I am staying with a friend a Kyle Wakefield who I met through Jimi Carnazza. Kyle is interested in exploring possibilities for collaborating in the areas of sustainable community and business development. He is especially interested in converting vehicles to run on vegi oil and alternative earth building such as Cobb.
So we are looking at a few project possibilities while I am in the area.
Last year Jimi asked me to help him establish the nonprofit Full Circle Earth by becoming a co-founding board member.
Today Kyle and I went to the town of Haverhill MA a city of 60000 in Essex County is on the extreme northeastern part of the MA right next to New Hampshire.
The reason for visiting was to see Dudley Farm and to evaluate it as possible site for the building of our proposed Environmental Education EcoCenter.
Before meeting Roger, who was to be giving us the tour of the property, we went in search of the downtown Haverhill in hopes of finding food – a quick burrito or something like that. While unsuccessful in seeking out a meal before the meeting, we were encouraged that after almost giving up we found that there a descent central business district in Haverhill that was actually thriving.
We saw lots of pizza places but not much burrito or wrap places. Haverhill like a lot of old mill towns in New England has struggled to rebound from the demise of its industrial core. Apparently the long time mayor has had some success in revitalizing the urban core by luring artists and creative types into the old mill buildings by offering them as converted lofts. Over 150 million dollars has been put into revitalizing the urban core which includes am impressive number of high rise buildings considering its size and that most of the highways leading to the center of town were two rather than four lane – which by the way was a common thing I noted in all of MA.
After giving up on our search for food, we met with Roger and explored Dudley Farm which is nicely situated just a few miles outside of Haverhill town center. Roger is young 22 but we were impressed with his maturity and the strength of his convictions. Originally from Sacramento, CA he has found himself in Haverhill though his wife’s family’s ownership of Dudley Farm. With his History background Roger is interested in making the property a model for communal farming. We discussed the idea of creating something a bit more diverse and community oriented than the typical nuclear family farm of American Lore.
We heard from Roger that the mayor mentioned above who had supposedly done so much for urban revitalization in the urban core of Haverhill, did not seem to care much about open space. Roger say that he seems to be encouraging the rapid development of the remaining farm and rural properties in the town.
While the offer to use the land for our Nonprofit for free seemed generous, he said that he or his family could offer no guarantees that we could have long term use of the land. This was due to the fact the owner was old and that once he died the land might be divided up by his four children. Despite this it seemed a generous offer and something I saw a real opportunity for FCE’s development.
The small town coziness of MA and New England also comes at a cost. The challenges of farming in many MA towns, exposes a major flaw with MA’s Town Governance System. This system of governance has encouraged the urbanization and in many areas the suburbanization of rural areas by imposing laws that are designed for cities in rural areas and by encouraging the spreading out of development between the small towns so that Boston melds together in a series of long belts around the city that stretches up 60 miles from the city core and covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the state as well as spilling over into New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
The overspilling of development and resulting regulations seems to have created a lot of resentment and confusion in rural areas to what is urban and rural. One example is that in the New England Town System there are no urban and rural boundaries, only towns that become urban by way of suburbanization or a historically dense urban core. Even smaller more rural towns in NE seem often to embrace rigid regulations on farming. In many cases though, the imposition of urban restrictions against animal farming seem to make no sense as in the case of Dudley Farm. Such blanket regulations also increasingly fly in the face of the burgeoning back to the land movement that focuses on more local food sustainable food production.
Yesterday I talked with Anne Wirstad who worked with Richard Nelson pioneer of the SolaRoof Passive Solar Bubble System for several years in Norway (here is a Youtube video of them “LifeSynthesis – bubble generator testing in Norway” testing out the system in 2012), that was calledAgriPod. In 2013 they started her own initiative (Anne and her partner Robert working in Norway with a local municipal waste management business continued the work started under AgriPod. This included securing a grant from the EU to further develop the AgriPod SolarBubble/SolaRoof concept into a working prototype.
The SolarBubble system always intrigued me because I saw it as a system of great potential to allow for minimization of heat loss at night from passive solar heated buildings. While the focus now is on greenhouses we are seeing that this type of technology could have a wide application throughout the building industry.