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Jane became involved with the Massawippi Foundation fairly early on as the Board was being formed in 2012. She was invited to join in 2013 and today she is its Chair. The passion and respect of the original group is as strong today as it ever was. None of them are environmentalists, but they all share a deep love for the natural beauty of the region and want to do what they can to protect it for future generations.
When asked if she found the area had changed over the years she says, “Not really, the buildings haven’t changed, only the businesses on the inside.” She remembered the general store and hardware where the Pilson now stands, Earl’s was the Dep, and the Hob Nob, (now the Mercantile) where her family always picked up hot dogs and fries for supper when arriving from Montreal on Friday nights. Of course LeBaron’s was and still remains today.” The biggest change was when the railway was sold.” Thinking back she remembers when she used to walk along the tracks to get from one side of the village to the other, sometimes jumping off the bridge into the water, in order not to get run over by the noontime train. The walkway and gazebo are what remain today. A lovely place to get a view of the lake and the ridge behind it.
When the Sentier Massawippi opened its trails, Jane was there with her sister. She realized then that this would be the special place to walk keeping in mind that George Wardman Sr. had been a good friend of her Father. The Meagher farm property was sold in 2018 and Jane and her husband Jean bought an Airstream thereby joining a new community. Their choice reflects their love of nature. The Sentier Massawippi trails in North Hatley and Sainte- Catherine, are her preferred local places to walk. She likes the beauty of the trail and the views of the lake. Jane makes sure to speak about the Foundation and its conservation mission with visitors.
When asked if she is an environmentalist, conservationist, or nature lover, Jane chooses the latter, saying she loves nature and tries to do her bit to help the planet and her community. Her son has recently bought a property in the area and so the family tradition is continuing.
Margot and her family moved to the Massawippi Valley permanently in 2002 however she had already established a love for the area long before when attending university and working in the area in the 1970s.
Unassuming and passionate, she is one of the founders of the Massawippi Foundation. Even before its legal inception, Margot played a key role in its establishment which now boasts approximately 1200 acres under its protection via the Massawippi Conservation Trust. The land, which is protected in perpetuity, has a current evaluation of over 4.3 million dollars and the Foundation has raised over 5 million dollars. For much of the last decade, Margot served as Chair and volunteer acting Executive Director at the same time – a term referred to as a “servant leader”. Today, Margot is President of the Foundation and a Trustee of the Trust. The conserved area we are talking about is the watershed of Lake Massawippi, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. It contains pristine forests which have been identified as being of top ecological quality. Margot was among a small group of people who met over Thanksgiving weekend, 2010 to discuss the imminent threat of development on the magnificent forested ridge on the west side of the lake. One guest, David Rittenhouse took up the call and began to research how to create a conservation trust and a community foundation. By happenstance, Margot was drawn into the action after a chance meeting with David in the local depanneur. During the summer of 2011, they went door to door, spreading the word among friends to support the foundation during its infancy by providing seed money in order to purchase land and to explain the goals of the sister organizations. David made these visits while fighting advanced cancer and died in August that year but not before Margot visited him the evening before to promise him that the other founders would continue the work that he had begun as the Foundation’s first Executive Director.
Since then Margot has identified properties, helped negotiate land donations or sales and ushered the Trustees and owners to the table to sign transfers of land, a task that Margot compares to herding cats. She has also helped raise funds towards property acquisition and trail building and is a lead donor herself. She is a spokesperson and educator. She has given lectures, personally written hundreds of thank you notes, hosted fundraising events, even loaned her home in exchange for donations instead of rent. Margot is a local, well respected authority on conservation in the region. She is called upon regularly by people wanting her guidance on how to establish a land trust.
Margot, along with the Board, believes in the importance of giving everyone access to nature. It was important to allow people to walk and benefit directly from the forest therefore it wasn’t long before two properties had trail networks. In the words of Margot Graham Heyerhoff, “The goal was not just to see this amazingly beautiful green mountain from afar while driving on Route 143 but for people to experience conservation from being ‘inside’ these protected forests”. Nothing has proven truer than in the last 2 years with the pandemic raging around us, people have benefitted from the trails, improving their physical and mental health.
The Massawippi Trust is under the conservation umbrella group of Appalachian Corridor. The biologists and specialists from the organisation have identified the top priority properties linking wildlife corridors which range from the United States through Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Margot is keenly aware of the positive impact on the wildlife regarding the connection between the properties and has worked nonstop to link contingent parcels together.
