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It is with sadness and many fond memories that Land’s Sake says goodbye to one of its founders. Martha Gogel died peacefully in Vermont on August 11, 2011 at the age of 84.
Martha Howe was born on a farm in Rutland, Vermont. She graduated from Barnard in 1949 and received a Masters degree from Sara Lawrence. She was a modern dancer with Alvin Nikolais at the Henry Street Playhouse in lower Manhattan.
In 1949, while travelling in Europe, Martha met her future husband, George Gogel, a native of Switzerland. They met in front of the Opera House in Paris where George happened to be visiting, having just ridden his bicycle from Basel. They went their separate ways and George moved to Bombay, India for his work some time after this.
Martha and George corresponded for 8 years. In the 1950s Martha drove her VW bug across the USA to California, sold the bug and boarded a ship. She travelled to Japan, Viet Nam, Indonesia and India where she and George were reunited and decided to marry.
In 1962 they moved to Karachi, Pakistan with their 3 children: George, Louise and Katherine. In 1966 Martha split up with George and moved to London with the children for 2 years, then finally back to the states where she settled in Weston, just a mile from her sister Patricia in Lincoln.
In 1980 Martha, together with Doug Henderson, Brian Donahue and others, formed Land’s Sake. In those early days Martha could frequently be seen roto-tilling bare-foot in her dress and gigantic straw hat, either at the 40 acre field, the community gardens, or in people’s back yards.
In true Yankee spirit she never wasted anything. Some of us are lucky enough to remember her delicious cantaloupe smoothies made from Ambrosia melons we grew at the farm but couldn’t sell because of some blemish or other. Martha painstakingly peeled and cut them up to freeze for winter treats – bags and bags of them.
Before Weston bought the 40 acre field, and we were farming the land for the Arnold Arboretum, we grew acres of butternut squash. Martha convinced the Harvard cafeteria to buy our butternut to serve their students –anticipating the “farm to campus” movement by a quarter-century. We spent long evenings peeling, seeding, cutting and packaging that squash for Harvard!
Martha’s indomitable spirit helped keep Land’s Sake alive in those early years. She cared little what others thought of her. She was only interested in what she could do to make the world a better place. We will miss her.
She is survived by her sister Patricia, her 3 children George, Louise and Katherine, and 11 grand children.
– Faith Rand & Brian Donahue
Right around the time the founders of Land’s Sake set their dreams in motion here in Weston, a like-minded group of folks in Cambridge founded Food For Free. A non-profit like Land’s Sake, Food for Free sought to connect families and individuals around Boston most in need of food assistance with the massive amounts of “excess” within our food system. Food for Free visited super markets, wholesale clubs, bakeries, farms and farmers markets, “rescuing” the end-of-the-day leftovers from being discarded as “waste” and distributing it within the local emergency food system.
Nowadays, Food for Free is still going strong. In 2010, it “rescued” 1 million pounds of fresh food, distributing it to 25,000 individuals via 76 food programs in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.
Food for Free also now runs a small, ¼-acre farm in Lincoln, MA called the Field of Greens, of which I am the manager. The land as well as the seeds, organic fertilizer, tools and invaluable advice is donated each year by Lindentree Farm and head farmer Ari Kurtz. Every Wednesday from 8 a.m. until mid-day during the growing season, my assistant farm manager and I oversee the planting, cultivation and harvesting of cabbage, collards, beets, carrots and swiss chard. These crops have a high nutrient density, store well, are popular amongst the families and individuals who receive the food, yet are rarely donated to Food for Free.
Each week, we are assisted in our work by a crew of approximately 10 regular volunteers and occasional groups. By seasons end, we will see more than 50 volunteers at the Field. The food that we produce at the Field of Greens goes directly to meal programs, shelters and pantries; it is either prepared or taken home by a family the same day we harvest it. In 2010, we harvested just over 7,000 pounds of food!
My work at the Field of Greens has been a great compliment to my work as Conservation Land Manager here at Land’s Sake. In both capacities, I am able to affect, in a very real way, the relationship we all share with the natural world. As Conservation Land Manager, my work in maintaining the town’s fields and hiking trails as well as the grounds of our main farm seem equally important in ensuring a connection between us humans and the land around us. Though the farm crew here at Land’s Sake does all the important work to grow such amazing food, I feel like I’m cultivating something as well: a respect for our common land through my work maintaining the towns fields and trails and an appreciation for the cultural heritage of New England farming towns through my attention to aesthetics at the main farm and our work on field-edge preservation projects.
At the Field of Greens, we often play host to volunteers’ first experiences with growing food. The power of those first experiences with farming is multiplied tenfold when volunteers learn that the organic and highly nutritious food they are helping produce is going directly to families that desperately need it. Respect for the land, an interest in our food system and an awareness of its strengths and inadequacies are all in cultivation at the Field of Greens.
In the end, it might be these experiences in farming and food justice that are more important than the actual food itself. However, that won’t keep us from trying our best to produce as much healthy, tasty organic produce as we can 🙂 Our goal for this season is 5,000 pounds of food. As I write this in mid- August, we have harvested just over 2,200 pounds of food thus far. I think we can do it!
Jordan McCarron, Conservation Land Manager
As the farm education intern here at Land’s Sake, my summer has been dedicated to leading Green Power. From helping to coordinate daily activities with Doug Cook (Education Director) to scurrying around the farm making last minute preparations every morning, I have learned from experience how to carry out a summer youth program that gives young people the opportunity to learn work skills on a production farm. Last week, though, as Green Power had a week off, I had the serendipitous opportunity to learn off the farm from the experience of a leader in youth programing in sustainable agriculture: The Food Project. The Food Project Institute, held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week, is a workshop that runs twice a year and is geared toward farm educators, community members, farmers, and other interested folks who want the chance to get an inside look at The Food Project.
I have difficulty describing all that I did in those three days — I surely could fill pages with the important lessons I learned and experiences I had last week. Held at the Lincon farm on Wednesday and Friday and at the Dorchester urban farm on Thursday, the workshop gave me the understanding of how The Food Project runs their Summer Youth Program. This program employs around 90 youth from all over the Greater Boston Area every summer to work on their farms. On Wednesday morning we plunged into the history of The Food Project. We learned that since it’s infancy this organization has been unwavering in it’s dedication to carrying out it’s mission through creating a strong management system and a culture of community support. Throughout the week our focus was also directed at understanding their farming models, learning about fundraising, and discussing the other programs that The Food Project run.
On Thursday and Friday I had the chance to see the Summer Youth Programs in action. At the urban farm in Dorchester we met two crews harvesting produce for the farmer’s market that afternoon. With the program being more than halfway finished, the youth in these crews looked more like groups of childhood friends clearly enjoying their time together while also working hard to harvest as many tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers as possible. I got to watch youth leaders preparing the crews for a day of hard work by creating a sense of fun, excitement, and support with in the group. The crew leaders at The Food Project are responsible for leading the youth in field work and do so masterfully so as to best create a strong, productive community in the youth program.
This week, as I settle back into leading Green Power, I am struck by the subtle adjustments I have made in my leadership style already. This morning I enjoyed playing “Face-off” and “Everybody’s It” with the Green Power crew to energize them before setting off to weed the strawberry patch, the result of which were one and a half long beds well weeded. They became connected to their work, wanting to work a half an hour longer to finish the job. Green Power offers an opportunity for youth to learn about farming, food, and service through hard work and from the community they each help to create. I am excited to continue sharing my experiences from The Food Project Summer Institute with Green Power and Land’s Sake.
– Brittany Dunn