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 growing chestnut trees, living with nature, forest conservation, food as medicine, food as medicine, fermenting, heat pumps, and creating a makerspace to build community and skills.

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, Oct 1st

12:00 PM – Living with Nature, Dave Small of the Athol Bird & Nature Club and Director of the Millers River Environmental Center.  Learn how to enhance your landscape to provide habitat for birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, and people. Whether you have an urban yard or small farm there are things you can do to enhance the usefulness of your yard for wildlife. Dave will cover why it is important to use native plants in your landscape, adding larval food plants as well as flowering plants, suggestions for adding a water feature, and thickets to provide escape cover.

For over 34 years, Dave has been the charismatic leader of the Club. His skills as a naturalist, trip leader, and presenter are in demand throughout New England. The Center is recognized as the place to learn about our natural history and to hold meetings that relate to natural history, the environment, and our community.

1:00 PM  – Grow Chestnuts Everywhere. Everything you need to know to grow chestnut trees in your backyard! Lois Breault-Melican and Denis Melican, American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation.  Whether you want to plant 2 or 3 chestnut trees in your small backyard, or are looking to plant a somewhat larger orchard or grove, this presentation will give you ideas and tips so you and your family can enjoy your own chestnut trees.  Smaller hybrid chestnuts are now readily available so that you can easily and inexpensively plant chestnuts which will produce delicious and nutritious nuts in just a few years.  Join us for this interactive program where you will learn tips and tricks of chestnut growing today, and where you can get locally grown chestnuts this fall.

Denis Melican and Lois Breault-Melican planted the first American chestnut research orchard in Massachusetts at Moore State Park in Paxton in 2003. Since then, they have taken care of orchards and plantings from Boston to Pittsfield as well as giving chestnut talks for garden clubs, libraries, land trusts and schools. After years of focusing only on restoring the American chestnut back into the forests, their efforts have recently expanded to include the wonderful new chestnut hybrids which they hope will soon become familiar fare on our dinner tables.  They are active members of The American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation, The Massachusetts Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, and Global Justice Ecology Project’s Campaign to Stop GE Trees.

2:00 PM – Your Pantry as Your Medicine Cabinet. Jesse Muzzy, People’s Medicine Project.  Can food really be medicine? Of course it can! Come learn about the vital health benefits and healing properties of common foods that may already be in your kitchen. Learning how to manage our health and heal from common and unexpected ailments at home is a key element of living a healthful and holistic lifestyle, as well as a tool for addressing health care access and equity in our communities.

The People’s Medicine Project seeks to address community health disparities by increasing access to complementary and alternative healing modalities. We envision an inclusive culture of wellness, based on an empowered connection to personal health, the earth, and each other. We run free alternative health clinics throughout the Pioneer Valley and distribute food and herbal medicine to people and communities seeking healthier and more holistic options for their health.

Jesse is a Fertility Awareness Educator and is currently training to be a Full-Spectrum Doula and Herbalist. She believes that access to clean food, water, and herbal / earth-based medicine is an essential part of building autonomous, sustainable and resilient communities.

3:00 – LaunchSpace – Making it through a pandemic and building for the future. Brianna Drohen, President, CEO and Co-founder.  During the presentation LaunchSpace co-founder and CEO, Brianna Drohen, will be talking about how they survived through the pandemic, what you can find happening in the makerspace today, their plans for the next few years and how building micro-economies and sustainable local systems is important in our region. She will also be talking about how the community can get involved and their goals for impacting the region.

LaunchSpace, Inc. is a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization providing non-college opportunities to upskill, collaborate and develop new businesses in Massachuestts’s North Quabbin region of approx. 30,000 residents. Our 13,000 sq.-ft. makerspace facility supports creativity and entrepreneurship in fiber art, painting, printmaking, woodworking, pottery, leather, photography, 3D printing, laser printing and metal working.

LaunchSpace has also acquired a vacant 24,000 sq.-ft. school facility, Pleasant Street School (PSS), in partnership with the Town of Athol. Through the redevelopment of the school, LaunchSpace intends to drive the local economy through repurposing the school’s kitchen into a working community kitchen and the classrooms into business incubation suites and/or retail outlets as well as a childcare facility.

