Renewable Energy and Local Living Talks

There is a wealth of knowledge that is available in the North Quabbin to support renewable energy and local living.  This year topics include training land stewards at Mount Wachusett Community College, foraging for mushrooms, heat pumps, flower-visiting insects, how cows can save the planet, the Inflation Reduction Act, pollinators, forestry practices for conservation.

Here is the line-up of talks for Saturday and Sunday, all of which are held in the Renewable Energy/Local Living tent in the Portal to the Future area at the North end of the site:

Saturday, September 30

11:00 AM – Cooking with Biogas, Elyssa Serrilli, Northeast Biogas Initiative

Small scale biogas is a safe, affordable and easy way to convert organic waste into methane fuel.  Northeast Biogas Initiative is a community collaboration for biogas education and the development of simple, affordable, small-scale methane biodigesters suitable for temperate climates.

12:00 PM – Addressing Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss – An Experiential Learning Program at Mount Wachusett Community College, George LoCascio, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Conservation, MWCC

Come learn how Mount Wachusett Community College is training the future land stewards of Massachusetts to address climate change through regenerative agriculture, wildland firefighting, and ecosystem management.  George teaches classes for the Environmental Conservation and Regenerative Agriculture degrees at MWCC. He earned a Bachelors’ degree in Plant and Soil Science from Stockbridge School of Agriculture, and a Masters’ Degree in Environmental Conservation from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. George has taught at multiple institutions across Massachusetts and teaches workshops with the Native Plant Trust. He is involved with several research projects that range from the alteration of Oak-Pine barrens communities through the application of prescribed fire, a long-term butterfly survey in Patillas, Puerto Rico; and ex situSolanum ensifolium.

1:00 PM  – Foraging for Mushrooms in New England, Willy Crosby of Fungi Ally

This will be an introduction into foraging for mushrooms in New England. Have you wanted to get out in the woods and harvest mushrooms but feel intimidated to take the leap? This class will help you be familiar with 10 common mushrooms that can be harvested in New England. Rains willing, we will have the mushrooms on hand to get familiar with. Along with 10 easy mushrooms to identify you will learn what features to look at on any mushroom to find out what it is. Willie Crosby is a local mycologist that has been growing and studying mushrooms for the last decade. He owns and operates Fungi Ally, a mushroom education business based in Montague MA.

2:00 PM – Getting Pumped About Heat Pumps, Gregg Stone and Claire Chang

Today’s high efficiency heat pumps can heat, cool, and dehumidify your home (or business!) for a fraction of the cost of running electric baseboard heat, window air conditioners and portable dehumidifiers. Often called mini splits, they can also offset much of your oil, gas, propane, and wood heat. For households 80% below area median income, you could get the installation at no cost. Other households are eligible for a $10k rebate if you’re installing heat pumps as your primary whole house heating source. Come hear from the folks who have done this – what’s it like to live with them? How complicated is the paperwork? How do I find a competent installer? Does it really save me money? Gregg Stone and his artist wife Kerry have lived in Warwick, Ma for the past 30 years, where they raised 3 children and created a vibrant homestead. Gregg is a woodworker and a concerned citizen of the world. Gregg and Kerry put solar panels on their house 6 years ago. Last year, after some research, they had heat pumps installed by Orange Oil, using the Community Action program. They love their mini-splits, and they recently purchased an all electric Chevy Bolt. Claire Chang is co-owner of Greenfield Solar. Since 2008, they have installed over 500 residential and commercial photovoltaic systems. Claire chairs the Gill Finance Committee and Energy Commission and is a founding member of MassSolar. She and John installed heat pumps in their home and business many years ago, proving that heat pumps and solar panels can work together to lower heating and cooling costs.

3:00 – Beyond Flowers: Host and Nest Needs of Lesser Considered Flower Visitors, Adam Kohl.

Adam will present a slideshow review of flower-visiting insects photographed and collected in Wendell, MA with an emphasis on lesser-considered taxa (flies, moths, wasps, and beetles) that have surprising host needs such as fungi, lichen, carrion, water, birds’ nests, skin flakes, trees, plant roots, etc., expanding our view of what constitutes a “pollinator habitat”.  Adam Kohl is a skilled naturalist with professional experience as a field botanist, entomological surveyor, and plant propagator. Adam has worked as an independent contractor for Norcross Sanctuary, Maine Audubon, Gegear Lab at UMass Dartmouth, Landscape Interactions, and has previously worked as a seed collector and propagation and nursery assistant at Native Plant Trust. Currently Adam serves as the Conservation Agent for the towns of Leverett and Wendell and in the past 3+ years Adam has independently documented thousands of species living in Wendell, MA including many nocturnal flower-records for moths.

