2020 - What a Year!
What a year 2020 has been!
As one can imagine, our year in review is going to look a bit different this year, but also a lot didn’t change for us at the CCCD.
We started out 2020 with a successful Conservation Plant Sale, some soil health workshops, and even one birding on the farm workshop before the pandemic took hold in early March. At that point, for the safety of ourselves and all of you, we postponed in person events indefinitely and those restrictions are still in place today. Our staff continue to work remotely and all CCCD monthly board meetings are being held virtually. If ever there was a time to conveniently sit in on one of our meetings, now is the time!
One of the first impacts we witnessed on our local farming economy was the unprecedented economic impact the pandemic was having on dairy farmers. Acknowledging this struggle, the CCCD Board voted in April to waive all CCCD equipment rental fees for dairy farms in 2020. While the amount of money that a dairy farmer would have spent to rent equipment from the district is not going to make or break a farm, our board felt this was a gesture of support for important local partners who were struggling and needed help. At the same time local dairy farmers were struggling, we saw the majority of our local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms sell out of their summer CSA vegetable shares. This of course is not to say that the pandemic did not greatly impact vegetable farmers, but rather that we witnessed a shift in our local communities. As the pandemic set in with no end in sight, we saw people turn to the natural world. We saw more folks buying CSA shares, more folks gardening in their backyards, more folks hiking and getting outdoors, and more folks shopping at outdoor farmers’ markets. Amid a sea of negative news and grim outlooks, we saw resilience. It will be exciting to see how much of this shift continues post-pandemic. We bet our 2021 plant sale will be a good early indicator!
Grant programs new and old continued with great success…
We awarded 6 farms with the Monadnock Food Co-op Farm Fund in 2020. The Farm Fund has now awarded over $59,000 in 4 years to area farmers! In 2021, we have $30,000 up for grabs (Apply by Feb. 1, 2021: http://cheshireconservation.org/farm-fund)
The first year of our NH Farm Future Fund was hugely successful! We awarded $90,000 to five NH land trusts in 2020, and in 2021 we have $100,000 available (Apply by 2/15/2021: http://cheshireconservation.org/nhfarmfuturefund)
34 families participated in the second year of the Monadnock Farm Share program! Not a huge surprise, given the sharp increase in CSA participation this year.
We awarded $5,500 to four awardees for wildlife improvement projects through the first year of our Conservation Opportunity Fund. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were unable to host public site visits of these projects, but will look toward the summer of 2021 to safely host these as socially-distanced outdoor events if possible.
Some other things fortunately didn’t change much at all either…
We continued to offer farm rental equipment to local farmers, including the addition of new BCS implements and a Soil Steamer.
We hosted our annual Source to Sea River Clean Up in September with 45 volunteers who pulled over 1,585 lbs. of trash from two water bodies!
We continued to offer Granite State Market Match to SNAP recipients at local farm stores and farmers’ markets and saw the highest numbers for folks utilizing the program in many years. Surely another impact of the pandemic.
Our Veteran Appreciation Month also grew in participation substantially! We distributed $12,200 in food vouchers to 170 veterans – a benefit we are seeing not only for the veterans but for the market vendors as well.
Of course, some of our programs did take a hit or had to change in one way or another…
Due to the timing of the pandemic and the uncertainty among parents about the safety of summer camps, we did not have very many Monadnock Localvore Scholarship applicants.
We also shifted into virtual event planning and participated in Radically Rural Remote and even hosted our own 75th Annual Meeting virtually (you can watch the full program on our website: http://cheshireconservation.org/75th-annual-meeting).
We had to cancel our Birding on the Farm workshop series and hope to safely take this back up again later in 2021.
And looking forward into 2021…
Maybe one of the most exciting developments of 2020 is the progress made on our Monadnock Region Community Supported Solar project. As of today, the construction of the solar array at Sun Moon Farm in Rindge is complete and we are moving on to the final phases of this project! We are now seeking farms to sign up to purchase shares in the net-metering opportunity. If you or a farmer you know if interested in signing up, contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org
2021 marks the 75th Anniversary of Conservation Districts in NH! All districts except for the first which was us, were established in 1946, and so we will be celebrating in a number of ways all year long with our counterparts across the state! Follow us on Facebook for Flashback Fridays, stay tuned as we award 10 Conservation Legacy awards, listen to podcasts with conservation leader across the state, and more! Go to our website to join our monthly newsletter for the most up to date information on all of our projects: http://cheshireconservation.org/
We know 2020 was a difficult year for all of us, but we are heartened to see the outpouring of support the community has shown us this year. With the cancelation of in person events, including our Annual Meeting and several fundraisers, we couldn’t be more thankful to all those who sent us a monetary contribution this year. Your commitment to conservation is what keeps us going! The natural world belongs to us all. While the pandemic has been horrible in so many ways, we can only hope that this time will help deepen the connection between people and the natural world, fostering a new wave of commitment and compassion for conservation in the granite state.
We hope you’ll continue to follow us into 2021! Be well, be safe, & Happy New Year!
Written by: Lola Bobrowski
CCCD Outreach Coordinator