These notes include observations from Conway students, as they are out and about in the world, working on projects.
Brad Lancaster and innovative water-harvesting techniques
Three Conway Students worked with residents of Ajo, Arizona, exploring options for local food production. While they were in Arizona, they visited with someone who has been finding ways to fit his life to the landscape. Here is their report.
February 18, 2011
We drove to Tucson for a tour and discussion with water-saver, community-builder, activist, educator Brad Lancaster. We met him at his home, a small structure originally built as a warehouse for a nearby commercial building. He and his wife renovated it themselves and are currently in the process of transforming the small garage into a lofted cottage. Brad sees the world in much the same ways we are learning to at Conway: that everything is connected and careful planning can solve so many of our basic environmental and social issues.
Upon settling in Tucson, Brad immediately began trying to make his street a neighborhood and community. He turned the public right-of-way next to the street where people used to park into a raised-path, water-harvesting, shaded paradise. He converted neighbors one by one, not by nagging, but by showing them that cutting a curb, digging a small trench and planting a tree could make their street cooler and more pleasant. When neighbors began meeting each other, it made their neighborhood safer. While out sleeping on one of his two sleeping roofs, Brad himself has stopped two car burglaries in process.
Brad has adapted the traditional water-harvesting techniques of the desert to a modern urban landscape and somehow convinced the city of Tucson not only that they should let him, but that they should change their official policies to encourage others to do so as well. Gutter systems flush water from his metal roof to fruit trees and to a large concrete cistern. His community washing machine, used by seven neighbors, is cheaper than the local laundromat and drains, without any pumps, to fruit trees. Neighbors move the pipe every time they use the machine so the orange, fig, and others get that water they need without being flooded or under-watered.
Ahron Lerman, Susannah Spock, Sean Walsh ’11
Report from Tuscany: Understanding an ancient food system
A graduate student team from the Conway School of Landscape Design, working with the Spannocchia Foundation, developed a food system plan for the Val di Merse (Valley of the Merse River) in Tuscany, Italy. During their field work they assessed the current food system and identified challenges and opportunities facing that system.
January 20, 2011
The owner gave us a historical walking tour of the Spannocchia property, during which we learned about the history of the buildings and ownership of the property. The highlight was touring the chapel (located on site) and the tower. From the top of the tower we had a fantastic view of the property and beyond. We saw the homes and land of prior sharecropping families, which are now used as tourist vacation rentals.
Now 1100 acres, the property is just a fraction of what it once was. We attended the farmer’s market in Rosia, a smaller version of the market that takes place in Sovicille. We spoke with a leader of the effort behind the local farmer’s market. We also met a student who recently completed a food-related study of this region of Tuscany. We hope to meet with her the following week.
The project study area for the Val di Merse can be defined by using the local administrative boundaries. Why? Because these were the boundaries of the ancient “Tenute,” the castled estates in Tuscany adopting the Mezzedrie system (feudal in its origins). The area consists of the following administrative centers: Radicondoli, Sovicille, Chiusdino, Monticiano, and Murlo.
Kate Cholakis, Erin Hefpner, and Heloise Chandless ’11