Greenagers buys historic 100 acres in South Egremont to expand mission

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An earlier version of this story reported that Greenagers has just started a fundraising campaign, but the nonprofit has already raised over $1.1 million of its $1.5 million goal.

SOUTH EGREMONT — You see them in the summertime, dirty and piling in and out of vans with shovels and pitchforks to tend and tame some of Berkshire County's wilderness.

These are the young men and women of Greenagers, who either through paid work or internship programs see to it that trails, farms and riverbanks are in good condition.

They'll even plant a raised-bed organic vegetable garden at your house if you can't afford it, and struggle to pay for groceries.

The nonprofit is about to expand this mission to connect young people with their environment and community. The group, which serves about 500 young people and employs more than 60 annually, is about to close on a historic, circa 1744 farmhouse on 100 acres in South Egremont — one that was previously home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

It was donated to the Conservancy in 2004 by Mary-Margaret Kellogg, with her stipulation that it only be sold to nonprofits, particularly those with an education and conservation mission, said Will Conklin, Greenagers executive director.

Greenagers were set to make the announcement Wednesday night at The Egremont Barn. The nonprofit has already started a fundraising campaign that has raised over $1.1 million of its $1.5 million goal.

"It's to upkeep the property and endow Greenagers with stability," Conklin said, adding that the party will be a "community-building event."

"We want community to be actively engaged in the property," he said.

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Formed in 2007 as a program of The Center for Peace through Culture, the nonprofit's programs have become something that the community has grown to rely on.

"Our trail maintenance is dependent on Greenager's internships," said Christine Ward, executive director of the Great Barrington River Walk, which is under the aegis of the Great Barrington Land Conservancy.

The group offers paid programs, internships, apprenticeships in environmental conservation, sustainable farming and natural resource management in the Berkshires and in nearby areas of New York State.

Crews build and maintain trails for groups that include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Trustees of Reservations, Columbia Land Conservancy. "We're working as far north as Pittsfield, as far west as Hudson [N.Y.] and as far east as Becket," Conklin said.

Apprentices in the farming program learn animal husbandry and organic agriculture. Others volunteers install front-yard gardens for families who qualify for low-income aid. Greenagers also runs school programs in two county districts.

Conklin said the house is already outfitted with offices and is well-preserved, and that the group could now expand its programs, as well as host other organizations who might want to use the property.

Ward, who was getting ready to attend the announcement event, waxed glowingly about Greenagers and its new home.

"It's a really wonderful fit for such a dynamic and growing organization," she said. "They have become more and more profoundly important in our local community. It's a win-win-win."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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