Aside from her various roles with the Foundation, including Chair, Acting Executive Director, and President, she also sits on the grants committee, fundraising committee, and now two new committees: Education and Farming.
As she says: “To support our vision for a green and prosperous Massawippi Valley, we are looking to expand our conservation efforts from only focusing on our rich forests to including various other types of ecologically vital lands. The Massawippi Foundation and Massawippi Conservation Trust are joining the worldwide movement toward enhancing the agroecosystem resilience for sustainable agricultural production. We feel that conservation also includes how we use our land – we will advocate for agro-environmental farming practices to keep our soil healthy, ways to preserve the biodiversity of insects, birds and plants, and ways we can all protect streams in order to improve the health of our lake, the health of our farms and their produce and ultimately the quality of life for all who live here.”
Today, as the Massawippi Foundation enters a new decade, it is expanding its mandate to develop educational programs for local school children, families and adults. It is also joining the regenerative agriculture movement. It will sponsor a research grant to identify the hot spots on the territory where farms are contributing to pollution. It will work with local organisations to promote new (old) farming techniques which are less invasive and can in fact help restore the quality of the soil, the crops grown, the farmers’ income and the environment.
Margot, originally a city person, has become totally invested in the local environment since her move to the Eastern Townships which she has expressed through her work with the Massawippi Foundation and the Massawippi Conservation Trust. She has learned about the environment and conservation through her passion for this corner of the world. Margot has a creative edge about her (as a designer and an artist) and an active imagination for all kinds of projects and possibilities – many of which have already become realities.
Norman was a journalist. In the late 1960’s, he was offered the job in Beijing as the Globe and Mail’s correspondent. When he asked Pat if she wanted to go, she said YES! They and their three little boys spent two years there as part of a small community of diplomats. Later, with five children, the family lived three years in England and in various cities in Canada.
A world traveller, blogger, author, wife and mother, an American who gave up her citizenship to become a Canadian, Pat adopted the Eastern Townships and North Hatley like a native. “There is something about this place that grabs you in a deep way. It is hard to put a finger on it, but it is there.”
She and her family spent summer holidays in North Hatley. Year after year, she explored the woods, following deer paths and making her own, using the lake as her compass point. Standing at Black Point, she could see only two cottages on the west side of the lake, and almost no houses on the east.
In 1996, Pat and Norman bought Glen Villa, the place where she now lives full time. She began to develop the garden around the house and to think about the land more deeply, over time creating what is now a landscape with art installations that explore ideas about history, memory and our relationship to nature. “Each of us leaves a mark on the world we are part of, and it is up to us to decide what kind of mark that will be.”
She supported the goals of the Massawippi Foundation and the Massawippi Conservation Trust from the outset and was an enthusiastic supporter for the network of trails. “People who experience the forest come to love it, and the trails get them out there. It is hard to name but once they are in the woods, they sense the ‘specialness’ of the place. “
As a grandmother with 11 grandchildren, Pat is delighted that the Foundation is finally able to offer an education program for students. Designed to teach children about the environment in the protected, outdoor setting of the trails, the program will start in the fall. “I am confident that the program will meet its goal of helping young people develop a real love for the environment. I hope that in a few years we will be able to expand the program to include family activities and programs for adults.”
A life of experiences, looking at the world through the eyes of others, has led Pat to acknowledge the importance of the landscape we all share. Now that the Massawippi Foundation is on terra firma, she is ready to move on to new projects, including the launch of her new book in July. It’s called Autobiography of a Garden. Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. It will be available through fine bookstores everywhere or online through McGill-Queen’s University Press and other reliable sources. She will also be opening the garden at Glen Villa to the public this summer as a fund-raiser for the Massawippi Foundation. Dates for these open garden days are June 25, July 23, August 20, and October 1. Tickets cost $25/per person and must be booked in advance through Pat’s website, www.glenvillaartgarden.com
The Massawippi Foundation Board would like to thank Patterson Webster for her devotion to the area we call home. She has been a guide and steered the board with wisdom, wit and intelligence. Good luck with your new projects!
Did you know that our region is home to some extraordinary farms and vineyards where the passion for organic farming practises is decades old? Caring for the environment and growing healthy food is nothing new for these farmers and vinters.
