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Celebrating a Promise to the Valley

Big red frame park hill orchard view

On June 16, despite the cool overcast skies, more than 200 Kestrel members came out to Park Hill Orchard for our biggest ever celebration of the Valley—and of our members’ extraordinary generosity. We were humbled by the excitement and love for the land that our guests brought to this gathering.

Accompanied by lively tunes from the local Celtic band Banish Misfortune, with food and drinks donated by our generous business sponsors, together we reaffirmed our commitment to the land. You can view photos of the event here.

And, we shared exciting news: More than 300 generous members have contributed more than $5,550,000 to the Promise to the Valley campaign! Along with several Kestrel board members and community partners, Executive Director Kristin DeBoer shared her thoughts on the significance of this moment:

 

When we were first dreaming up this campaign, we searched for the right name, the right title. It didn’t take too long. The idea of making a promise to the Valley came easily. Our tag line was already “conserving the Valley you love,” and promises are best born out of love.

But we’ve all heard the advice, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”  When the future seems increasingly uncertain and vulnerable, it is hard to make a promise for a particular outcome.

Yet even considering this, Kestrel has pledged with the Promise to the Valley Campaign to conserve 5,000 acres of wildlands, woodlands, and farmland in 5 years, even though we know it will be difficult.

Our incredibly dedicated and talented staff come to work each day knowing that we have made this commitment. We all appreciate the trust that you have put in us to do what we say we will do, and we take this promise seriously.

I also want you to know that this work is about more than conserving acres alone. Over the long term, it is ultimately about helping to create a culture that values this promise to the land.

So, our promise isn’t just about what we will do, but about who we are making a promise to and how.

Our promise is to all of you, but also to the people who are not here, communities who have historically and systematically excluded from the benefits of conservation.

And our promise is to the wildlife—who don’t have a voice.

To achieve a promise that involves the entire community, we simply cannot act alone. So, our promise is also to collaborate. To partner not only with other land trusts, the state, towns, federal conservation agencies, but with other nonprofits focused on social justice like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Food Bank of Western Mass.

So that kids from all walks of life have the chance to fall in love with nature themselves.

So that protected farms are a source of food for all families, including those most in need.

With these collaborations, Kestrel is making a promise to act with the conviction that conserving land and water is not a luxury for some, but a necessity for all life.

And it’s comforting to remember that we are just one valley. That there are land trusts working with communities in valleys all over this country with similar convictions and similar promises to the land and to each other.

I am grateful to all of you for making a Promise to the Valley with Kestrel. Together we can do so much more than each of us could do on our own.

The reason we can make a promise to the land is because the land is always here for us.

I’d like to end with a poem by Wendell Berry called the Peace of Wild Things, which is about how the land sustains us:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.

I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.

For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

 

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