Center for Environment & Population (CEP)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

CEP Fellows Program CEP-Yale Office of Sustainability Joint Fellowship, Summer 2012 CEP-YOS Summer Fellows Claire Hopkins and Jessica Bilecki joined CEP at the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation’s “Gathering for Resiliency” June 2012 orientation and introduction to the Fink Foundation’s outstanding fellowship program. Their blog about the event is below, with more blogs to come, as they report on the results of their fellowship after the program is completed in late August. “Gathering for Resiliency” Event, by Claire Hopkins and Jessica Biliecki: This June Betsy and Jesse Fink brought together fellows that were sponsored by their foundation, the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation. The fellows were from seven different organizations including the Center for Environment and Population, New England Forestry Foundation, Clean Air Cool Planet, Natural Resource Defense Council, Common Ground, Environmental Defense Fund, and Middlebury College. The event was held June 10, 2012 at Millstone Farm, which is owned and operated by the Fink family. Millstone farm is the largest organic farm in Connecticut. The farm is 72 acres and spans over a vast terrain of forest and wetlands. The Gathering for Resiliency was a day long workshop framed around resiliency. The event introduced participants to the concept of resilience, which in short, is the ability of a system, organization, individual etc. to maintain its function and purpose after experiencing a disturbance or stress. Through a farm tour and group activities, participants explored how resiliency could be applied at different scales such as personal and professional, and how it could be applied at a larger scale to sustainability and food systems. In addition to educating participants about resilience, the workshop also briefly explored how the framework of resilience might be used as a bridge between related but often separate environmental activities and professionals to create a more comprehensive, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and effective sustainability movement. Characteristics that contribute to Millstone Farm’s resilience are diversity, low fossil fuel input, water conservation and the social and physical infrastructure it helps create. The farm consisted of chickens, pigs, fruit, vegetables, sheep, bees, fodder crops, woods and wetlands. Production methods such as using row cover, raised beds, unheated hoop houses, hand labor, and compost/worm casting tea helped decrease the amount fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and machine fuel. Care was taken to capture and use water on site through swales and the addition of organic matter to soils. Drip irrigation was used to bring water directly to where it would benefit crops the most. This decreases water evaporation and waste. It was mentioned, that for a more localized food system to be viable and resilient, physical infrastructure such as storage and distribution systems are needed. Another characteristic of the farm is its ability to catalyze connections among community members. This happens by connecting chefs and their customers to the farm, through educational tours, and through the ‘Gleaning Project’ in which produce from the ‘gleaning field is taken to food banks and other organizations that distribute the produce to households in need. The farm itself highlighted resilience and lent inspiration to the fellows contemplating personal, professional, and organizational resilience.