Homes Ive Known
As I was sitting in my chair drinking coffee this morning, I looked across the room and my eyes fell on a photo of me when I was about three. Im standing beside my mothers prize-winning dahlia, which is considerably taller than I am. I remember very little from that time in my life, and Ive tried in vain to picture the inside of the house where we lived. The outdoors is vivid; paths through the woods to the huge flat rock that we kids used as a picnic table, and the narrow crooked path behind the tool building across the road where we picked ripe white strawberries. The smell of oil permeates all those mind-photos because we grew up on an oil lease. But I cant bring back memories of that house; inside or out. Nor do I remember the garden where that dahlia grew, even though it must have been significant if Mom was raising prize-winning flowers.
When I go back "home," I sometimes drive up that valley, trying to visualize and remember. The lease house where we lived is long gone, but I know about where it stood. Now my grandfathers house, up the road a bit from our house, still comes to mind easily because we continued to go there after we had moved to the farm. As I drive by these days, Im still seeing the fishpond, with its mix of gold and black fish. The house sat on a hill, and a long set of stairs got us to the kitchen door. Good smells of holiday meals tantalize me. On through I go to the dining room with its table beautifully set, a centerpiece of fresh fruit awaiting us. Oh, the struggle to choose among the plump yellow pears, lip-smacking juicy oranges, the perfect bananas or the stems of purple grapes.
Then theres the parlor with its overstuffed horsehair furniture, Victrola and that amazing player piano. Ah, yes, all that I remember well.
And the farmhouse where I spent the next fourteen years can be visualized much more easily. The original and the changes through the years come readily to mind because there are more photographs to help my recall.
Four years of college conjures up pictures of government surplus bunk beds and slivery wooden desks and chairs. My initiation to communal living had seven girls in one room with four bunk beds, one closet and one bathroom. (One registered student was wise enough to go somewhere else.) Despite the rustic conditions, we bonded into a family and mostly enjoyed our stay together. After a fire erupted in the "smoker", also on that top floor, we were no longer allowed to live there, and got split up and sent to other floors.
Soon after college I was off to my own apartment which was more elegant than I could have dreamed. Little galley kitchen, large high-ceilinged bedroom/living room, clawfoot bathtub, crisp white curtains that framed the many windows. It was upstairs in the gracious old home of a chiropractor and his family. A central stairway emerged from the front door and my comings and goings also visitors could be monitored. There was not much to monitor. The town had no cultural offerings and the only acceptable place to eat was the hotel. However, because there was a bar in the hotel, I was a teacher, and we were living in the 1950s I was not permitted to go into the hotel. So much for social life.
An unexplained coincidence got my fiancée transferred there, where he and his working buddies rented the big downstairs apartment in this same house. Soon after we were married and began the gypsy life of a high-line construction family as we traveled west to east through the state. An electrical distribution job saw us settled in a cozy apartment in Smethport for about nine months, and the final move was to Montrose. Here we rented a house on Jessup Street, then moved to a large Lincoln Avenue apartment and finally to my present home.
While I love my old-fashioned 1860s home and was happy to finally settle here, there was enough of my ever-moving grandmother in me to make those gypsy days a very good part of my life.
UPSONVILLE: Arthur Hunsinger, with a load of friends from Omaha, Neb., while returning from the Sunday School picnic at Heart Lake, last Tuesday, and on the streets of Hallstead, drove into a ditch which was dug across the road. The carriage was badly smashed up, hurting one of the horses, and two of the ladies to some extent. A lantern should be placed there at night to warn people of danger.
FRANKLIN FORKS: S. A. Burrows and wife were in town on Tuesday to visit his boyhood home and call on old acquaintances. [They] had been to the [G.A.R.] National Encampment at Boston and were on their way home in North Dakota.
ELK LAKE: Ernest Loudenburger and sister, Miss Elleanor, who have been guests of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Fuller, returned yesterday to their home at Freemansburg, in his Searchmont car.
