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Grazing and Conservation on Martha’s Vineyard Conversations Concerning Food and Open Land on the Island

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March 10, 2017

See news highlights from the Vineyard Gazette and Martha's Vineyard Times.

Monday, March 13, 2017 - 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. Free and open to the public

(Event poster)

The Grazing and Conservation program is a growing collaboration of organizations, farms, and participants exploring the intersection of grazing and conservation values.  In an evening of public presentations and discussion, we plan to discuss the potential for expanding grass-based farming on Martha’s Vineyard. The program seeks to support and expand agricultural and conservation enterprises along with human health and well-being by increasing the land area for farming and conservation and by identifying and addressing economic and environmental challenges facing these enterprises.  We will specifically examine the role of conservation organizations in supporting such farming practices by reintroducing agricultural uses to their own land.  One expected benefit will be the creation and maintenance of diverse and important plant and wildlife habitats.

Today, New England communities, from our urban centers to rural towns, are demanding healthy food that is locally produced. The New England Food Vision and Agricultural Self-Sufficiency on Martha’s Vineyard suggest that the region and the Island could produce 30-50% of its own food—a tremendous economic and cultural revival of a historic condition.  But can that be done in ways that work for farmers and also conserve soil, protect water quality, and provide diverse habitat to native species?  One suggested avenue is regenerative grassland management, not only to produce healthy grass-fed meat, dairy, and wool, but also to restore soil fertility and structure, increase biodiversity above and below the soil line, retain water, sequester carbon, and revitalize the rural economy. The program will bring together many parties to examine grass-based farming as an economical means to deliver environmental, cultural, and social benefits.

Further Background:  The New England Food Vision, Agricultural Self-Sufficiency on Martha’s Vineyard, The Island Plan, Wildland and Woodlands, The Sustainable Working Landscape program, Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program, and A Meeting of Land and Sea.

Lead organizations:  Harvard Forest, the Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative, The Farm Institute, The Trustees of Reservations, and Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society.

Sponsoring and participating organizations: Vineyard Conservation Society, Biodiversity Works, Livestock Institute of Southern New England, Island Grown Initiative, The Lookout Foundation, Highstead Foundation, Morning Glory Farm, Mermaid Farm, the Allen Farm, Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Vineyard Gazette, Polly Hill Arboretum, The GOOD Farm, Slip Away Farm, Sherrif’s Meadow Foundation, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Edgartown Departmnent of Public Health, and West Tisbbury Conservation Commission.

Thanks to the support from the Edey Foundation, The Farm Institute, and MV Agricultural Society.

Event Program: Grazing and Conservation: Perspectives and Discussion from On and Off the Island Monday, March 13, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Agricultural Society Hall, West Tisbury MA

A series of short talks and discussions to engage a broad audience in the topics of expanding grazing, local food production, and open-land conservation on the Vineyard and beyond.  

The History and Challenge of New England Agriculture and a Vision for the Future
Brian Donahue 
Professor of American Environmental Studies at Brandeis University
Lead author of A New England Food Vision

Open Lands on Martha’s Vineyard. Opportunities for Nature and Society
David R. Foster
Director of the Harvard Forest, Harvard University (1990-2020)
Author of A Meeting of Land and Sea. Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard

Farming and Nature. Looking at it from Both Sides
Conrad Vispo
Director, Farmscape Ecology Program at Hawthorne Valley Farm, NY
Author of The Nature of the Place. A History of Living with the Land in Columbia County, NY

Grazing and Conservation.  Making it Work on the Vineyard