In My Words, Renee Duncan, Stone Barn Farm Steward & Outreach Manager, MDI
Earlier in 2022, Maine Coast Heritage Trust welcomed two dedicated outreach specialists to the Stewardship Department who will be leading outings, managing MCHT programs, and partnering with other organizations to connect people to the land. Welcome, Renee (and Maggie)!
Will you share a little bit about your background? Where are you from and how did you end up in Maine?
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. I studied education at Michigan State, but eventually realized I was less interested in teaching in formal settings and ended up majoring in parks, recreation, and tourism with a focus in community engagement and education. I first moved to Maine in 2010 to work at Acadia National Park as the “raptor intern” and have stayed ever since.
“Raptor intern” sounds like a cool job! What was your day-to-day like?
There are five or so sites in Acadia where peregrines tend to nest. I would set up scopes at the precipice of Champlain Mountain and teach people passing by about the impacts of DDT (an insecticide banned in 1972) and the reintroduction process that happened at the Park. I also took part in the fall hawk watch at the top of Cadillac Mountain, a citizen science initiative. It was incredible to spend all that time up there, watching the birds cruise along the coast, clearly migrating.
What is your connection to Maine?
I visited Maine once on a camping trip with my family—the summer after third grade—and was totally enamored. As a nine-year-old, I made elaborate plans to return to and live in Maine. The first summer I spent living here, watching hawks migrate over Cadillac Mountain and looking out over the mountains and bays, helped anchor me to Eastern Maine. For the past eleven years, I directed Summer Field Studies for Children at College of the Atlantic, along with coordinating a few other summer programs. I loved Summer Field Studies—it totally aligned with my teaching and learning philosophy. Kids met at a big tree and explored outside in weedy garden plots or streams or all kinds of wild places for the day.
What’s on your workplan?
I’ll be taking care of Stone Barn Farm Preserve and coordinating outreach for the MDI region.
What excited you about this new position at Maine Coast Heritage Trust?
I think the most exciting part for me is asking and listening to people share what they care about and what their values are—I’m always trying to listen for that. I’m looking forward to collaborating to bring those values to life somehow, through programming and projects. We recently rolled out a survey, and I’m excited to hear what people think would be a good way to bring community to Stone Barn Farm. The ideas I’ve heard so far have been wonderful!
What is it, from your perspective, that makes Stone Barn Farm so special? What is your vision for it?
The fields, woods, and Northeast Creek all lend so much diversity to the preserve. People are enthralled by Stone Barn Farm. There’s a lot of curiosity about what is happening in the old buildings—I’m often seeing people peering into windows of the farmhouse and barn. We’re still imagining our vision for the property. We don’t want to limit the options or specialize the buildings too much. The barn is going to be a wide-open space, which will allow for so many possibilities.
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Our new Southern Maine Outreach Coordinator is excited to bring her skillset and outdoor educational experience to this new position at MCHT.