To the editor:
This is a heartfelt message and explanation to our neighbors in Bristol who are upset about the activity on our land and who may not realize that our values for nature and the environment are more in alignment with theirs than they might think.
I write this because, since we have started a timber harvest, our property has been vandalized; anonymous, well-intended articles arrive by mail; and we are accused of “trashing our neighborhood.” Every day there is litter strategically placed at the end of our driveway. Today it was dead fish placed at our mailbox. I write this publicly because we do not know who is violating our property and no one has actually stopped by to have a conversation about it, despite Jeffrey’s best efforts to meet with neighbors and discuss our intentions. Perhaps they will read this and have a better understanding of our actions.
We are in the process of creating a small, diversified animal and vegetable farm and reclaiming old pasture. Our goal is to create silvopasture, using the forest to provide shaded pasture for sheep and Scottish Highland cattle, with fruit and nut trees added in. The concept is an agroecosystem working with nature.
So, while we have removed a number of trees, we have left a border of trees with large oaks and maples in the center of the future pasture. This system of rotational grazing and shaded pasture, along with the addition of fruit and nut trees, builds the soil, assists with carbon sequestration, and provides space and light needed to grow healthy trees. It is consistent with the Maine Food Strategy and New England Food Solutions in helping New England reach a goal of producing 50% of its food by 2060. We know that locally produced foods are less destructive to the environment when managed under sustainable agriculture systems, and there is more evidence showing that food produced sustainably is healthier for us and healthier for the environment.
We moved to Bristol a year ago and our woodlot had not been managed in many decades. There were many dead trees and unhealthy trees not getting the air and light they needed. We understand the discussions about carbon loss from tree-cutting, however, we will be taking steps to promote carbon storage by growing pasture grasses and forbs, and adding trees back into the mix. Animals on the land help improve the soil and the microorganisms under the soil, which also enhances carbon sequestration.
To anyone who is comparing what we are doing with the loss of the rainforest in the Amazon, I would say that it is not the same at all. We have no intention of building a confined animal feeding operation or a 20,000-hen laying facility. We are not laying cement or pavement or building housing. We are looking to create a pastoral setting that works with nature in a sustainable way.
This summer we started our vegetable field on a neglected open pasture on our property. We started improving the soil with cover crops, planted pollinator strips, and left milkweed in the field, not only in an unused area of the field, but also in the crop rows. We were rewarded with numerous Monarch butterflies. They, the bees, and other insects helped pollinate our fields as we provided a way station for them to produce and build their stores for their long migration while growing food for us and the community.
Our property is special to us and we want to share it with our family, friends, neighbors, and visitors. We have no intention of “trashing” it. This is our home and business; we do not want it destroyed any more than our neighbors do. We invited the two abutters with the largest borders to a meeting this winter with our forester and logger. One attended, was able to voice his concerns, and I have walked some of the land with him to identify a couple of old-growth trees that we won’t cut. We are happy to discuss our plans.
A big thank you goes to our immediate neighbors who have provided support to us through this process.
Helen Costello and Jeffrey Patterson
The Byre at Piper’s Pond
25 Rock School House Road