Brandeis Professor Buys Franklin County Farm

February 12th, 2012

Wondering what Brian Donahue is doing on his sabbatical? Check out this NECN article on Professor Donahue and how he combines environmental history with hands-on farming:

“It’s a balancing act,” said the curly-haired, bearded hands-on academic, who’s just driven nearly two hours from his home in suburban Boston to oversee the construction of the post-and-beam house being built with native hemlock, cherry and white oak from the property along the Fall River. “I combine my teaching, my research and the farming I do as much as I can. It sort of lends something extra to each of them.”

Donahue, who teaches courses on environmental history, sustainable farming and forestry and early American culture, was involved in developing Harvard Forest’s 2005 “Wildlands and Woodlands” document, which called for protecting half of the forests in Massachusetts by 2050 primarily through sustainable management practices and also collaborated on a similar 2010 vision for protecting 70 percent of the New England’s forests by 2060.

But Donahue, who dropped out of Brandeis as an undergraduate in the 1970s so he could work full-time on a farm in neighboring Weston, but then returned there in the 1980s to get his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate there, is also knee-deep in drafting a “New England Good Food Vision 2060.”

In it, he maintains that even conserving 50 percent of southern New England in sustainably harvested “working” forest would still allow for farmland around the six-state region to be expanded threefold from 2 million acres to about 6 million acres. That would translate to about 15 percent of the region to active farming by 2060, about the same as it was in 1945.

Donahue is an Associate Professor of American Environmental Studies at Brandeis.

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