Local leaders in land preservation and the sustainable food movement were honored as "hummingbirds" Wednesday night by the Fairfield Organic Teaching Farm proponents during a ceremony at Pequot Library in Southport.
The reference to hummingbirds derives from an African folk tale recounted in the 2009 film "Dirt! the Movie," by Dr. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts planting thousands of trees in barren African soil. The film was screened prior to the awards ceremony.
In the tale, a raging forest fire threatens to destroy the homes of animals large and small. As elephants and other large mammals stand by in fear, a hummingbird sets about delivering drops of water in its tiny beak to put out the flames.
"What do you think you're doing?" ask the animal bystanders in disbelief.
"I am doing the best I can," the hummingbird answers.
Pamela Jones, who heads the FOTF initiative, explained that the tiny hummingbird, a locavore that flaps its wings 53 times per second and weighs but the equivalent of 3 paper clips, symbolizes how individual efforts do matter and can accomplish great things.
"Individual actions can lead to great change," she told the assembled audience of nearly 200.
Each of the 13 honorees has been a mighty hummingbird in his or her chosen field.
Recipients of the 2010 Hummingbird Awards are:
Misty Beyer and the Anne Shaw and Edward Carter Family of Fairfield. Anne Shaw Carter was an architect of the town of Fairfield's purchase of the 20-acre Greenfield Hill Farm, the town's last working farm, and she helped found Friends of Open Space. Carter and her husband Edward donated 2.2 acres of their Congress Street property to Connecticut Audubon. Their daughter Misty serves on the Fairfield Forestry Committee and FOTF.
Milan Bull has been a staff member of the Connecticut Audubon Society since 1972 and serves on many environmental protection boards. He is editor-in-chief of the "Connecticut State of the Birds" annual report.
Bill Duesing, an organic farmer, author and artist, heads the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association and is a leader in promoting local food sufficiency.
Princie Falkenhagen, of Westport, played a key role in saving the 1,009-acre Trout Brook Valley from development in 1999 and thousands of other watershed acres in Fairfield and New Haven counties. She's president of the Aspetuck Land Trust.
Eric Frisk has served as "Garden Guardian" of Drew Park's community garden in Fairfield for 15 years. With the help of volunteers, 15 plots produce food for the hungry in Fairfield County.
Sal Gilbertie, of Easton, master third generation organic gardener, is the largest herb plant grower in the country. Gilbertie, author of five books, gives free classes in how to grow herbs and vegetables at Gilbertie's Herb Garden in Westport.
Karen J. Hinch has served as chairman of Fairfield's Conservation Commission, Inland Wetlands Agency and on other land-use boards. She's credited with preservation of a 58-acre parcel of open space at Hoyden's Hill, the highest elevation in Fairfield.
Larry Kaley chairs the Fairfield Earth Day Committee and Clean Energy Task Force. He advocates locally and at the state level for organic gardening, clean energy and sustainability.
Mike Nadeau helped develop the Northeast Organic Farming Association's Standards for Organic Land and Lawn Care and NOFA's Organic Lawn and Turf Course Manual applicable to playing fields and golf courses.
Michel Nischan is founder and CEO of Wholesome Wave, a non-profit dedicated to providing urban poor with affordable locally-grown produce. His efforts were recently recognized by the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. Nischan is also an author and the owner of the Dressing Room, the farm-to-table restaurant he co-founded in Westport with Paul Newman.
Joy Shaw initiated the Mill River Outdoor Laboratory in 1967 and successfully preserved the Miller River floodplain as open space. The Mill River Outdoor Laboratory carries out an educational program for study of the river and its estuaries which is part of the core curriculum of the Fairfield public schools.
Marian Stone of Fairfield has advocated for the preservation of wildflowers and was a key figure in the town's acquisition of the Cedar Meadow Open Space in 1999.
Jane Talamini, a co-founder of Friends of Open Space, is active on the Land Acquisition Commission and helped the town acquire the 30-acre Binger Woods and 20-acre Greenfield Farm.
Jones said she hopes the Hummingbird Awards will be given annually to recognize individuals whose unique efforts are leading to important successes in land preservation and the sustainable local food movement.