We are starting the first in our feature series with an article written by Caroline Chagnon, from Domaine de Bergeville in Canton de Hatley. Cheers!
While we are bottling the first wines of the 2021 vintage, the vines are finishing their long winter rest. Soon, they will be stripped of their protective canopies to catch the first rays of sunshine of the year.
Comfortably rooted on the slopes of the Massawippi Valley, our vines flourish in the highest viticultural region in Quebec: the Appalachian Highlands. The 250 m elevation creates a favourable contrast between hot days and cool nights. This temperature difference slows down the ripening of the grapes and preserves a remarkable acidity, which is crucial to the production of sparkling wine. Domaine Bergeville is the only vineyard in Quebec dedicated entirely to the production of traditional method sparkling wines. We believe that it is through the prism of double fermentation that the full potential of our northern climate, our soils and our hybrid grape varieties is best expressed. In other words: we bottle nordicity.
But beyond making wine, our concern is to shape an environment rich in biodiversity. Since the very beginning,
we have been working with organic and biodynamic viticulture. Thus, our vineyard has never known any synthetic product. Following a low-interventionist approach, every effort taken in the vineyard is done with the intention of making it a sustainable ecosystem and, ultimately, a self-sufficient organism. Aware that a vineyard is a monoculture, we have implemented several solutions to maintain an abundant and diversified environment. For example, we have deliberately planted different grape varieties on the same plot, interspersing vine varieties that flower at different times of the summer. Permanent green manures are grown in the inter-rows, which reduces soil erosion. At the edge of the plots, the wildflower patches and the forest are refuges for insects, amphibians and animals that contribute to the biodiversity of the vineyard. Each element of our ecosystem plays an essential role and contributes to its cohesion.
Our soil is our greatest asset. It is rich in silt, sand and pebbles, which makes it acidic and shallow, but also in the life that lives in it. Our intention is to constantly give back at least as much as it gives us. The application of biodynamic principles allows us to improve the health of the vineyard as a whole. Biodynamic herbal preparations help the immune system of the vines, preparing them to fight diseases and insects. In the long term, this practice allows us to reduce treatments and interventions to a minimum, reducing our impact on the environment. We fertilise our vineyard with composted manure from a local organic and biodynamic cheese factory. This takes much longer than chemical fertiliser to prepare, but it is deeper and more long term. Our efforts seem to be paying off as we have noticed an increased presence of earthworms, bacteria and birds in recent years, which is an empirical measure of strong soil life.
In order to work with nature and produce an authentic wine, adapted to our region, we have planted our vineyard with hybrid vines. These are a cross between wild North American and European vines and are better equipped than their European counterparts to deal with fungal disease pressure. Working with these hybrids allows us to significantly minimize the application of organic treatments, without jeopardizing our ability to produce quality wines. Frontenac, Acadie and St-Pepin, in particular, were selected for their robustness and organoleptic characteristics, but also for their rapid vegetative cycle.
Our philosophy remains the same in the cellar. Experience has taught us that healthy grapes require minimal intervention. Supported by healthy indigenous yeasts, the wine will have everything it needs to express the individuality it has taken a whole season to develop. Thus, handling and inputs in the winery are kept to a minimum. A minimal dose of sulphur is used at the beginning of the process, at the pressing of the grapes only. This natural winemaking process can be felt in the wines, which have an honest fruitiness, a freshness and a certain elegance.
For us, it’s all about reflecting the uniqueness of our northern vineyards and making wines with great precision and respect for our land.
Caroline Chagnon, Domaine Bergeville Communications Director
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Have you ever noticed those parchment thin leaves of the Beech tree that hang on bravely throughout the winter? What about the rich brown Oak leaves rustling like paper in the wind?
Why do these leaves persevere when all the others have fallen to the ground?
To answer this question, we need to look at both the physiology and evolution of trees. All trees shed their leaves at some time. Even though we call conifers ‘evergreens’, they lose their needle like leaves once every year. It is an individual slow process. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the deciduous trees in Quebec’s boreal forest. They light up with colour, announcing the end of their season in the fall as they let their leaves drop to the forest floor.
