawthorne Valley Place-based Learning Center, "to inspire, strengthen, and transform the connection between people and the living land."

Hudsonia, "conducts environmental research, education, training and technical assistance to protect the natural heritage of the Hudson Valley and neighboring regions. A non-advocacy organization, Hudsonia serves as a neutral voice in the challenging process of land use decision making."

Hudson River Estuary Program (DEC), "protects and improves the natural and scenic Hudson River watershed for all its residents."

Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, "promotes and facilitates the protection of the Rensselaer Plateau’s undeveloped and unfragmented forests."

Scenic Hudson, "works with citizens like you to protect the natural beauty of our valley and the unique character of our towns."

Shaker Swamp Conservancy, "connecting New Lebanon's Past to its Future"

Silvia Center at Katchkie Farm, "is a garden-to-table program that inspires young people to discover good nutrition on the farm and in the kitchen."

Trout Unlimited NYS Council, "To conserve, protect and restore New York's Trout and Salmon Fisheries."

Wyomanock Center, "promotes the ethos of sustainable living and environmental education."

County and Town Councils

Columbia County Environmental Management Council (

Ancram, Conservation Advisory Council (

Hillsdale, Natural Resources Committee (

Various other towns now have CACs. Contact your town government to see if your town does; if it doesn't, maybe you'd like to start one
9 June column: "Reflections on who we are, What we do, and Where we are."

by Conrad Vispo

The following is a revised version of a presentation which the Michelle Apland and Devin Franklin of Flying Deer Nature Center invited Claudia and I to give in mid-May. See the link to their web site in the side column.
Sometimes it is useful to pause and reflect on what we do. Not "we" as in only Claudia, Anna, Otter and myself who make up the Farmscape Ecology Program, but rather “we” as in those of us who devote our time to sharing our perspectives on the landscape with others in the hope that we can nurture a love of the outdoors, of the land, of the plants and animals, of our fellow humans.

There are those of us who try to do this as a profession, our colleagues who are free-lancing or who, beyond Flying Deer and Hawthorne Valley, are in institutions, such as Hudsonia, the Columbia Land Conservancy, the Soil and Water District, the Hudson River Estuary Program, and Cooperative Extension; at organizations such as the Devoe Bird Club, the Greater Stockport Watershed Alliance, and the Sportsmens Clubs; with local colleges and schools; and working on regional farms.

And too, as Claudia and I have had the fortune to know personally, this “we” includes those who are the most important teachers of all: the parents, and grandparents, the friends and other mentors who, sin fines de lucro (without consideration of monetary profit) share their time and passion with others by telling stories, by joint hunting or fishing trips, by wandering and camping together.

And what a land we have for sharing. Part of our research is historical, and so I sometimes wonder at how Columbia County came to be as it is today - a still-rural county sandwiched between the metropolises of Albany, NYC and Boston; a County where substantial land, while falling out of farming at least temporarily, remains open, retains its potential for wildness and for agriculture. A land that holds a certain rural rhythm and yet has felt the influx of urban ideas and resources. A land with a prized yet delicate potential for a different future. I could speculate on the history that has led the land here, but instead that is something that I would like to hear from you. The point is that we are here on a land that has both inspiring potential and also pressures that begin to collapse and shrink that potential.

So, what is that we, the “we” of us all, are here to do? I think we are here to embody and nurture the love of life. We have not joined Devin and Michelle in the field, but we know some of their students and have seen their “joie de vivre"- a love of life, life both as the on-going celebration of their own existences and as the vital richness of the animate world around them... perhaps a dichotomy, perhaps a unity.

It is that love which ties the "we" of which I spoke earlier together. It is the fostering of that love in the face of forces that would bury it or dumb it; in the face of forces that would subvert our passions into mere business – it is that love which unites us.

I sincerely hope that we can find a way to be a conscious "we", a we who sees the other not as
a political adversary, not as a competitor for funds, not as a threatening divergent viewpoint, but rather as the infinitesimally small yet incredibly bright flashes of life that we are, striving to realize our own lives to the fullest and striving not just to honor each other as human beings but also to honor all the stream of life as fellow creatures ‘passing through’.

We may express that honoring in various ways: through time spent drawing youth into nature and themselves as characters in their own legends; as time spent letting others know that it’s ok to just stop and smell the flowers and fine to plant some if you wish; as time spent with another in the age-old action of respectful harvest from the land; as formal programs in schools or with the broader public introducing them to the sphere of life, the biosphere, around them; as science and research which helps us know better the lives and fates of nature’s creatures including our own species. May we see the commonality not the divergence of these expressions of respect and sharing.

And through this joining may we understand and so act to realize the unique potential of our land in ways that none of us, as isolated individuals, can imagine, but which can emerge from our collective will if we draw ourselves together. So, we thank Flying Deer and all of our friends and colleagues for having reached out their hands and invited us into their circles. May our time together help us find ourselves and our own homelands; may it bring us to know each other and let us walk the land in other’s shoes; and may it give us the opportunity to celebrate those discoveries.  In sum, may our lives here be a future-bearing exploration of the land as an expression of ourselves and ourselves as an expression of the land.