One of OSI’s most active Citizen Action groups is Stand for Land, a collection of four Ulster County women who came together two years ago around a common goal—saving the farmland and fresh food being grown in their communities.
As OSI negotiated the purchase of a conservation easement on a 95-acre portion of the Osterhoudt Farm in Marbletown in 2008, Stand for Land played a vital role by hosting public events that raised money and, perhaps more importantly, awareness on the local level.
“Partners such as Stand for Land are critical if OSI is to achieve its goals of meaningful landscape protection,” said Bob Anderberg, OSI’s vice president and general counsel. “Their support, in a very real and tangible sense, gives local legitimacy to OSI’s efforts.”
The women that make up the group— Tracey Dewart, Barbara Esmark, Daisy Foote and Natasha Williams —are quick to clarify that they don’t oppose development. Instead, they advocate a sensible balance between growth and conservation, Esmark says. They encourage public discussion and education to promote conservation initiatives that will mesh with sustainable growth in Ulster County.
“More and more, we are looking at food, and how the protection of natural resources in our area can broaden the accessibility of good, local and organic food for all,” Esmark said. “We see this as one of the keys to the region’s economic stability.”
Recently, the group has hosted a number of events, as it continues to raise money and visibility for the second phase of the Osterhoudt project—the protection of the remaining 120 acres of farmland along busy Route 213.
In July, Stand for Land organized “Feed Your Belly,” an event aimed at establishing, in a fun way, the connection between land and farm protection and the food that people in these agricultural communities eat every day. Featuring produce and other fare from a local co-op, locally made wine and even a local belly dancing group, more than 100 people attended the event, fed their bellies and maybe even danced a little while learning about OSI’s work in the region.
“Our target was to get halfway to our $25,000 goal to support OSI’s protection of farms in our area,” Esmark said, “and we hit the target.”
On September 17, Stand for Land co-hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary “Flow,” which examines the possibility of a world struggling to manage a dwindling water supply.
Events like these, the women are hopeful, will ultimately lead to more coordinated efforts to ensure her region’s sustainability. And due to their connection with OSI’s Citizen Action program, they’re able to focus on outreach while OSI takes on the administrative burden of managing a small nonprofit from day to day.
“There are so many organizations and so many efforts,” Esmark said, “that it becomes difficult because of the demand on peoples’ time and energy. But I think we can play a role in promoting that kind of cross-pollination, in developing a communication network, and helping people focus on the specific issues and projects that fit their skills and capabilities.”