FOREST LAKE CENTER: On Aug. 18, 1850, Henry Bolles and Miss Fanny Kellum, of Forest Lake, were married; therefore, on Aug. 18, 1904, their 54th anniversary [was celebrated]. Kindred and friends came from far and near for a successful surprise. A bounteous dinner was brought in, of which 70 partook. Twelve of the elderly persons sat at a table with Mr. and Mrs. Bolles--the united ages of all making 1,004 or an average of 71, 5-7 years. A goodly amount of money was gathered and presented to Mr. and Mrs. Bolles, on behalf of the company, with timely remarks by Rev. Boyce, the M.E. pastor. A pleasant day pleasantly spent with pleasant people leaves pleasant memories for days to come.
BEECH GROVE: There is some work being done on our roads that would likely have been done before, if our road commissioner had not been confined to his home with measles a couple of weeks.
RUSH: The dedicatory services at the Baptist church were a grand success both spiritually and financially. The total cost of remodeling the church was $1,269.43; of this amount $1,106.93 is provided for, leaving an indebtedness of $162.50.
AUBURN CORNERS: While returning from the County Seat last week, G. W. Bunnell's team was frightened by an automobile and ran away, resulting in many bruises for Mr. Bunnell and a broken wagon and harness.
MONTROSE: One of the features of the wedding of Harry M. Shepson and Miss Mary Agnes Little, daughter of Mrs. Jessie Little, on Aug. 18, in Binghamton, was the fact that the wedding cake used was a part of the one used by Mrs. Little, the mother of the bride, at her wedding 24 years ago to David Post Little, of Montrose. The cake was a solid fruitcake, and was in perfect state of preservation, and had evidently improved with age. The china used on the bridal table was also used at the mother's wedding and was an heirloom in the family for over 75 years.
NORTH JACKSON: Aretas Yale, the well-known farmer and fruit grower, was seriously injured Saturday morning. In sliding from a hay mow in his barn he was impaled upon the handle of a pitchfork leaning against the mow. He struck the fork with such terrible force as to break both tines and cause the handle to penetrate the body to the depth of several inches. Dr. Cole, of Jackson, the attending surgeon, is hopeful that the injury is not sufficient to cause peritonitis.
Lynn, Springville Twp.: One day last week John Titman, of Lynn, left his team standing in the field, attached to a reaper, while he went for a drink of water. An automobile scared the horses and they started on a gallop for the barn, regardless of trees, fences or stonewalls. The animals were unhurt, but the reaper looked like a Russian cruiser after an engagement with the doughty Japanese.
LENOXVILLE: The people of Lenoxville are taking an unusual interest in baseball this season, and the Rev. Garretson, pastor of the M.E. Church at that place, has announced that he will deliver a sermon on Sunday evening on the timely theme, "Baseball; its good and bad influences." The reverend gentleman is a player himself and is not infrequently to be seen on the diamond with that town's team. Rev. "E.K." has in him a strong rival in admiration for the national game.
SUSQUEHANNA: The Susquehanna Council is considering the advisability of buying a stone crusher and making better highways. Susquehanna, like nearly all towns, is not satisfied with "mud" roads and to keep in progress with the activity of the times, must have the machinery to improve them. In this place we can already see benefits accrued from macadamizing and there are few citizens who would consent to let the good work stop where it now is and from present prospects a few years will see the main streets of our borough properly macadamized and in fine shape for travel with the heaviest of loads the year round.
MIDDLETOWN TWP.: John H. Jones has his steam thrasher on the click this week.
FOREST CITY: Burgess Wellbrook has vetoed the curfew ordinance recently passed by council. In his opinion, accompanying the veto, the burgess said he was in sympathy with the idea to put a restraint on children being out at unreasonable hours, but he called attention to the fact that the ordinance called for the imprisonment of the children if their parents or guardians refuse to pay the fine and he considered the remedy too harsh. In his opinion the odium, which would attach to the youngster who had been in jail, would offset the good the law would do.