For a very long time, evergreens were the only trees on earth. Over time, the trees adapted to the changing climate and conditions. They developed more varieties, including the colourful, broad leaf hardwood trees. The conifers use their needles to remain photosynthetic for longer periods of time, delaying nutrient loss from dropped leaves. Deciduous trees have adapted another evolutionary strategy. They drop their leaves in order to reduce water loss and frost damage during the winter while using their broad leaves to increase their photosynthetic efficiency during the summer.
In the boreal forest you will find several varieties of evergreens like Pine, Hemlock and Spruce. Then there are also the newcomers (in an evolutionary sense) including Birch, Maple and Cherry. Between these two classes are the Beech and Oak whose leaves die but don’t fall down. Botanists call this retention of dead plant matter marcescence. It occurs when trees fail to drop their leaves because they lack the enzymes that are responsible for triggering the release of the leaf. This is the trait of the juvenile trees and is also seen on the lower branches of more mature trees.
Why do some trees have marcescent leaves? The answer is still unknown although there are some interesting theories. Here are a few of them:
– Could it be that the trees keep their leaves in order to deter deer and mice from feeding?
– Do the leaves capture the snow and in spring release moisture to feed the new spring growth?
– Is it a sign of trees adapting to dry, infertile terrain? They often are seen growing together, outcompeting other trees.
– Could it be that by dropping their leaves in the spring they are adding new compostable material to the forest floor, helping the parent tree in a landscape where every advantage is important.
– Do the leaves provide some form of frost protection to the new twigs and sprung buds?
Both the Beech and Oak are in the same family as some evergreen species including live oaks and tanoaks that don’t grow in our region. Could it be that they are simply further behind, on the long evolutionary road?
Wherever you see them, they add a touch of movement and colour to the otherwise austere black and white winter landscape. The leaves are a delight to observe as they flutter in the wind, hanging on until spring – like us.
We are hearing all too often about children spending too much time indoors and in front of screens (phones, tablets, computers and TV). Have you heard about nature deficit disorder?
What happened to parents telling their kids to stay outdoors until the street lights came on? Or kids playing street hockey, using their backyards or simply walking to buy a Popsicle? Studies are showing that children are suffering from a lack of being outdoors.
How are we going to ensure that they, the future stewards of the environment and our planet, participate in keeping it alive? The answer to this question is that we need to expose children to nature, starting at a young age, building upon their natural curiosity.
There is a pre-existing bond that children have with nature. Whether they are sitting on the grass, beach or curbside, floating little sticks or leaves down rivulets of rainwater, it all seems like such a natural way to spend time outdoors. They jump in puddles, even as their teacher or parents say Nooo! What better way to spend time outside than walking through the mud for the sheer joy of feeling your shoes being sucked in and the delicious sound of their release.
Time in nature is soothing.
Environmental education is important in developing effective ties to nature, the local environment and positive attitudes towards the earth we live in. It is important to give children the opportunity to bond with the natural world and create an affinity for the environment. By building the Massawippi Trail both in the village of North Hatley (Scowen Park) and on the ridge in Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, the Massawippi Trust has given the public the right to walk ‘on the wild side’. Testimonial after testimonial are filled with praise for the positive experience of each walker.
By getting kids outdoors with their schools or their families and friends, we are giving them access to a healthy experience, offering them the benefits of physical activity as well as improving their cognitive skills. They will perform better and be less open to the risks arising from stress and obesity. We have even seen a link between children who spend time in nature and the development of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours as adults.
There are several factors shaping the new reality. Often, both parents are working and sometimes hold more than one job each. Children are highly scheduled with their activities and have less free time for play. There is a fear of crime. ‘What if my child is hurt or worse?’ in what is perceived as an unsafe environment. There is a diminishing amount of natural space as more and more people live in cities. In 2021 nearly three in four Canadians live in large urban centres with populations of over 100,000 people (Statistics Canada 2022-02-09 www150.statcan.gc.ca ). Race, ethnicity and socio-economic status may also influence a child’s access to nature.
One study, conducted by Balmford, Clegg, Coulson, and Taylor (2002) showed that eight-year-old children were more proficient at identifying popular Pokémon characters than they were at recognising common local flora or fauna.
When thinking ahead to the future of the environment and our world, we need to play a role in exposing children to nature so that they can learn to love it and not fear it. “What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds” (Sobel, 1996, p. 10)
In the famous words of Jacques Cousteau, “People protect what they love.” By getting outside, we will develop deeper connections to the environment and conservation helping the love grow in our hearts.