The LaunchSpace makerspace offers a three-tiered approach to community engagement: workforce development, education, and business incubation. The three-tiered structure forms a replicable approach to economic revitalization within semi-rural, post-industrial communities, which tend to have the highest rates of unemployment, poverty and limited access to economic opportunity. We offer an environment to share creative energy, a classroom for personal learning for all ages, and workforce training for re-entry into the job market.

Brianna brings a wealth of leadership experience in business, event planning, and grant research to the LaunchSpace team. As a Wendell native, she is passionate about building community projects that enhance local economic growth and development, such as makerspaces and the Orange Innovation Center. Her work over the past five years has focused on bringing real change to the North Quabbin region. She has been involved with international education and resource development with the goal of bringing the LaunchSpace platform into third world community networks.

Sunday, Oct 2

12:00 PM – Carbon & Resilience: Forest Conservation as Climate Action. Aaron Nelson, Mt. Grace Land Conservation Trust
Conserving and restoring forests is one of the few proven ways to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. However, New England’s forests face growing threats from development and fragmentation as well as climate driven pests and diseases. This workshop will address the role our forests can play in reaching our state’s climate targets, the role of conservation in protecting them, and how stewardship of wildlands and woodlands can help increase forest health, carbon sequestration and resilience to climate impacts.

Aaron Nelson is the Community Conservation Project Manager at Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, located in Athol, MA. Before joining Mount Grace he completed a B.A. in International Affairs at George Washington University, with a focus on the effects of climate change on different communities around the world, and their approaches to adaptation. Returning to his hometown, Ashfield, he served as the Farm & Climate TerraCorps-AmeriCorps member at Mount Grace in 2020 before joining Mount Grace full time. In his current role he facilitates Mount Grace’s Climate Subcommittee and works with towns, communities, and landowners to conserve land critical for climate resilience.

1:00 PM – Learn to Start Your Own Ferments.  Katie Korby of Real Pickles.  Katie will show you step by step how to create a recipe and start your own ferments at home. Learn about what is going on in those bubbly jars – transforming veggies into delicious and healthy food – and learn a little about the history and health benefits of fermented foods.

Katie is a worker-owner at Real Pickles focusing on Fermentation Management. When she is not making pickles Katie can be found gardening, baking and crafting at her homestead in Colrain with her daughter or working with her partner Justin at Stoneman Brewery in her backyard.

2:00 PM – Battery Back Up and Heat Pumps: A Winning Home Combo
Stefan Maier, Domestic DC Systems  Learn some common terminology around Photovoltaic systems and Energy storage systems, i.e. solar and batteries.  Learn about battery chemistries and battery incentives.  Learn about installing solar with batteries and retrofitting existing solar with a battery system.  Learn about using batteries for backup in an outage, AC coupling an existing PV system and supporting the power grid (for lucrative payments) to lessen the need for fossil fuel based power.  Come and learn!

Stefan Maier is the owner and operator of Domestic DC Systems and has been installing solar PV systems and Energy storage systems in central Massachusetts since 2012, using local MA licensed electricians.  Stefan is originally from Germany where he received some training in electrical and mechanical engineering.  He also apprenticed as a pipe organ builder and started Stefan Maier Tracker Organs in 1993 tight here on Chestnut Hill in Orange.  His interest in renewable energy got sparked by the Chestnut Hill neighborhood that began the Garlic and Arts Festival over 20 years ago.  Stefan has been involved with the festival in one way or another continually from the very beginning.

3:00 PM – EV panel Discussion – How Far, How Fast (charging), How Much?
Tall tales and real world experiences from EV drivers who took the plunge and never looked back.  With Brad Compton (Chevy Bolt), Claire Chang (Tesla and Fiat), Greg Pellerin (Rivian), and Stefan Maier (VW ID4).

Ever wonder if an electric vehicle is right for you? Do you have “range anxiety”? Where and when and how would you recharge it? How much does it cost to “fill up” either at home or at a charging station?….and where the heck ARE they anyway? How about rebates, tax credits, and dealer discounts?

Get these questions and more answered from folks who have been driving them for years or from others who are new to the experience.

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