WEST BRIDGEWATER: On the farm of Arthur Robinson is a creek. The other day, while Mr. Robinson's little daughter and her cousin were playing beside the creek, young boys, who are spending the summer at Montrose, went down there and soon ordered the little girls away. They refused to go and when the boys insisted they must, and it is said, [they] grabbed the sunbonnet off one [of] them and tramped it in the mud and soon began disrobing to go in bathing. When the little girls quickly ran away to Mr. Robinson's, and telling him, he took a horse-whip and went out where the boys were and laid it on them, more or less. The boys immediately returned home and telling their fathers (the Messrs. Jessup) of receiving a whipping, and these gentlemen thinking the castigation too severe, had Mr. Robinson arrested and brought before Justice Courtright, when Mr. Robinson demanded a jury trial. On Aug. 23 the jury found Mr. Robinson not guilty, but to pay the costs. The case drew a good deal of attention, naturally. Some people, especially those from the cities, friends of Messrs. Jessup, thought Mr. Robinson should have been convicted of assault and battery. On the other hand, many others, and especially among the locals, spoke of it as an outrage that Mr. Robinson's children should be disturbed while at play on his own premises. The fact is, the law says no one shall attack another under circumstances, as other remedies at law are provided.
Be sure to check our website, www.susqcohistsoc.org, for new additions to "100 Years Ago".
More About 9-1-1
The creation of the Susquehanna County Emergency Advisory Committee has lead to much speculation about the problems in the countys 9-1-1 Communications Center. Oh, there have been rumors about the center for some time, but not to the extent of todays gossip.
As one might expect, the problems, genuine or fabricated, are being placed at the top rung of the ladder. Dawn Watson, who has directed the 9-1-1 center since its inception about a decade ago, is on the carpet. By the way, Mrs. Watson has been a dedicated county employee for more than 25 years. But, as with big business, when something goes wrong, it is the chief executive officer that is generally shown the door.
However, in this instance, it has not been made clear as to what, if anything, Mrs. Watson has done wrong. Rumor has it that she alienated some volunteer fire and rescue people. If she did, it behooves the county commissioners to speak to her about it and then be left up to her to mend fences. Instead, the commissioners created a special committee and appointed representatives that might include some of her accusers to advise the commissioners of the good and bad inside the halls of the communications center.
There have also been unconfirmed reports that some employees in the Comm. Center have had problems with Mrs. Watson. Anyone who has followed this column in the past seven or eight years knows that it supports a strong position that the tail does not wag the dog. While I would be the first to suggest a lets-clear-the-air meeting with the employees, I am also a firm believer that whomever occupies the room at the top is top dog.
On the flip side is Mrs. Watsons track record. She has been responsible for a number of 9-1-1 grants secured by the county for equipment and education. To the best of my knowledge, she has never gone against the grain and has supported every administration the county voters have elected. Recently I was told that Mrs. Watson is a registered Democrat which supposedly is a definite no-no in Republican-controlled Susquehanna County. The Kelly Administration, which is now running the county, allegedly got rid of Justin Taylor, a most effective economic development director, because he is a Democrat.
In all fairness to the county commissioners, I have not heard one of them cast any aspersions against Mrs. Watson. But that is not necessarily a point in their favor. There has yet to be any explanation as to why the Republican majority refused to reappoint Mr. Taylor. And, while street talk is generally spiced with exaggeration, sources tell us the talk that Mrs. Watsons job is on the line is not that far from real.
The bottom line from this angle is that the Kelly Administration would do well by going with the flow, at least for the time being, instead of trying to appease every one that has a complaint. Mr. Loomis is the only commissioner with some experience and he failed to demonstrate any outstanding ability at handling the employees during his previous term of office. Mrs. Kelly and Mrs. Warren are rookies and both of them would do well to make their first year in office a learning experience and build on it rather than shakeup departments for political expediency.
