148 ACRES conserved IN THE TOWN OF JACKSON
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Maurice Sendak? For most people, it’s the book Where the Wild Things Are. Originally published in 1963, this award-winning book has sold millions of copies and is as popular today as it was more than 50 years ago. In fact, President Obama and the First Lady read it aloud at the annual Easter Egg Roll. But what many don’t know is that Sendak often drew inspiration from author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, not only for her storytelling ability but also for her farmland conservation work in Northern England.
Like Sendak, Potter is well known for her writing and illustrations, including Peter Rabbit, a story about a mischievous bunny who steals and eats veggies from neighboring farmer Mr. McGregor. What is less universally known is that during her lifetime Beatrix Potter purchased and cared for 15 farms, bred sheep and grew hay. Those landscapes were the inspiration for many of her stories and illustrations in the early 1900s. Potter supported the National Trust (the land trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) throughout her life and followed their principles in land management. When Potter passed away in 1943, she left the 15 farms, including over 4,000 acres of land, to the National Trust. That is the legacy Sendak admired and hoped to follow.
For most of his life, Maurice Sendak lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut where he conserved over 100 acres of forested land surrounding his home. He was drawn to Washington County in part because of his friendship with the Monks of New Skete from whom he purchased a dog. He also enjoyed several retreats at New Skete. When Maurice and his friend and colleague Arthur Yorinks set out to find a property where they could host workshops for their Night Kitchen Theater, they came across the 148-acre Scotch Hill Farm property in Jackson. They fell in love with it.
When Sendak and Yorinks retired their children’s theater, they used the farm as a retreat. Above all, Sendak and Yorinks enjoyed the peace and beautiful views of the Green Mountains. The view of the night sky from the farm is infinite, filled with billions of flickering stars. The luminescent night sky conjures up the poetic language of Sendak’s book, In the Night Kitchen: “He grabbed the cup as he flew up and over the top of the Milky Way in the night kitchen.”
Now owned by Arthur Yorinks (it is where he permanently lives and works) and Lynn Caponera, the president of The Maurice Sendak Foundation, Scotch Hill Farm is also home to Caponera’s In The Night Kitchen Farm, a non-profit that grows and distributes fresh produce to those in need. In the past several years, they have donated over 7,500 pounds of fresh vegetables to the Regional Food Bank and more recently to local food pantries in Salem, Greenwich and Cambridge. The demand on local food pantries has doubled in our community as 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger.
Lynn Caponera donated an easement on the farm in December 2015. She said, “It is really important to me that the farm remain how Maurice and Arthur wanted. Maurice believed that nurturing and food go hand in hand. Many of his books have an element of food in them.” Lynn has many fond memories of gardening with Sendak and is dedicated to keeping the farm as a source of fresh, healthy food for the community. Lynn also leases several of the fields to a neighboring dairy operation as support land.
With seventeen 10’ x 10’ plots sponsored by supporters of the organization and two acres of row crops, In The Night Kitchen Farm is growing enough food not only to feed the local bunnies who steal veggies; they are also ensuring that fewer people in our community go to bed without supper.
“This easement is an extension of Maurice’s wish to be like Beatrix Potter. To work with an organization that can literally make your dreams come true, now that’s exciting!” – Lynn Caponera