Ellen Onorato's The Rising Drop-Out: Our Sons  / Early Gardens  / Maple Sugaring / Grandeur of Lost Trees

Give Unto Others A Giant Among Us
A great farm experience while learning how to plant, weed or harvest vegetables is a joy itself, but when coupled with the underlying gift of your time to do unto others makes it that much more inspiring. The Community Harvest Project is a nonprofit, volunteer farming organization based at the Brigham Hill Community Farm in North Grafton, MA and Elmwood Farm in Hopkinton, MA. 

    In 2003, over 35,000 pounds of vegetables were grown and distributed to 280 hunger relief organizations throughout the County. 2004 volunteers donated even more tonnage of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, broocoli, squash and much more.
    Give unto others seems to be the credo which guides the volunteers at the Farm, particularly its owners, Ken Crater and Peg Ferraro who were inspired by the late Bill and Rose Abbott of Hopkinton’s Elmwood Farm. Ken and Peg are involved with a broad cross-section of endeavors - all of which make the community and region a richer place. They were honored in 2004 as recipients of the Heritage Corridor award for their bold leadership and vision which led to the collaborative purchase of 61A land known as Hassanemessit, the historic place where John Eliot established an Indian Praying village over 350 years ago.The rare opportunity of finding such fine mentors only underscores the wonderful, helpful environment and committed role that the Brigham Hill Community Barn plays in the Valley. College students, families, elderly, or elementary students all love to come to the farm and help out! Come join the friendly volunteers committed to “food for the needy” being grown on the 11 beautiful acres in North Grafton, surrounded by a new barn and learning center also used by many community groups. 
People interested in volunteering at either of the Community Harvest Project farms in North Grafton or Hopkinton may contact Volunteer Coordinator Ken Dion at the farm hotline, (508) 839-7402 Ext. 1. More information is available on the web at www.community-harvest.org.

   In May, a fascinating tour of the renovated Riverdale Mill in Northbridge, MA allowed chemical engineers and others an opportunity to learn about the state-of-the-art manufacturing of wire-mesh products. This tour was hosted by the WPI Venture Forum and The Association of Chemical Engineers and was free and open to the public. 

    According to the WPI information sheet, "Riverdale Mills employs a unique process design minimizing waste and enhancing worker safety. Riverdale Mills is the recipient of the 1999 Governor 's Prize for Toxic Use Reduction and the 2002 National Association of Manufacturers Industrial Award of Merit (for workplace safety)." 
Riverdale's 394,000 square foot facility , employing about 95-100 and running three shifts, is equipped with high speed computerized wire drawing equipment and CNC welding machines. Their proprietary PVC coating process, with the galvanized after welding (GAW) process has led the way to minimize air pollution and liquid waste streams while producing a stronger and more durable wire mesh product. Ironically, Riverdale Mills was slapped with an EPA enforcement order in November of 1997 after agents raided the plant. EPA agents claimed that Riverdale Mills discharged acidic rinse water with a pH of less than 5 into the town sewer system. 
    Owner Mr. James Knott, now in his mid 70s though appearing to have the appearance and energy of a much younger man, had started his focused vision of creating a better, lighter lobster trap (and other mesh products) with this 150+ year old neglected mill in 1979. Moving from Wellesley, MA, he and his wife worked tirelessly to renovate the troubled property along the 16 acre millpond and Blackstone River dam on Riverdale Street. If that was not enough challenge, they also rehabbed four dilapidated residential properties nearby while building their wire mesh business into a multi-million dollar leader by revolutionizing the lobster trap and aquaculture business and more recently, providing prison wire. 
     For those unfamiliar with the details of the EPA raid and Mr. James Knott, it is clear that many don't recognize the true "giant" of the man. Certainly, Mr. Knott is highly recognized in many circles internationally, but each and every citizen owes a bit of gratitude to the man, not only for employing scores of Valley residents and renovating (and saving) a wonderful, historic property - but for his six years of tireless efforts and huge costs to establish the truth. 
Chatting with James. Knott and his wife only briefly, it was clear from a few accounts that he demands high standards - with loyalty and the truth as being vital. 
    This was not an easy battle. The word "environment" is emotionally charged as the impacts of actual, careless deeds has public ramifications. But Mr. Knott took on this battle as he has other major hurdles in his life. He proved that the evidence submitted by the EPA agents had apparently been falsified and he wonafter years of beinf falsely accused.
It was the battle for the truth to which we all owe Mr. Knott a grateful nod. Recognizing that he had the resources and contacts to pursue this fight, he also could have shrugged it off more easily - paying the fine and putting it behind. He chose, instead, to demand the truth and stop the unbridled actions that too often the real small business cannot battle alone. 
   The truth finally triumphed, with environmentalists even coming to Knott’s defense. It’s great to find the truth, regardless of which side it’s on - it seems too often the truth has all but disappeared! Thanks, Mr. Knott for your vision and your demand for the truth.