The Justice Network
It is such a pleasure to see young and energetic department heads holding key positions in county government. People like District Attorney Jason Legg, Sheriff Lance Benedict, and Chief Probation Officer Jeff Shoemaker. Jeffs been around the horn, while the district attorney and the sheriff are completing their year two in office.
Whenever it is necessary, they work side-by-side to serve and protect. Susquehanna County residents can point at them with pride and boast of having such a dedicated team of county law enforcement officials.
By the way, Jeffs department is now affiliated with the state Justice Network (JNET) which is described as "a collaborative effort of municipal, county, state, bordering state and federal justice agencies to build a secure integrated justice system." It gives his department access to plenty of information that is stored in a file that provides a common browser that shares information and where authorized users can access offender records and justice information from participating agencies.
Congratulations, Jeff for taking another forward step to maintain law and order in our county.
Legion Post 86 Elects New Officers
Newly-elected officers for Susquehanna American Legion are:
Legionnaires Joe Bucci, Commander; Peter Janicelli and Mark Tarbox, vice commanders; Jesse Gow, Finance officer; Scott Darling, adjutant; Tom Hurley, Charles Aliano, Ernie Grausgruber, trustees; Gus Fabrizi and Bill Jenkins, members at large; Roger Williams, Sgt. at Arms; Stan Lindow, chaplain.
Sons of Legion Matt Frailey, commander; Chris Norris and Dennis Fiske, vice commanders; Brit Cresse, adjutant; Mike Kuiper, chaplain; Rich Norris, historian; Bill Deakin, finance officer; Chuck Cuevas, Sgt. at Arms.
Ladies Auxiliary President, Mary Gow; vice presidents, Anna Napolitano and Viola Ficarro; Secretary, Gail Hanrahan; Treasurer, Rachel Adornato; Chaplain, Linda Norris.
World News Briefs
Canton, Ohio Offensive stars John Elway, Barry Sanders and Bob Brown joined defensive standout Carl Eller as inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently.
Harrisburg A State Official says that the slot machines will not hurt sales of the lottery tickets to help the elderly. (Time will tell!)
Johnson City, NY An era has ended. The Fountains Pavilion, built in 1926 by George F. Johnson went under the auction block. The Pavilion, known for attracting big name bands such as Duke Ellington, Guy Lambardo, Artie Shaw, the Dorseys, Gene Krupa, can be recalled by many music lovers, not only from the Triples Cities area but also Susquehanna Tri-Boro music and dance lovers. (Admission to all bands $1.00!)
Pennsylvania State residents will be able to receive cash and other assets that the state treasury is holding. Dormant accounts, etc., by relatives can be claimed. For more information contact a state or county official.
Montrose, PA Chris Snee, a native of San Francisco Greg Maddux, former Atlanta pitcher, now with the Chicago Cubs won his 300th game August 7. He has a record of 300 wins and 170 losses. He spent all of his career with Atlanta and Chicago. He has two 20 win seasons; 20 and 10 and 20 and 11. Also 5 seasons with 19 wins.
San Francisco The California Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to same-sex marriages. They have voided the nearly 4000 same-sex marriages and ruled that the San Francisco mayor overstepped his authority in issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
POOR, POOR, Blue Cross For a couple of years now Blue Cross of Penna has been trying to get the state to raise their rates. So far, the state has said "no." Blue Cross is trying again saying that, "the $405 million they have in the bank is needed to meet ongoing business objectives and protect against emergencies." (How about emergencies for the consumers? Where do they get the "extra" money to pay more premiums?)
DONALD TRUMP "Your Fired" the phrase that Trump made famous, "Your Fired" has backfired on the "Don." His casinos have entered bankruptcies and he has been relieved of the CEO. The casinos owe over a billion dollars.
