Learning through Observation


The Farmscape Ecology Program is a research and outreach branch of Hawthorne Valley Association, an educational not-for-porfit located in central Columbia County, New York. The program’s staff is comprised of Dr. Claudia Knab-Vispo, a botanist who loves to explore the landscape’s plant life; Anna Duhon, a social anthropologist intrigued by the local patterns of people and their socio-economic interactions; and Dr. Conrad Vispo, a wildlife ecologist fascinated by the past and future interactions of humans and nature in Columbia County.

Specifically, the Farmscape Ecology Program seeks to:

  • Portray and engage with those aspects of society involved in living from and with the land; and, particularly, collaborate with local farming as the profession most actively and explicitly working at the interface of people and the living earth. For example, we map Columbia County’s food system and collaborate with various others working on related issues; we conduct fun, participatory public surveys to understand and share perceptions of our food and natural environments; we facilitate farmer exploration of their shared agricultural concerns.
  • Conduct and share local studies of current and historical ecology as a way of gaining practical knowledge of the land’s behavior in the face of human influence. For example, we create habitat maps of various pieces of land; we study the ecology of ponds, floodplain forests, and farm fields; we describe long-term changes in Columbia County flora; and we lead regular public explorations of lands around the county.
  • Explore the interactions of regional agriculture, larger landscape context, and wild nature so as to build their potential for harmony. For example, we study the two-way interaction of farmland production and on-farm nature, write and speak about historical interactions between farming and landscape, and trace the ecological connections between farms and their surroundings.