Tom Wilcox, a board member of the Massawippi Foundation and a Trustee of the Massawippi Conservation Trust, has most recently forged a formal relationship with US organization American Friends of Canadian Conservation (AF of CC), a relationship that promises to bring significant American resources to conservation organizations across Canada.  Mr. Wilcox serves as the Canadian-based representative for that organization.
American Friends of Canadian Conservation is a US charity that partners with Canadian conservation organizations and American owners of environmentally and ecologically significant lands to protect Canada’s lands. It helps to preserve Canada’s natural areas, scenic landscapes, sensitive watersheds, recreation resources, important habitat for fish, birds and wildlife, and the places that hold generations of family memories.
AF of CC was created to remove the tax and legal barriers that prevented US taxpayers from permanently protecting their Canadian natural lands. Gifts of land and conservation easements to American Friends are charitable donations in the US and effectively not subject to Canadian capital gains

Massawippi organizations work to conserve land in Quebec’s Eastern Townships

The border between Canada and the United States may be the world’s longest international border but it may also be the friendliest, with long-standing positive relationships between the residents of both countries. Quebec’s Eastern Townships is one region where that close connection is very apparent. Just 30 minutes or 36 km from the Vermont border, the charming town of North Hatley, Quebec traces its origins all the way back to 1792 when American Captain Ebenezer Hovey encountered Lake Massawippi during his explorations of the area. Of course, the first people to discover Lake Massawippi would have been the Abenaki First Nation who chose to name the 15-square-km lake Massawippi, a word meaning “abundance of clear water.”

Whether hundreds of years ago or today, there seems to be firm agreement that the landscape of the Massawippi area possesses great ecological and aesthetic value. Two organizations have been successful in their ongoing efforts to conserve land and the environment in the area.

In 1968, citizens came together to form what is now known as Blue Massawippi, an organization dedicated to protecting the ecological health of the Massawippi watershed area through research and education. And in 2010-2011, a group of concerned local residents established the Massawippi Foundation (FMF) and the Massawippi Conservation Trust (MCT), to facilitate fundraising for ongoing protection of the ecological integrity of the Lake and watershed area. While the Foundation supports activities that benefit the people of the region, the purpose of the Trust is to conserve the natural state of the land adjacent to Lake Massawippi and its tributaries, and to provide stewardship services for that land in perpetuity.
Currently the work of the Massawippi Conservation Trust is focused on undeveloped land on the west slopes of Lake Massawippi, stretching over six kilometers and rising up to the high ridge. Experts have noted the value of the old growth forest and a wide variety of rare or threatened flora and fauna on these lands. Tom Wilcox is a one of the founders of the Trust – his family has been escaping summers in the US and spending time in the Massawippi area for five generations.
“My great grandmother and grandfather came in 1890, making my brother’s grandchildren the sixth generation,” says Wilcox. “As development pressure on the ecologically sensitive lands increased, we saw an opportunity to create a means to protect the valuable resource.” The Massawippi Conservation Trust employs several methods to conserve land including: acquiring land through purchase or donation; establishing easements or servitudes; helping landowners understand the ecological and tax benefits of limiting the types of activities permitted; and helping landowners understand the effect of over-development on the overall well-being of the Massawippi watershed. Wilcox has had many proud moments over the past ten years during which time the Trust has raised more than $5,000,000.
“In addition to the cash, we have received donated properties and servitudes worth more than $3,000,000. Thanks to our donors and partners, we have become a leading voice for ecological health and sustainability,” said Patterson Webster, Chair of the Massawippi Foundation.
In June 2017, the community celebrated the dedication of the Massawippi Trail. Representatives from First Nations, English and French-speaking residents, families and elected officials all came together to officially open the trail system providing public access to what was once private property. In recognition of the original Abenaki people whose territory included this land, Métis Paul Carignan and his wife Sylvia Bertolini sang an Anishinaabe Sun Song. “The work we do with the Trust not only ensures land conservation in perpetuity, it provides access for families to appreciate and learn about nature – which over the past 18 months we have come to understand is even more essential to the well-being of our community and the planet.”
Both The Massawippi Conservation Trust and Blue Massawippi are now grantees of American Friends of Canadian Conservation, US taxpayers can support their work with a gift that is tax deductible in the US!
“We are very grateful to American Friends,” said Wilcox. “I would advise any American who might be considering the future of their property in Canada to investigate American Friends. With the tax benefits available, you can ‘do well, by doing good’.”
Annual Report 2019-2020
Conserve Canada 
The Viens family is the winner of the Agri-Environmental Leadership Award for a conventional farm.
They were chosen by our committee to receive the first Agri-Environmental Leadership Award by meeting the criteria of the committee which consisted of :
Dr. Eric van Bochove, recently retired executive responsible for the scientific direction of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research and development centres.
Dr. Darren Bardati, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environment and Geography at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke.
Stéphanie Durand, who currently works for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in human resources and feed production management for their dairy herd: rotation, input purchases, crop management.Excerpts from the questions on the Leadership Prize application form.