VANDLING, PA Borough Council has voted to abolish its part-time police Department in anticipation of hiring Forest Citys (a neighbor) police for protection. Vandlings mayor, Joseph Garrick, said he will veto the ordinance, but the council can override the veto.
NY CITY Mike Wallace, well-known reporter, was "arrested" at age 86 for alleged disorder. He was handcuffed and jailed. Wallace said, "I was going to get in the taxi, when two inspectors were talking to my driver. I asked what was going on, when they grabbed me and took me to jail. They said I was a threat. What kind of a threat am I at age 86? I was finally allowed to go home."
SPORTS Quiz Answered Six strikeouts, one half inning, no runs NewsBeat readers Eugene L. Henneforth of Great Bend and Bill Marshall of New Milford came up with two different answers to the question. My answer would be the third, and goes this way: first three batters get on base on third strike, passed balls. With the bases loaded, the pitcher strikes out the next three batters. (Thanks, fellas, nice going.)
THOMPSON UPDATE Rich Thompson, Montrose High graduate now playing baseball will the Nashville AAA team as an outfielder, has these stats up to August 7: At bat 308; hits 95; Runs 57; Avg. .308; stolen bases 34.
TEAM ABC RECORD With bowling just around the corner, a team from New Castle, Del., shattered the record of 3,905, held by a Wilkes-Barre team, by 29 pins as they bowled a cool 3,934. The team: Tony Cassetta, Jr. 716; Tony Cassetta, Sr. 792; Greg Zelano 712; Wayne Romano 878; Mark Willis 836. 300s were bowled by Romano and Willis. A Luzerne team held the top score during 1999, with a total of 3,868.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL Picks Sports Illustrated has picked USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Miami and Florida as the top 5 college football teams (but I dont like where they put my Notre Dame team, 41st and Penn State 50th. Wait and see, we will fool them).
MOOSE LODGE Bowers Back When! A NewsBeat reader presents us with a photo that graced the pages of the Transcript. The gentlemen in question (all deceased) represented the Susquehanna Moose Lodge at a bowling tournament in Shamokin, PA during the 1951 season. They were: Albert "Birdie" Barechio, Phil Prynn, Henry Herbert, Maurice Gordon, Paul S. Baker and Harold Mason. (Does anyone remember how the "Moosers" made out?) If I remember correctly, the "young men" were all pretty good bowlers.
FOR YOUR Information A recent news release states: people still cling to the once-mandatory phone leases that were part of AT&Ts monopoly. Those consumers pay from $4.95 to $20.95 every month for phones. That means that, over time, they pay hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for phones they can buy for as little as $10. (Check it out, you are free to own your own phones, free of the monthly charge.)
A LAUGH OR TWO
BECAUSE IM A MAN When I lock my keys in the car, I will fiddle with a wire hanger and ignore suggestions that we call a road service until long after hypothermia has set in.
When the car isnt running well, I will pop the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what Im looking at. If another man shows up, one of us will say to the other, "I used to be able to fix these things, but now with all these computers and everything, I wouldnt know where to start." We will then drink beer.
I do not want to visit your mother, have your mother come visit us, talk to her when she calls or think about her any more than I must. Whatever you got her for Mothers Day is OK. I dont need to see it. And dont forget to pick up something for my mother, too.
You dont have to ask if I liked the movie. Chances are, if youre crying at the end of it, I didnt.
I think what youre wearing is fine. I thought what you were wearing five minutes ago was fine, too. Either pair of shoes is fine. With the belt or without, its fine. Your hair is fine. You look fine. Can we just go now?
I must hold the remote control in my hand while I watch TV.
TODDLER PROPERTY LAWS if I like it, its mine. If its in my hand, its mine. If I can take it away from you, its mine. If I had it a while ago, its mine. If Im doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. If it looks like mine, its mine. If I saw it first, its mine. If youre playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine. If its broken, its yours.
