What Does Vermont Need from its Land Trusts? Don Campbell '84 at Log Lunch

Pictured, from left to right: Log Lunch lecturer Don Campbell ’84 and Sarah Gardner, Associate Director and Lecturer in Environmental Studies, smile at the camera.

On December 3, the Log Lunch community had the pleasure of hearing from Don Campbell ‘84, the Southwest Regional Director of the Vermont Land Trust. Many years after his time at Williams — during which Campbell built the Hopkins Forest Sugar Shack and played banjo in a band — Campbell spoke on his work with the Vermont Land Trust. After providing a succinct overview of the VLT’s goals, Campbell drew attention to newer initiatives through which the VLT is redefining the ways in which a state land trust can support the population living, working, and recreating on their land.

Given that the VLT has conserved over 600,000 acres, or more than 10% of the state’s land, Campbell explained that the broad goal of the trust is to “stop the best land from being used” for commercial or real estate development. The aim is to both take care of the existing preserved land while also identifying new parcels of land for protection. However, Campbell noted that the audience likely knew much about the broad goals of land trusts, and made a shift to speaking about their new goals; which, with a photo of a pig, he introduced as less “boaring” than the typical work of the land trust. 

Pictured: Don Campbell ’84 plays the banjo at the Log in 1984.

Campbell described the “sea change” that the Vermont Land Trust has undergone in recent years, as they’ve made a significant push to aid marginalized communities and thus redefine the scope of their work. He presented the question, “Should we spend our money on another trail, or should we spend our money doing something we haven’t done before?” and explained how he believes that the VLT can achieve the big goals of farmland conservation while simultaneously pursuing community-driven aspirations. He detailed the work that the land trust is doing to intentionally conserve land in partnership with the Abenaki people. Campbell also described a number of initiatives to improve food security throughout Vermont, including the Pine Island Community Farm which has growing plots and a new goat slaughtering facility for the use of new American communities.

Campbell concluded his talk by noting that the VLT is “trying to figure it out as we go along” and has repeatedly faced criticism for not sticking to the more traditional work of a land trust. However, he encouraged the audience to rethink our entrenched notions of what conservation work ought to be; in particular, he drew attention to Peter Forbes’ book Full Moon Rising, which places Native American notions of land stewardship into conversation with the climate crisis. 

Pictured: The Log Lunch menu is displayed on flip pad paper.

On a cold winter day, students and faculty enjoyed a meal of chili with corn, tomatoes, and peppers, alongside sauteed mushrooms and butternut squash cornbread. The tomatoes and garlic were among the last of the season from Peace Valley Farm, and the butternut squash was from farmer Nick Chenail. Festively decorated gingerbread cookies wrapped up a delicious, seasonal meal.

BY SARAH JANE O’CONNOR ‘22.5

Log Lunch is a CES program hosted every Friday at noon. During Log Lunch, a vegetarian meal prepared by Williams students is served, followed by a talk on an environmental topic. Speakers are drawn from both the student body and faculty of Williams, as well as from local, national, and international organizations. Learn more here.