A 4th generation family business committed to producing high quality milk in a sustainable way. The respect for resources, people and animals is part of the company’s values. We are passionate about our work and are always looking for new knowledge.
We believe in regenerative agriculture which is a good concept to improve soil life.

Soils that will sequester carbon (slowing climate change), living soils that will need fewer pesticides and mineral fertilisers, so less leaching loss. We are working on returning animals to pasture which helps to restructure the soil and we will try compost tea which is a natural way to make a soil productive and resistant. We also want to improve the water cycle by reducing compaction and encouraging water infiltration into the soil.  The idea of collecting rainwater from the roofs of buildings is something we want to do.
-Purchase equipment that will help us do direct seeding of maize.
-Purchase plants and shrubs
-Take training courses
-Work with cover crop consultants.

A word of thanks from the Viens family –
Thank you again for this great competition, it gives us a boost and encourages us to continue our efforts for healthy ecosystems.

The Massawippi Foundation board is studying ways in which to further its impact on a green and healthy Massawippi Valley. The Massawippi Foundation and Massawippi Conservation Trust are joining the worldwide movement toward enhancing the agroecosystem resilience for  sustainable agricultural production.

Jean-Martin Fortier, Jane Elizabeth Gowman, Alexander Brand (Ferme Fellgarth) et Nathalie Viens, Pascal Viens (Ferme Vimo), Eric van Bochove.

Alex Brand and his wife Lindsay-Jane Gowman are the winners of the Agri-Environmental Leadership Award for an organic farm.
They were chosen by our committee to receive the first Agri-Environmental Leadership Award by meeting the criteria of the committee (including Dr. Eric van Bochove, Dr. Darren Bardati, and Stéphanie Durand who are described above).

Excerpts from the questions on the Leadership Prize application form.


Farm purchased 1971, by Gudrun and Wilhelm Brand, German immigrants, two children Kerstin and Alexander. Fellgarth Farm was a pioneer certified organic farm in Eastern Townships in the early 80’s. Growing diverse crops such as vegetables, corn, hay, barley, spelt, oats and soybeans. A livestock production with beef and chickens, sold with vegetables at the farm store.

The farm is now operated by the second generation, Alexander Brand and his wife Lindsay-Jane Gowman. In 2015 we partnered and created Ferme Fellgarth SENC while having and raising the third generation

of 6 children. Alexander has a degree in Agriculture from MacDonald College and was born and raised in Hatley and has operated the farm. Jane has a Bachelor of Arts from Bishop’s University and was born and raised in North Eastern British Columbia. The uniqueness of our family’s heritage is a strength to our enterprises. We bring an understanding of the country, the world, other languages, cultures as well as integrating German/Western Canadian agriculture practices to our farm located in the unique Eastern Townships. It allows us to be open minded and aware of other environments.

Being a young enterprise in comparison to the operating 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farms we are nestled amongst is a limitation and struggle as we stumble with a lack of family support, family power, efficiency and the missing generational knowledge many farms have as their greatest asset. We are a young enterprise operated by a husband/wife team, neither employed off the farm.
This winter and because of Covid many great conferences were available to us just by sittingat the kitchen table and clicking on ZOOM. We learned about farm insurance, operating a lower cost cattle operation, how to replace baler twine with an edible biodegradable twine. We hope to try this with winter pasturing in 2021. We got to zoom with the first Woman Agriculture Minister and learn how to empower each other as women farmers and finally we learned about urban farming in Montreal.
Both are passionate about sustainable, safe, regenerative agriculture which is family and community orientated, while being profitable. Our main expertise and revenue arrives from cattle, crop and hay production. We maintain small animal husbandry with our most recent trial farm animal being pastured pork.


The size of agricultural operations considerably impacts the outcomes on the surrounding ecosystems, making our small, diverse family farm a positive in managing effective agri-environmental practices. We are dynamic and unique which will be a strong asset to meet the environmental challenges and impacts of climate change to agriculture. One other aspect of our farm’s bio diversity that is important is our genetic diversity we are creating within our cattle. We have learned and applied mixing genetics to create sturdier, more balanced, outdoor cows. Using breeds such as Brown Swiss, Jersey, Angus. and Holstein genetics we are achieving genetic diversity within our livestock.
To conclude, it has been awhile since either of us gave deep, up to date thought on our agro-environmental management. This exercise and generous opportunity was thought provoking. It helped us be informed on immediate changes that are being made and a renewed call for leadership and our present involvement.


  • No firm idea yet. Still thinking about it.

A word of thanks from Jane on behalf of her family – See photo


The Massawippi Foundation and the Massawippi Conservation Trust is joining the sustainable agricultural movement. These prizes are part of our contribution.


The awards are part of an initiative to support the sustainable agriculture movement.

Jean-Martin Fortier, Jane Elizabeth Gowman, Alexander Brand (Ferme Fellgarth) et Nathalie Viens, Pascal Viens (Ferme Vimo), Eric van Bochove.