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Grand View Grows From Land

By Loni Kemp

Fri, Jul 18th, 2014
Posted in All Columnists

John Weiss, Senior Staff Writer for the Rochester Post Bulletin, had been nudging me for several months to talk about my consulting work. We finally caught up with each other in my garden during asparagus season, and he wrote this article for his weekly column, Back Roads. Printed with permission of the Rochester Post Bulletin.

CANTON — Through the Internet, Loni Kemp can sit in her home in the woods north of Canton and connect with the world as she works to help solve some of the country’s most pressing environmental issues.

Through the window of her home, Kemp can see what she’s working to preserve, and how to address the micro-issues that affect land locally.

The land is her connection to both worlds. “I think my roots are down here,” she said.

Kemp is a consultant for environmental heavy hitters such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, National Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Defense Council.

She helped write such papers as “Growing a Green Energy Future.” She’s now working on the issue of moving from corn to cellulose for energy.

Many experts are highly specialized, she said.

“I think what I can bring to the table is a generalist’s view,” she said. “I see myself as a resource person to a lot of different groups who are trying to propose policies that make the change.”

She said she wants to see more groups connect and discover ways both can meet their needs.

Some of her perspective on the big issues comes from the view out her window.

She and her husband, attorney Dick Nethercut, “came here on a lark” when they thought about living outside a city and fell in love with it, she said.

“I definitely can say the land called us here,” Kemp said. “We got back in the woods here and we thought, oh my gosh, this is spectacular. We have to be here.”

She’s not sure if she would be a different person or would think differently if she lived in Washington D.C.

What she does know is that once they built their house, they gradually added land that now includes woods, meadows and cropland. It’s a place where she can relax, grow a big garden and work on ways to be sustainable. And she’s happy there.

“It suits me very well,” she said.

She takes joy when she sees farmers using contour strips, grass waterways and no-till to reduce erosion and protect the land. But she is dismayed when the Root River runs high and muddy after a rain.

There is work to do.

She is a deep believer in living a sustainable life, of not treating the land as a commodity to be exploited.

“There are so many ways corn producers could improve their practices” and still make a good profit, Kemp said. They could plant more grasses for energy or rotate corn with hay. That reduces erosion and the chance drought will hurt profits.

“I think we can make a difference,” she said.

She has Amish neighbors grazing livestock on her land, she has one man growing pumpkins and her cropland is farmed sustainably. “I love agriculture,” she said. “There is nothing I get more joy out of than planting and harvesting.”

Easy Green Soup

Sauté one onion in a little butter in saucepan until soft.

Add 2 cups of chopped asparagus, broccoli or peas and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (or water) and boil until the vegetables are tender. Let cool a bit.

Blend for at least 60 seconds, until very smooth. Put a dishtowel over the blender lid’s hole to prevent spitting, if it is very hot. Add a half cup of your choice of cream, half and half, sour cream or plain yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste and maybe a small strip of lemon peel. Blend a few more seconds.

Serve room temperature or cold in summer, or return to the pan to reheat gently, depending on the weather. You could top with a dollop of sour cream or crispy croutons.

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