FThe Protection from Abuse Act provides a judicial mechanism to protect victims of abuse. On a weekly basis, the Susquehanna County District Attorneys Office assists abuse victims to file petitions seeking protective relief from their abusers. As a result of this service, it is apparent that there is a public misconception as to the qualifications for relief under the Protection from Abuse Act. In order to qualify, a person must demonstrate two things: (1) that he or she has been abused; and (2) that he or she is a victim.
With respect to "abuse," the Act provides a broad definition, including bodily injuries and sexual assaults, or attempts to cause bodily injury or attempted sexual assaults. Further, abuse includes acts of false imprisonment, i.e., an abuser holding a victim against his or her will and refusing to allow the victim to leave. Abuse also includes any act that places "another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury." This particular statutory definition is significant, as it requires fear of serious bodily injury as opposed to simply a bodily injury. The linguistic distinction is important, as a serious bodily injury requires proof that the threatened injury would have created a "substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ." Thus, in order to support a protective order, the alleged threatening conduct must be severe.
Further, abuse has also been defined broadly to include "a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury." With respect to "bodily injury," this element only requires proof of an "impairment of physical condition or substantial pain." Although a single threat to cause bodily injury may not be sufficient to warrant a protective order, a court may consider repeated threats to cause bodily injury sufficient to justify the entry of a protective order. In other words, if a spouse threatened to physically strike the other spouse on a single occasion, this would not likely support the entry of a protective order. On the other hand, if the spouse repeatedly threatened to physically strike the other spouse, such a course of conduct could provide the basis for the entry of a protective order.
Although common sense would suggest that any person subjected to abuse should be a victim, the Protection from Abuse Act defines "victim" as a specific class of persons. Thus, in order to be a "victim" under the Protection from Abuse Act, a person must demonstrate that he or she has been "physically or sexually abused by a family or household member." The Act then goes further to define "family or household member" as "spouses or persons who have been spouses, persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, current or former sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood."
If you review the definitions of "abuse" and "victim," it becomes apparent that the Protection from Abuse Act has a limited scope of applicability. For instance, we commonly receive requests for protective orders against neighbors, friends, or even strangers based upon alleged "harassment." In each circumstance, we must ask two questions. First, does the alleged harassment constitute "abuse?" As noted above, the existence of mere harassing behavior does not necessarily constitute abuse under the Act. Second, does the complaining party qualify as a "victim?" In this circumstance, the Protection from Abuse Act would not provide relief if there is no relation between the parties. A complaining party must demonstrate some familial relationship or past sexual history between the parties in order to qualify for relief. This does not mean that a victim of harassment has no recourse. The offending conduct should be reported to the Pennsylvania State Police and, if the offending conduct is sufficiently severe, the Pennsylvania State Police will file appropriate criminal charges.
Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorneys Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.
Dear EarthTalk: How can I attract wildlife to my backyard?
Joshua Adam, Castine, ME
The key essentials for attracting wildlife to your property include an abundance of native plants as a food source, a water supply, and some form of shelter to encourage nesting. Birdbaths and fountains work well in the likely event that you don't have a natural stream or pond in your yard. And, while it may be tempting to remove dead or dying trees, woodpeckers depend on them, as do cavity-nesting birds such as owls and chickadees. Likewise, rotting logs and mulch piles may seem eyesores, but they provide excellent habitat and nesting sites for small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
In regard to plantings, the more native perennials and annuals you plant, the more success you'll have attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Further, if your plants are truly native to your region, they will require little maintenance, as they have evolved to succeed there. They are adapted to local soil, rainfall and temperature conditions, and have developed natural defenses to many insects and diseases. Because of these traits, native plants will grow with minimal use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Wildlife species evolve with plants and use native plant communities as primary habitat, helping to preserve the balance of the local ecosystem.
