The following is an extension of Ruth Charny’s idea to help boost Cornwall economy while helping our farmers, educating others, and addressing “Nature Deficit Disorder
August 25, 2012
Local Farm just hosted a small group of incoming Yale freshmen for a week-long pre-orientation Harvest Program. The week before, Motherhouse held its second annual week of Farm Day-Camp. I would love to see these two programs, along with our Old Style Life-Skills Series of homesteading workshops expanded into a 3 season Transition-Cornwall program using the “camp” portion of Trinity Conference Center. The Transition-US movement began in Colorado. In light of our crumbling petroleum- based economy, it seeks ways to strengthen communities while developing sustainable, local ways of food production and just-distribution of resources as we transition into future. (Leaders of the Transition-Litchfield group recently recognized our monthly contra dance as a means to build community and consulted with me on planning a one-time dance of their own).
Participants in our Camp Eurika, farm camp pilot program visited four different farms to explore the various types of agriculture based in Cornwall. (see Ruth’s film). Thanks to a gift from Micky Black of Camp Timbertops in upstate NY, our first year host farmers received a small honorarium for their time. Ideally, Motherhouse, the Town of Cornwall, or another organizing umbrella group would raise funds and garner grants for camperships and farmer reimbursements. “Farmer” hosts could be broadly defined and include backyard orchardists, beekeepers, gardeners, potters, maple sugaring, basket makers, Christmas tree growers, herbalists, loggers, horse breeders, fiber artists, bakers, home sausage makers, hunters, foragers, conservationists, recycle masters, etc. Local carpenters/woodworkers could be enlisted in a similar way to share their skills as campers cleared and reconstructed the former Trinity camp cabins and pavillions.
Besides the week of family day camp as shown in the video, we could offer a similar overnight camp from the Trinity facility. Students from Michael Pollan and Alice Water’s Brooklyn-based Edible Schoolyard program, from The Garden at St Ann’s in the South Bronx, and from the Charter Oak Cultural Center garden program in Hartford could extend their learnings through a two-week stay in Cornwall that included several “farm” visits. Ideally, we’d transport campers in a used-grease vehicle like Camp Isabella Freedman’s. Preparing evening meals primarily of locally grown foods including fresh vegetables (maybe even chickens!) grown right there at camp and and cooked in reflector ovens and/or over a campfire in the pavilions would also be a major part of most days. Hiking, swimming, kayaking, and tubing could fill out their stay “in the country.”
Peter Russ tells me that in the early 90’s, he built beds into the 4 cabins of the Girls Camp and the 4 cabins of the Boys Camp. Each camp had its own roofed pavilion with a fire ring in the center. Between the “camps” was the Staff Village housing for the night nurse and other staff. He also built buildings to house a woodworking shop, gymnasium, and offices. The barn had a new roof and is most likely in sound condition. It used to house Father Bob’s pet sheep and their hay. The two somewhat dilapidated barns on the right as one enters Trinity Center were used for arts and crafts and indoor activities during rainy weather. Both have nice concrete cellars for storing lumber, etc. and upstairs, I imagine wooden floors that might be fine for dancing or at least threshing wheat.
Programs for High-School students would also be two-weeks long and include actual labor on “farms;” hauling hay, mucking stalls, painting buildings, small building projects, clearing brush, major weed-a-thons (including invasive species eradication), digging trenches, etc. with special attention given to alternative energy usage, resource conservation, and leadership training. We could also offer week-long adult sessions similar to Yestermorrow and/or Habitat for Humanity with an additional emphasis on food production, creative problem solving, and community building. Mix in a few long week-ends of Family Camp; some overnight Mother-Daughter retreats; Deepak Chopra-style Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives get-aways for pregnant couples; all night New Moon women’s gatherings; Joe Brien’s Lost Arts workshops; Allan Savory’s Holistic Management seminars; local economy “think tanks;” Stephanie Vogt’s Clear-Your Clutter and other creativity-freeing gatherings; an annual dawn dance; and there you have it… my Trinity fantasy!
Motherhouse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation located in Cornwall, CT and conceived by its current Executive director, Debra Tyler, as a sanctuary for cultural, educational, and spiritual growth. It promotes a strong sense of community, self-reliance, sustainability, and inter-generational programming.