Twenty years ago, when I was new to Manchester, my family and I took an autumn drive, leaf peeping up over Danby Mountain Road. After we had passed all the houses of Dorset rising up the mountain road, we traveled through the woods and then emerged into the most beautiful high valley of fields and farmsteads surrounded by embracing peaks. This was my introduction to the lands of Smokey House Center (SHC).
Over the years I came to know the work and mission of Smokey House Center: Land, Agriculture, and Learning. I have bought their produce at farmers markets, have come to know the farmers working the land and seen how the land produces a valuable work ethic in the lives of youth.
Last January when board president Paul Beaulieu asked me to join the board, I surprised him and myself by accepting without hesitation. I realized that the SHC mission combines all of my major passions: conservation of working lands, educational opportunities for at-risk youth and sustainable local agriculture. And the chance for me to work with the board as they re-launched the education program was too good to be missed.
This coming year SHC will mark its 40th year of operation. I am excited to be a part of this as we ensure that these lands are fully protected, that they are accessible to and fully utilized by our young, entrepreneurial farmers and that a new generation of youth will benefit from both the learning and the working experiences provided by them.
Consie West, SHC’s newest board member, developed a passion for conservation early in life, growing up in northern Delaware where suburban pressures gnawed at the edges of the meadows and woodlands she played in. Through careful planning, she and her siblings were able to preserve those lands for the enjoyment of all. Since then she has lived in Alaska and Wisconsin, and has spent the last 30 years in Vermont where she has been involved in conservation projects with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.