Sunday,October 1
11:00 AM – Cooking with Biogas, Elyssa Serrillig, Northeast Biogas Initiative

Small scale biogas is a safe, affordable and easy way to convert organic waste into methane fuel.  Northeast Biogas Initiative is a community collaboration for biogas education and the development of simple, affordable, small-scale methane biodigesters suitable for temperate climates.

12:00 PM – Cows Can Save the Planet:  It’s Not the Cow But the How, Ridge Shinn, Northeast Grass-Fed Beef Initiative

How the large herbivore is a critical partner in the symbiotic relationship between the sun, photosynthesis, plants and soil. It is the keystone species that makes the system work.
Grazing correctly (mimicking the buffalo) stores carbon in the soil rapidly, and provides many desirable ecosystem services like clean water, healthy food and a vibrant rural economy.  NGBI is led by Ridge Shinn, a longtime farmer, grazing advocate, CEO of Big Picture Beef and co-author of Grass-Fed Beef for a Post-Pandemic World (November 2022, Chelsea Green Publishing). Ridge has decades of experience in all corners of the Northeastern grass-fed cattle sector, from raising grass-fed cattle to processing and marketing. His work has been recognized in Time Magazine, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Wine Spectator, and Smithsonian.

1:00 PM – The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is $369 Billion!  What is it for? Anna Vanderspek, Green Energy Consumers Alliance

The IRA contains key measures that will help households reduce their energy bills, insulate their homes, electrify their heating systems, and convert to renewable energy. It includes both tax credits and direct rebates that offset the up-front costs of installing efficient heat pumps for heating, cooling, water heating and clothes drying, electric induction stoves, wiring upgrades, solar panels, and much more. The average IRA benefit for a Massachusetts household is over $10,000. Low and middle-income households will benefit the most. Helping American households access these savings is not only critical to relieving inflation, but also to providing stability for everyone’s future. Don’t miss out!!

The Green Energy Consumers Alliance is a non-profit working to speed the transition to a low-carbon future in Massachusetts.  It offers various programs and services that can help you make the switch to clean energy technologies (renewable energy/solar, electric cars, heat pumps) and advocates for smart clean energy policy at the state level.

2:00 PM – Improving Habitat for Honeybees and Native Pollinators, Caroline Canterbury, 2023 Massachusetts Honey Queen

Queen Caroline will share more about:
● Honey is the third most faked food in the world–BUYLOCALHONEY!
● How you can support local beekeepers and local farms
● Gardening choices to support honeybees and native pollinators
● How YOU can join the Franklin County Beekeepers Association

Come try some delicious honey and pick up a FREE Native Pollinator Planting Guide for the Northeast, and more! Caroline is a local high school senior who plans to major in Conservation Biology. She is an employee at the Greenfield Farmers Co-Op, working in the greenhouse, and she is passionate about raising honeybees and introducing people to other native pollinators. She is a member of the Franklin County Beekeeping Association and the first MA Honey Queen from Western Massachusetts. Come visit with Queen Caroline to learn more about honeybees, beekeeping, and local honey!

3:00 PM – To Manage or Not To Manage – That is the Question! A forestry panel discussion with Bruce Spencer and Michael Mauri

To align the Commonwealth’s forestry practices with its new climate “road map”, Governor Healey’s office has placed a Forestry Moratorium on the Commonwealth’s public lands. Besides putting loggers in limbo, there are significant ramifications for the many watershed forests across the State. While experts from across New England gather to develop “Climate Smart-Forest Management Techniques”, another group called the Water Supply Citizens Advisory Committee (WSCAC) is proposing a way forward to meet the Governor’s goals. Whatever the outcome, changes will be required in the way we see the forest through the trees, and work therein. Bring your questions!

Topics will include:

  • Silviculture and Carbon Sequestration
  • Herbivores and Forest Regeneration Diversity
  • Harvesting Techniques
  • Soils and Carbon Reserves
  • Free Will and Mosaics

Bruce Spencer, now retired, was the Chief Forester at the Quabbin Reservoir for 41 years. He now spends his time working in the 2Brothers Woodlot, walking in forests everywhere, and helping  WSCAC monitor forest practices on the DCR’s Division of Water Supply Protection Watersheds.

Michael Mauri is a Massachusetts Licensed Forester who earned a Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management from UMass in 1996 and has been an independent consulting forester ever since. His clients are private woodlot owners, non-profit organizations, and municipalities. A lot of his work is devoted to drinking water supply forests. On the whole, no matter what type of ownership, the common question his clients have is what to do and what NOT to to do with their forests.

If you have suggestions for future topics please fill out the form below.