On Saturday, April 30, Wallkill View Farm hosted the second annual Earth-Conscious Cooperative workshop, and business was brisk. “We did it a couple of weeks later this year, hoping to get it a little busier — and it was!” said Wallkill View’s Linda Ferrante, who once again donated evergreen seedlings that families could take home for free, provided that they were willing to get their hands dirty potting them up. “The kids had a lot of fun planting them.”
This year, the baby trees were white spruces, and Ferrante reported with evident delight that some of the youngsters at the potting table told her that the Fraser firs that they took home a year ago are still thriving. “They were excited that they could come get another one,” she said.
Ferrante’s nephew, Jason Valentino, is one of the organizers behind the event, and co-owner with Rory Becker of A Peaceful Stance, a company that manufactures clothing from organically raised fabrics. “We had a great turnout today,” said Becker. “We teamed up to make people more Earth-conscious, inviting New Paltz to come celebrate Earth Day and raise awareness about how people can make sustainable choices.” More vendors, exhibitors and educators showed up this year as well as visitors, he noted. “Like in our own business, we try to grow organically each year. It’s been really amazing.”
In part, the event was a fundraiser for the not-for-profit environmental education organization Wild Earth, with vendors like A Peaceful Stance donating a percentage of their sales for the day. Esperanza Gonzalez, community coordinator for Wild Earth, spent the afternoon guiding children through a variety of hands-on activities, like making dreamcatchers out of grapevines. She stood at a table strewn with fascinating natural objects that kids could touch and examine, including feathers, birds’ nests animal bones and skulls, deer hooves, casts of animal tracks, dried mushrooms and an enormous cone from a sequoia tree.
“All the kids that were here came by for a little bit. We just show up and play,” said Gonzalez. “We did sensory activities. The kids would be blindfolded, and we’d play hearing and sneaking games.” The Children’s School of Yoga also had rows of kid-sized mats laid out for visiting youngsters to try out simple yoga postures, and a family yoga class was offered in the field at midday.
Four-year-old Ayla McGurn tried several of the activities designed for children, but said that she had the most fun at the booth run by her father Bryan: Lighthouse Solar New Paltz. Ayla giggled as she moved a cardboard cloud in front of and away from a solar panel, making a portable water fountain in a barrel turn off and on as the sunshine was alternately blocked and unblocked. “This event is mostly educational, so we want the kids to have some fun as they learn about solar,” explained Bryan McGurn. He demonstrated the racetrack where kids could race tiny solar-powered cars. “They go pretty fast when the sun’s out!”
Among the participating organizations coming back for a second year was the Community Compost Company/Hudson Valley Soil Company, which donated the potting soil for the spruce seedlings. “Last year we started food scrap recycling…This year we had compost for sale! Wallkill Valley Farms was the first place to carry our finished product, both packaged and in bulk,” reported Community Compost co-founder Noa Simons. “And we’re expanding our collection service. Next week we’re starting event collection at the Kingston Farmers’ Market.”
The folks from Casa de Cacciovallo were on hand selling their farm-based artisan cheese, and Organic Hudson Valley magazine was touting its new publication that focuses on sustainable agriculture. But perhaps the biggest draw was the menagerie of live raptors that visitors could meet up-close and personal, courtesy of wildlife rehabilitator and educator Annie Mardiney’s Wild Mountain Birds. Two adorable screech owls, a barred owl, a great horned owl, an American kestrel and a red-tailed hawk perched calmly on their roosts or even a rehabilitator’s fist, drawing many admiring eyes. Mardiney explained that the birds on view had been too incapacitated to be returned safely to the wild. “These are all legal education birds — they’re the only kind I can bring out,” she said.
So far, this annual event has been the only official gathering for the Earth-Conscious Cooperative, according to Becker, but the partners “have reached out to schools and other groups with the same interests and core values,” he said. “We definitely keep in contact.”