By Bryan Wood, Audubon Center of the North Woods
Once in a while, an act of generosity leaves you humbled by its magnitude. You can’t help but take a step back, astounded by the goodness of people and their desire to want to leave the world a better place. You marvel at the kindness individuals can show through an organization transformational gift and during these times saying thank you to them simply isn’t adequate. They deserve much more as you try and adequately express your profound gratitude.
Roger and Ruby Trapp are those people. With the substantial help of Audubon Center of the North Woods Board Member Susan VanGorden, Mr. and Mrs. Trapp this summer completed a land transfer of their 101-acre century farm to the Audubon Center of the North Woods. This land, which marks the north boundary of ACNW’s property, has been in Roger’s family since his grandfather Alfred McKay purchased it in 1900. Roger was born there and grew up on the farm that produced flowers, produce, pick-your-own raspberries, chickens, turkeys and cattle. The farm is still in operation today, producing corn.
Of the 101 acre tract the Trapps gifted to ACNW, 48 acres is tilled farmland, with the remaining 53 acres a mix of beautiful hardwood and conifer stands. This land gift would be met with great enthusiasm at any time, but is especially exciting now as it fits into ACNW’s larger plan to have a working educational farm in the future. Food in many aspects is where we each have the largest impact on our planet. Indeed, 70% of all human land use is for food production and the current food system is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, production and distribution. The average item on an American’s plate has traveled 2,000 miles. With our population expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 and climate change threatening to reduce crop yields by 25%, our ability to feed the world, while caring for our planet is of paramount importance. A United Nations study concluded that the only way to sustainably do that is through local, polyculture farms that are more resistant to disease and less energy intensive.
Over the coming years, ACNW plans to turn the 48 acres of farmland into an organic, polyculture farm where produce, permaculture, pollinators, free-range poultry and grass-fed beef intermingle to provide food for our meals served at the Dining Hall. With the farm contiguous to our existing property, it easily allows for myriad educational opportunities with our K-12 schools, summer camps, post-secondary courses and adult programs. This all will require funds to build up the farm and its infrastructure and efforts will now begin towards securing those funds.
In a way, the Audubon Center of the North Woods is coming full circle. Our existence is due to the generosity of the Schwyzer family donating their farm to become a nature sanctuary and in our first 48 years, environmental education has been taught primarily through nature study.
Today, there is increasing interest in society on where our food comes, the impact it has on our land and water, and how we can make more environmentally conscious choices. As we approach our 50th anniversary, we are poised to expand our environmental programs to include agriculture through a working, educational farm that will provide learning opportunities for individuals and empower them to grow or raise more of their own food and make informed choices. And we have Roger and Ruby Trapp to thank for that. Their farm and legacy will live on as it educates and inspires for generations to come. “We believe in getting kids outside, and want others to enjoy the farm as I have.” Roger said. We invite you to join us in expressing our deepest gratitude to Roger and Ruby, and to join us on this exciting journey ahead.