Shallots/ Backhoes/ Philanthropists

Shallots, radish, peas, chard, lettuce, onions, and cilantro seeds are in the ground. The remaining garden beds must wait until May when the soil is warmer. Our excuse for planting so much is the anticipation of having summer lunches with visitors at the Schumacher Library. But the truth is, planting seeds in April, in the Berkshires, needs no excuse. It is more akin to an imperative. The seeds must be sown; Earth, moon, and local culture demand it.

Gardens aside, the purpose of this enewsletter is to thank all of those who have supported the Schumacher Center’s Library renovations and to share some good news.

Schumacher Library

The Schumacher Center purchased its office/library building in 1989. Over the years we have renovated the upper 2,000 square feet—turning a high-ceilinged, open room used as a stained glass studio into offices, library, and meeting space. We replaced the roof, added support walls under the cantilevers, regraded and added drainage around the perimeters, and upgraded both the septic system and electric to serve a fully built out two-story building. But we had not begun renovations of the lower 1,600 square feet to achieve the light and humidity controlled environment essential for the proper stewardship of the book and archive legacy collections in our care.

We are excited to announce that work on the archival level is finally underway. It is a long held dream taking form.

Over the winter, architect John Fülöp updated Schumacher Center’s founder Bob Swann’s original drawings to meet current building standards and incorporate his trademark attention to energy efficiency. On April 2nd we “pulled” the building permit from the town of South Egremont. On April 8th, Joe Wilkinson’s team took down part of the north wall and drove the backhoe and bulldozer inside to remove the old cement floor. They laid drainage pipes, positioned frames for new support pilings, and spread a base of stone. Cavanaugh Plumbing installed the water line and roughed in the fixtures. The cement truck arrived this past Thursday under Jim Johnston’s care. Andrus Electric had already upgraded power service to the building in anticipation of the increased use. Rich Pepino spec’d an efficient gas fired heating and cooling system for the entire building, replacing the electric system that served part of the upper floor. Steve Seddon of S&S Home Improvements is the general contractor; he and his team will do the framing and finished work.

The project is employing all local small contractors who have reliably served the Southern Berkshires for decades. The budget for the current renovations is $250,000 – a little over $150 per square foot. Friends of the Schumacher Center have contributed $155,000 in donation amounts that range from $25 to $50,000. Remaining funds are awaiting a foundation decision on a grant application.

The completion date for the new archival level is early autumn, in time to show it off to those attending the 39th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures with Sallie Calhoun and Greg Watson. The date is October 27th from 1-4 PM at Saint James Place, 352 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA. Please mark your calendar and look for more details and registration information to follow. The lectures will be videotaped for those unable to attend in person and, of course, transcribed, edited, and published in multiple formats.

At a time of an ever-widening wealth gap, the need to broaden access to land is urgent. Land access lies at the heart of issues of equity, affordable housing, livable cities, regenerative agriculture, ecological restoration, renewable energy, and social entrepreneurship. Community land trusts provide a tested vehicle for fair, voluntary, and democratically managed allocation of land.

On May 19th, Peter Buffett, co-president of the NoVo Foundation in Kingston, NY, and Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in Sheffield, MA, will speak at Saint James Place in Great Barrington at 5 PM. The speakers will address the topic of how consciously-placed private philanthropy, including land gifting, can transform and invigorate a local community and its economy. The discussion will be moderated by David Bollier of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, and author of Think Like a Commoner and co-author of the forthcoming Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons.

The event is part of the annual meeting of Berkshire Community Land Trust. The Schumacher Center is a co-sponsor of the event.

Please join us for this timely discussion. Registration information and more details are here. The event will be videotaped and posted online for those unable to attend.

Again, bushels of thanks to all the donors to the Library renovations. We are most grateful.