The first Leap assignment for EDC 534 is to critically analyze a mentor text. I happened upon a wonderful YouTube video entitled, Almy-Thurston Farm. It is the story of Christmas tree farmer in the town where I was raised, Portsmouth, RI.
“Almy-Thurston Farm,” is the story of George Thurston, owner of a thirty-acre Christmas tree farm in Portsmouth, RI. I was so busy focusing on George’s story that I never saw the logo for the Aquidneck Land Trust, the author. The purpose of the video is to tell George’s story and encourage others to appreciate and support the Land Trust.
The video immediately captures the viewer’s attention as it introduces you to octogenarian, George Thurston, a beloved fixture in the town. The videographer sets the stage by walking the viewer through the house and grounds of the farm. The farmhouse takes one back in time to old rooms and old books, to black and white photos and an old piano. Country music plays in the background as George tells his story. The footage of the outside of the farm is breathtaking as George plods through the snow with his dog, retracing steps that he has taken for the past eighty years. The video makes the viewer long for family, home, blueberry pie (you can pick blueberries there in the summer), and a time gone by. It pulls at one’s heartstrings and evokes a feeling of sentimentality. As one learns of George’s love for the farm, one also learns that he has decided to sell his beloved land to the Aquidneck Island Land Trust.
Lifestyle and Value
Lifestyle and Values
George tells his story of a time when Portsmouth was all farm land, and there were “more cows than people.” He talks about how much “open land” there used to be; “how he always enjoyed trees,” and wanted to preserve the farm as he know it as a child.” George’s story is our country’s story. It moves us from an agrarian lifestyle, to post World War II, when “people left the cities and moved to the country.” He talks about how “widows sold their land to developers who had a very different set of values than the farmer.” One could stop with the image of George as a sweet, older man, but there is substance and determination there. Life hasn’t been easy, evidenced by the modesty of his home and the bumper sticker on the truck, “Crime does not pay and neither does farming.”
Points of View
One does not have to read too far between the lines to know that George does not like the developers. They ruined the land. They don’t like the messiness of farming. They want more pristine and bucolic settings for their homes. After a lifetime of farming, George is hellbent on not selling to those developers. He has heard of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust. “They will pay you some money to tie the land up into perpetuity.” George wants the farm to stay in the family, but also wants to ensure that it is never developed. The agreement he makes with the AILT is that his daughter, Laura, will run the farm. He is not sure if she knows how hard the work will be. She wants to honor his wishes, at the same time, wanting to make her own mark on the farm. The video ends with two poignant quotes form George. “You lead by example.” Then he tells his daughter, “the land will always be there for you.”
I am sure that there are those who might feel that the video is a bit contrived and is a little sappy and sentimental. I am equally sure that the developers would tell you that his partnership with the Land Trust is a waste, and how much revenue could be brought into the town by the development of the land. You can almost hear them say, “Those old farms bring down the property value of the town”. Some might label George as a curmudgeon or a crusty old Yankee.
There are certainly things that are not in the video. There is no mention of the business transaction. How much did the AILT give the Thurston’s for the property? What exactly does the contract look like? What are the Thurston’s rights and restrictions in terms of maintaining and living on the farm? There is also no mention of the soul searching and tensions that might have arisen in deciding to sell to the Land Trust.
Still, this video is a love story…a story of a man’s love for his land, his town, and his family. It is a love story that has no endings.
American Library Association (2014). Storycorps at Your Library. Programming Librarian.
Aquidneck Land Trust (2017). Almy Thurston Farm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiC-o0z7X4Q.
Borg, Linda (2016, June 18). Portsmouth Christmas tree farmer, 81, vows to keep it in the family. Providence Journal.
Hobbs, Renee (2017). Create to Learn. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.