Beyond the thrill of viewing wildlife out your window, there are other reasons to create a mini-refuge in your backyard. Back in the 1960s Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson likened backyards to wildlife "bridges" between protected areas that improved the chances of survival for many species. "The average American garden is home to hundreds of species of wildlife and acts as a vital corridor for migrating animals such as songbirds," agrees Jake Scott, an educator with the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Since 1973, NWF has been encouraging everyone from homeowners to teachers to community leaders to plan their landscapes with the needs of wildlife in mind. Since the program started three decades ago, NWF has certified thousands of backyard habitats all over the U.S. and Canada as wildlife-friendly. Their program provides tools and resources that make getting started a snap.
The first step is to track down a good assortment of plants native to your region. NWF offers an easy-to-use online Native Plant Guide that covers the continental U.S. and Alaska. Similarly, the Canadian Wildlife Federations book, Backyard Habitat for Canadas Wildlife, is available for $19.95 plus shipping and taxes. If youre a novice, finding a store manager at a nearby nursery to serve as your personal advisor might be the best way to go, as theres nothing like local experience to make the most of attracting native wildlife to your yard.
CONTACTS: National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Program, (800) 822-9919, www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat; Canadian Wildlife Federation, (613) 599-9594, www.cwf-fcf.org/.
Dear EarthTalk: While I love chocolate, I've heard that cocoa bean agriculture is environmentally destructive and exploits workers in tropical rainforests around the world. Is this true?
Dana Lee, Boston, MA
For centuries, small farmers across the worlds tropical rainforest zones have been cultivating native strains of cocoa in sustainable, chemical-free ways. To this day these small cocoa farms, with their wide variety of plant life and profusion of shade, are known for the plethora of wildlifeincluding howler monkeys, ocelots and parrotsthat they support in the process.
However, as the global appetite for chocolate has increased over the last half century, industrial cocoa farms have taken over the majority of production, clearing vast tracts of tropical rainforest and planting low-quality hybrid cocoa designed to flourish in open fields in the hot sun, and with the help of tons of fertilizers and pesticides.
These intensive practices have increased erosion and run-off, reduced soil fertility, contaminated crucial water supplies, and destroyed wildlife habitat. And the large-scale nature of the production processes has drawn entire communities into the labor pool, leading to violations of fair labor standards in places where enforcement, let alone the rule of law itself, is often non-existent.
In response to this unfortunate trend, many cocoa "cooperatives have sprung up around the world to help small farmers get their products to market while protecting the environment and enabling them to earn a living wage. The New York-based Rainforest Alliance has been instrumental in helping these small cooperatives compete on the world stage. Since 1999, the group has worked with farm cooperatives to develop guidelines for environmentally sound and socially responsible cocoa production. As a result of their efforts, more than 2,000 small growers now grow all of their cocoa without the use of pesticides and under the shaded canopy of the rainforest, just like their ancestors had been doing for centuries.
In some cases, the very success of such cocoa cooperatives can also hurt the rainforest by encouraging more people to start their own small cocoa farms in place of existing tropical rainforest. In the long run, this piecemeal destruction could take a significant toll on the character and biodiversity of the worlds tropical rainforests. According to Melissa Schweisguth of the international human rights organization, Global Exchange, much of the problem is economic. "Farmers are cutting the rainforest because theyre impoverished and can make money selling timber and growing cocoa." Schweisguth reports that more than half of the rainforest in the Ivory Coast, for instance, has been cut for cocoa plantations.
According to research by Global Exchange, organically grown cocoa sold according to fair trade standards benefits more than 42,000 farmers in eight countries. Consumers interested in purchasing organic fair trade cocoa should look for brands certified by Transfair USA, which monitors international fair trade standards on cocoa and a wide variety of other products.
CONTACTS: Rainforest Alliance, (212) 677-1900, www.rainforest-alliance.org; Global Exchange, (415) 255-7296, www.globalexchange.org; Transfair USA, (510) 835-0179, www.transfairusa.org.
GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com, or e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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