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Hilltown Chautauqua’s 2nd Annual Earthcare Festival

September 15, 2017 - September 16, 2017



Frances Moore Lappé, a pioneer writer and thinker about food and social justice, and author of Diet for a Small Planet, will be the keynote speaker at the Hilltown Chautauqua’s second Earthcare festival on Sept. 15–16, 2017, at the historic William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts.

The program will explore a theme of “Food, Farms, and the Land” with a combination of talks, film, panel discussions, poetry, music, food, and fellowship.

Among the other speakers: environmental historian Brian Donahue of Brandeis University, and Sarah Gardner, producer of the documentary, “Forgotten Farms.” Beloved Americana folk musicians Jay Ungar and Molly Mason will kick off the festival with a concert and contra-dance.

The day-and-a-half festival will offer varied perspectives on such questions as:

  • How is the food economy evolving in New England, and where does it need to go to improve sustainability, health, and reduced carbon output?
  • How are small farmers coping with the challenges of climate change, corporate farming, globalized trade, and new federal policies and priorities?
  • What role can the citizen-consumer play in improving the accessibility, variety, safety, and affordability of local food?

Other events include:

  • A tribute to poet Richard Wilbur, a long-time Cummington resident and former poet laureate of the United States, with readings by Hilltown poets, a segment of a new documentary, and an interview with Robert and Mary Bagg, authors of a new biography of Wilbur;
  • A panel discussion with 8 young Hilltown farmers who have taken on the challenge of farming in the region, on innovative sustainable approaches to cultivating and marketing;
  • A screening of “Forgotten Farms,” a film directed by Sarah Gardner of Williams College, on the plight of New England’s dairy farmers (Saturday, Sept. 16);
  • The Wistaria String Quartet with fiddler Zoë Darrow (Sept. 16);

David Perkins, director of the Chautauqua, said the festival “will be another moveable feast of ideas and the arts, focused on the future of food and local farming. The Hilltowns have many innovative, hard-working small farmers who care about the bigger picture—the health and sustainability of our planet and our system of food production, on which so much depends.”

Like earlier Chautauqua programs, “Earthcare 2017” will address pressing issues from multiple angles, drawing on a variety of disciplines and art forms. “My aim is to make a program that will be inspiring, entertaining, informative and thought-provoking, at once. And without falling into the partisan or ideological ruts that make communication difficult. Deep down, I think we all want to engage in a

larger, broader, more civil conversation about how we live and where we’re going. And ‘Food, farms, and the future of the land’ is certainly one of the important issues of our time.

He added, “We are delighted to have as our keynote speaker Francis Moore Lappe, who has been offering new thinking about food, health, and social justice for more than 40 years.”

Lappé is the author of 19 books and an international leader in food and social justice discussions since she published her first book, Diet for a Small Planet, in 1971. Her keynote talk will concentrate on the links among democracy, resources, and localized decision-making. There will be an extended Q and A session, and Lappé will mingle with attendees during the day. She will also sign copies of her books, as will other speakers.

Details of 2017 Earthcare program, with updates and readings, are posted at the Hilltown Chautauqua’s website The online box office is open. Tickets cost $20 for the opening night concert of Friday, Sept. 15, and $25 for a day-pass on Saturday, Sept. 16. Food will be provided by Alice’s Kitchen of Cummington and Mountaintop Meats of Savoy. Tickets with food are sold separately online.

Schedule here.

Purchase tickets.


The Hilltown Chautauqua was launched in 2016 under the fiscal management of the Hilltown Community Development Corporation. Under Perkins’ direction, it produces thoughtfully curated programs of talks, panels, workshops, music and theater, and displays of original art, presented in historic Hilltown venues.

“In our over-technologized, consumer-oriented, youth-driven culture, we’re reviving an old formula,” Perkins said. “I think many of us are eager to put down our laptops and cell phones and participate in a larger conversation about serious issues.”

While the festival “packs a lot into a day,” Perkins said, it allows time for attendees to reflect and meet with friends and make new ones. “And the settings we choose, like the Bryant Homestead, a gem of the Hilltowns, offer calm and beauty. A friend of mine calls the Hilltown Chautauqua ‘a circus for the mind and spirit.’”

Owned and managed by the Trustees of Reservations, the Bryant Homestead was the boyhood and retirement home of William Cullen Bryant, the famous 19th-century poet, abolitionist, early environmentalist, and newspaper editor. Bryant’s famous poem, “The Rivulet,” was inspired by the stream that flows in an area of old-growth forest on the Homestead property, now memorialized in the Rivulet Trail, which is open to the public.

Perkins, a writer, editor, singer, and former UMASS lecturer, founded the Chautauqua to contribute to intellectual and cultural life in the Hilltowns, to showcase local and regional talent, to encourage civil discourse, and to support tourism and economic development.

Perkins said his inspiration came from the “circuit chautauquas” that visited rural communities early in the last century for programs that combined entertainment, education and spirituality. “All those

things were seen as contributing to what was called ‘social uplift.’ It’s a quaint phrase, but perhaps one worth reviving. We need some of that. The Progressive Era at the turn of the last century emerged from a period of rising economic inequality, enormous industrial irresponsibility, class tensions and social fragmentation.”

The Hilltown Chautauqua is a non-profit organization, under the fiscal sponsorship of the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, supported by grants, individual donations, and ticket sales. This year’s major donors include Rural LISC grants and the Keep Farming in the Hilltowns project.

It first program, “Earthcare 2016,” was given last September at the Bryant Homestead, and included speakers Alan Weisman, Lauret Savoy, and Joan Maloof, and performances by Kaiulani Lee of her one-woman play on environmentalist Rachel Carson. A second program, “Civitas: A Celebration of Early Democracy,” was presented in Ashfield in April.

“I can’t think of two issues that are more important than the health of our democracy and the health of our planet,” Perkins said, “and I hope and expect we will pursue those themes in the future, from many different angles.”


September 15, 2017
September 16, 2017
Event Category:


William Cullen Bryant Homestead
207 Bryant Rd
Cummington, MA United States