Well, it looks like I got a little behind on this. Chalk everything up to having too much fun while I was in New Brunswick – that and already-poor blog updating skills. If I recall correctly, I promised a bit of an introduction to where I was in New Brunswick. Never mind that I am now in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – that is another story for another day!
First, a little bit of history and geography: Falls Brook Centre was born out of the 1992 Rio Summit, which has come back into the news lately because of the 20-years-on follow-up summit that just happened, Rio+20. One of the things that came out of the first Rio summit was the need for rural development that was environmentally and economically sustainable. Falls Brook was started as a demonstration centre for organic agriculture and land restoration. It’s located in the Acadian forest, on property that was logged and farmed for a long time. Since starting twenty years ago, the people here have been reforesting a good deal of the site, and have started organic gardens that provide a great deal of the food for the staff of the centre.
We’re located near Florenceville-Bristol, which you may know as the french fry capital of the world, home of McCain potato products (I know I certainly did before arriving here). The surrounding countryside, unsurprisingly, is mostly filled with potato farms and little intersections that are named after the families that have lived there for generations upon generations. It is a strange sensation to go to a village with a certain name and interact with people who have that same name. Perhaps this speaks to how much of a city boy I am?
When I told people about this internship, they had two main questions: first, what was I actually doing? Second, why was it necessary to spend three months in New Brunswick? The first question is always a favourite of people in the international development/environmental field, since the answer is often far less exciting than people expect. The second is evidence that I have too many friends from Toronto who can’t imagine spending time anywhere in the country except in cities of one million people or more.
The Canadian portion of the internship has three main focuses: forestry, agriculture, and education. Most people choose one area to work in for most of their time here. I’ve sort of been given projects in each of the areas, which have been taking shape. Our education projects have focused on presentations to schools and summer camps. This has included a highly exciting development, namely the start of my career as a puppeteer. A big part of our educational activities has been a series of puppet shows on environmental themes. I have, to date, played a heron lamenting the destruction of wetlands, a trio of musical ears of corn who talk about the impact of genetically modified seeds on heirloom varieties, and Dr. Wriggles, an expert on vermicompost. In less exciting news, I’ve also been working on the centre’s newsletter and workshops on kitchen gardening. There’s also been a lot of time to be in the forests here and learn about the Acadian ecosystems and our restoration projects.
In addition, half of our day is given to upkeep of the site’s gardens and trails, with the idea that we should learn about the day-to-day tasks involved in managing organic agriculture and forest restoration projects. I’ve been helping to build a greenhouse, about which more later.
The Canadian portion of the internship is also an opportunity for us to get to know the different partner organizations and prepare ourselves for six months working with them. After doing some research, I decided that I was interested in working with an organization in the Domincan Republic. I hope that having the extra time to learn and reflect will make it a better match for me – the projects that they have been working on in reforestation and enterprise development seem to be right up my alley.
In the beginning of September, we also had the opportunity to do a course on permaculture design. Permaculture is a system of landscape management that looks at designing systems for long-term productivity, with a focus on food production (unless I’m mistaken, the word comes from ‘permanent agriculture’). The class was an eclectic mix of environmental enthusiasts, with the Falls Brooks interns on one side and local maritime permaculture practitioners and soon-to-be practitioners on the other. We were also joined by four partners from our overseas projects, two from Cuba and two from Honduras. They brought their own perspectives to the course, and I had a great time doing a running interpretation of the classes for them.
The main project of the permaculture course was a design project based on a need identified by the community. We worked in our group with community members to come up with a design for projects. My group worked with the community land trust, a group of people that has put aside over one hundred acres to be inhabited by people who want to build a community in South Knowlesville. The land is given in free, renewable 99-year leases, the only stipulation being that people stay on the land and do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides (interested parties, consult www.back2land.ca). The good folks on the land trust wanted us to design a place where people could be welcomed into the community, and stay short-term with some important amenities such as a kitchen and showers. It was an interesting experience to design something that people were actually interested in using, and we got some really good feedback!
Anyway, that is what I was up to in New Brunswick. I’m in the Dominican Republic now, about to begin the next leg of the journey! As long as I remember to keep writing, expect updates from this part of the world soon!