The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 3, 2009


2009 Conservationist of the Year: John Lee

It is with trepidation and humility that I approach the microphone today. Previous year’s speeches by John Lee set the bar high for humor and content. Fortunately, the resume of the 2009 COTY is so abundant, that the job of enumerating their accomplishments is easy.

Conservationist of the Year John Lee. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

To quote this year’s honoree, “[Carlisle] is a community of personalities who daily demonstrate a vision and the leadership to maintain a sense of historical continuity, while moving forward into the 21st century.” Nothing could be more descriptive of this individual.

Like many of Carlisle’s residents, Carlisle’s Conservationist of the Year moved here permanently later in life, some 20 years ago. Although a transplant to Carlisle, his ties to the area are long. He was born in Boston and then moved to a working farm in a nearby state at an early age before returning to attend the Fenn School as one of its first boarders. Later he would earn an undergraduate degree at Boston University in Agriculture and follow that up with a graduate degree from the University of Vermont before returning to eastern Massachusetts to begin a career and ultimately settle in Carlisle.

In our midst, disguised as a mild mannered farmer and frequently sporting a bow tie, is a conservationist who works tirelessly within our community, region and state, promoting agriculture, conservation and the synergy of these two, using his substantial expertise and good humor (substantial, in this context, modifies both expertise and humor!). Due to his understated nature, many are only aware of his 12 years of service on the Carlisle Conservation Commission and his ever presence at the Carlisle Farmer’s Market. But his reach extends far greater. He is one of only 12 trustees of the 200+ year-old Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture which funds research in farm method improvement. He is also a trustee of the Mass 4-H Foundation, active in the Tower Hill Horticulture Society, a trustee of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation and a director and past President of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Class Room.

While he is involved in many community affairs, keeping farming a continuing part of life in New England is his focus. All of this occurred or is occurring concurrently with his day job. He was the first farmer at Lincoln’s Codman Community Farm. He owned and operated a farm in Concord before taking on his present gig – the stewardship of Allendale Farm in Boston whose operations he has managed and expanded over the past 25+ years.

Today Allendale Farm stands as a model for a community farm that delivers a breadth of products and services – from fresh produce and live plants to providing hands-on summer educational programs for children ages four to ten. By now I’m sure it is clear to all that this year’s Conservationist of the Year is John D. Lee of Lowell Street. John’s passion for helping children of all ages make the connection between food and where it comes from, fosters a positive outlook for a sustainable and healthy world. John, thanks for what you do and please continue to do it. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito