Good times go hand-in-hand with land preservation

D&R Greenway Land Trust held Down-to-Earth Ball

   With its rolling hills and large expanses of farmland, the Hopewell Borough area is like a bit of Vermont in New Jersey. Many of the folks to thank for that were gathered at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s fifth annual Down-to-Earth Ball June 1.
   While the temperature soared into the 90s in most of the Garden State, the 300 guests enjoyed cool breezes from the shade of large trees. Surrounded by preserved land, they were treated to a bucolic setting with red barn and sweeping views on host David Reynold’s 60-acre farm, next to D&R Greenway’s St. Michael’s Farm Preserve.
   Guests dressed in everything from cowboy boots and Stetson hats to summer garden party attire. Farm-related fun included ‘The Golden Egg Hunt’ with winners Julius and Ria Gross, of Princeton, winning a certificate for a Thanksgiving turkey from Griggstown Quail Farm. Crowds cheered as Congressman Rush Holt released a chicken from his own Centerville Farm in a unique contest, with Jon McConaughy, of Hopewell Township, winning tickets to Bucks County’s Art of the Barn tour.
   Until sundown, guests were treated to hayrides to the “new” historic barn being raised on the St. Michael’s land. Artist Lucy McVicker, a founding member of the Princeton Artists Alliance, rode in the hay wagon, gaining ideas for new paintings for the fall exhibit at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center. New Greenway trustee Pat Cullen and her husband Stew Wheeler, of Hillsborough, saw Double Brook Farm’s American Red Devon cattle in the fields.
   The highlight of the hayrides was the McComb barn on the St. Michael’s land. This 18th-century timber-frame barn was donated by Dr. Reynolds, an ophthalmologist with the Princeton Eye Group, New Jersey Barn Company and Double Brook Farm’s Jon and Robin McConaughy. Four Hopewell area families enabled completion of construction with a total $150,000 gifted to D&R Greenway. Dr. Reynolds observed, “This barn may come from the 18th century, but will stand for hundreds of years.” It is a tribute to the 900 local businesses and families who supported preservation of the St. Michael’s land, achieved in 2010.
   Fred Egenolf, director of Corporate Communications and Community Affairs at Bristol Myers-Squibb, described his company’s motivation for their many interactions over the years with the land trust: “We are committed to improving the health of the community and fulfilling our environmental responsibility. We are always pleased to partner with D&R Greenway toward those goals.” BMS supported the property’s preservation and gave three grants of $25,000 each toward a ground-breaking project raising native plants at St. Michael’s that will be used to seed New York City parks.
   Country rock music by The Tone Rangers entertained from the hayloft, as guests enjoyed a farm-to-table dinner of barbecue donated by Double Brook Farm. Jersey Fresh vegetables were contributed by the Spina farm, of Salem County, along with just-picked strawberries from the Buzby Farm in the Delaware Bayshore region, where D&R Greenway has preserved thousands of acres of farmland. Blue Moon Acres, Terra Momo, Pennington Market, Cherry Grove Farm, ShopRite, McCaffrey’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Joe Canal’s and Small World Coffee donated to the feast. Prizes for the evening were donated by Simply Grazin’, Griggstown Quail Farm and Bucks County Audubon Society.
   The night culminated with fireworks announcing the start of a unique auction.
   Jud Henderson, of Calllaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, auctioned walks on D&R Greenway preserves, as well as dinners with local and national people of renown, to discuss nature, health, the environment and matters of preservation. Celebrities were Congressman Holt; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and New Yorker Poetry Editor Paul Muldoon; best-selling author Richard Preston; The McConaughys with filmmaker/”Edible Jersey” Editor Jared Flesher; NBC medical correspondent and author Nancy Snyderman; former EPA Chief and Commissioner of NJDEP Lisa Jackson; the Institute for Advanced Study’s new Director Robbert Dijkgraaf; climate change expert, Stephen Pacala, Ph.D.; Hollywood filmmakers Ken Carter and Annette Haywood-Carter, writers and producers of the upcoming nature and preservation film, “Savannah”; 13-time “Best in World” decoy carver Pat Godin; and prize-winning author Martha McPhee.
   Author McPhee will take her winning bidders on a walk at Pryde’s Point Trail, land preserved by her mother, Pryde Brown. Ms. McPhee’s father is “The Pine Barrens” author John McPhee, the Princeton professor through whom two English literature Ph.D. candidates, Michelle and Richard Preston, met many years ago.
   Uniting this D&R Greenway couple is a passion for preservation. “I joined the D&R Greenway board in 2013 because I believe in the power of open land to foster strong communities,” declared Ms. Preston. “I want to do whatever I can to preserve central New Jersey’s natural resources. Of all the local land trust organizations, D&R Greenway seems to have the broadest reach.” Husband, Richard, author of “The Hot Zone” and “The Wild Trees,” among other books, will take winning bidders on a walk through the Sourlands.
   Linda Mead, D&R Greenway’s President and CEO, was especially pleased that the efforts of the host, the committee and volunteers were appreciated by attendees, proclaiming, “So many have remarked about how the mission of D&R Greenway to preserve and care for farms and conservation lands came through in every one of this evening’s activities. We have accomplished what we set out to do — inspire a conservation ethic!”
   This year’s Down to Earth Ball was a wild success, but still just a taste of what is to come next year when D&R Greenway will celebrate its 25th anniversary.