I really enjoyed reading “[intlink id="1873" type="post"]The Maine Course[/intlink]” (Fall 2008). I think food author Michael Pollan, who spoke at Bates in the fall, would be proud of our Bates alums who are producing and raising food the “natural” way.
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My husband and I live on a small ranch in Colorado. We raise cattle, sheep, chickens, and occasionally pigs. We also have a small hay operation and vegetable garden. Like my fellow Bates alums in Maine, we believe in raising our animals as naturally as possible with minimal necessary vaccinations and without growth hormones or artificial supplements. Our animals are happy, healthy, and stress-free, which produces high-quality meat. Most of our customers live in Denver and appreciate the fact that their meat is safe and that the animals have had a good life.
The other benefit of living on a ranch is the lifestyle. My husband and I and two kids get up early every morning to do the chores and then leave for school and “real” work. Our kids have learned discipline and basic biology outside of the textbooks. We all help with every aspect of the ranch.
Our son is now at college, and our daughter heads off to college next year. Ben and I may have to downsize or hire some help, but I don’t think we will ever leave the ranch. It keeps us in shape and there is no better way to start the day than doing those early-morning chores.
Laurie Chambers Duke ’78, Elizabeth, Colo.
As various articles in the Fall 2008 issue point out, food is at the epicenter of our relationship to the world and to ourselves. The truism “We are what we eat” is accurate for both social and personal existence, and, to reframe a feminist axiom, “the personal is ecological.” Food is a nexus between our individual fates and the fate of the Earth, so a key virtue of Bates Contemplates Food, the special focus at Bates in 2008–09, is undoubtedly that it opens doors to action even as it loads responsibility onto our shoulders. Hurrah for Bates and a liberal education!
When they read that students had vetoed the foolish proposal for “food courts and fast-food franchises,” they too said, “Hurrah for Bates!”
My son Adrian and his wife, Emily, are deeply engaged in the local food movement as owners of Tabella Restaurant, in Amherst, Mass. They have built a network of local growers who supply produce, meat, and dairy for Tabella’s constantly changing menu. Tabella features “small plates” to allow the chef to change the menu daily to accommodate the reality of micro-seasonal farming.
I shared this issue of Bates Magazine with Adrian and Emily to show what my alma mater is doing. When they read that students had vetoed the foolish proposal for “food courts and fast-food franchises,” they too said, “Hurrah for Bates!”
Peter d’Errico ’65, Leverett, Mass.
Thank you for your recent features on Bates alumni who are involved in agriculture and food. Farming isn’t just a postcollegiate choice, though, and, in fact, farm and academic life can coexist. I started today at 6 a.m., giving a bottle to a 2-day-old calf and working with my 10- and 12-year-old children to care for 47 young Jersey heifers, eight goats, two ponies, two rabbits, and chickens too busy and numerous to count. My husband finished up by milking our 50 cows — he rolled in as I rolled out to start my “other” day at the College’s Writing Workshop.
At 5 p.m., I will head back to the dairy barn, pick up the kids, and repeat the morning process for evening chores. As the semester wanes, I’ll turn my attention to pruning the bushes that will yield our August crop of thousands of pounds of blueberries. In fact, Lowell Family Farm supplied the blueberries for many desserts in Commons throughout the year.
In his capacity with the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension program, Rick Kersbergen ’78 (profiled in the same issue) has been an invaluable resource for us as we moved last year from our Topsham farm to my husband’s natal farm in Buckfield.
Seri Rudolph Lowell, Buckfield, Maine
Rise and Shine
I read “[intlink id="1891" type="post"]Wake Up Call[/intlink]” (Fall 2008) with great interest. It’s refreshing to learn that despite the cultural backdrop of worshipping the mind and the intellectual prowess, at Bates one is encouraged to venture beyond the realm of thoughts and to seek awareness of the moment, which is the only reality we can experience, where one can escape the mind. Most of us move through our lives like sleepwalkers, never really present in what we are doing, never fully alert to our environment and not even aware of what motivates us to do and say the things we do. “Be-ware” seems to be the thing to do.
Don Rupasinghe P’10, Colombo, Sri Lanka
I was pleased to note that Lynne Lewis is involved in issues related to removal of small dams on rivers that present other valuable ecological benefits (“[intlink id="1877" type="post"]What’s the Dam Point?[/intlink]” Fall 2008).
Having worked as a geologist on one of the Columbia River Treaty dams, I am aware of humanity’s drive for continuous “development.” I also ponder Henri Bergson’s warning that “humanity groans half-crushed under the weight of the advances it has made.”
We have allotted undue priority to the economy. Instead, ecology should rightfully guide the economy.
In Testimony for Earth (Hancock House, 2008), I explored the economic drive that, since 1950, has produced 40,000 dams worldwide higher than 30 meters. Many of these store billions of cubic meters of water and affect climate and planetary isostacy, the tendency toward equal balance.
We have allotted undue priority to the economy. Instead, ecology should rightfully guide the economy. Both words are derived from the Greek word oikos meaning “household.” Ecology is “study of the household” and should temper “economy” as “management of the household.”
Shouldn’t we study our household before ravaging it? A third term now creeps in — “education,” to connect ecology and economy. Isn’t it appropriate that a degree program in economics should require study of ecology?
Forest studies by economists reveal that a tree 50 years old has produced $196,250 in free benefits for the Earth in transpiration, soil protection, carbon storage, etc. Realizing that a small protected area might protect genetic diversity, I bought 80 acres of forest. Averaging 300 trees per acre older than 50 years, there are 22,500 trees on 75 of these acres. Each provides $4,000 of planetary benefits yearly — roughly $90 million annually.
Twisting Henry Thoreau a bit, it does seem the world is rich in proportion to the number of things a person can leave alone.
Bob Harrington ’47, Galena Bay, British Columbia
Fence Me In
As Jeff Sturgis ’69 and Allan Kneeland ’50 have noted in their letters (“Taking Offense,” Fall 2008), the chain-link fencing around Bates did not encircle the entire campus but was seen mostly around the Lake Andrews area and athletic fields.
Freshman year, I lived in Smith North, and we played touch football in the fenced area between Lake Andrews and Russell Street, where Olin Arts Center now is. Local boys would mock us Batesies from the sidewalk, safely outside the fence. I remember wondering about the fence’s function — who was being fenced from whom and why?
This was fall 1962. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, I remember sitting at my desk contemplating the possibilities of a Soviet missile strike. I was confident that such an attack would not target Lewiston but would certainly launch toward Boston where my family lived. As each day passed, the unknown — like whether radioactive fallout would occur even if one avoided a direct strike — became more overwhelming. Fortunately, the Kennedy boys pulled us through this nightmare.
A couple of years passed. After studying in the library at night, I would occasionally visit the guys who ran the heating plant deep within the Maintenance Center on Andrews Road. They were good guys who gave me some contact with the Lewiston community.
On one evening, one of the guys, swearing me to secrecy, opened a large doorway at the back of the plant. There appeared a cavernous area lighted by a long string of lights: It was Bates’ own bomb shelter. He pointed out the stored-food and stored-water sections. I was in shock: The Cold War had indeed moved the administration to make contingency plans.
Now I knew the answer to my freshman-year question about the fence. It was to provide crowd control in the Lake Andrews / heating plant area if and when word of the shelter spread beyond the administrators’ control!
On a more serious note, I congratulate former President Harward for making Bates a far more integrated part of Lewiston-Auburn. While not lacking at the student level, this spirit had no place at the administrative level when I graduated in 1966. Thankfully, the students’ concept of what the relationship should be has come to pass.
Bob Houlihan ’66, Roslindale, Mass.
The existence of Bates’ own “bomb shelter” — a large underground space between Lane Hall and Pettengill Hall, extending toward and beneath Alumni Walk — was an endless source of student fascination during the Cold War years. While various Bates Student stories describe the space as having the trappings of a bomb shelter, its initial creation in the early 1960s was perhaps spurred by economics, not atomics. According to a 1976 Student story, as Bates built Lane Hall and the Maintenance Building (where Pettengill now stands), College officials anticipated a need for more general storage space. Because storage space would cost less to create underground than above ground, Bates built what is still called “the bomb shelter” today. It is used for records storage and for Pettengill Hall’s mechanical systems. — Editor