Maine Huts & Trails Sustainable Energy and Waste Systems

As summer is winding down and our research is coming to an end, we would like to share what we have been doing since our last post. We have spent most of our time gathering data on the huts’ electricity production and usage to see how well their solar power systems are working. We have been entering our data into a modeling system called SAM, which was developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado. SAM uses detailed weather data and solar panel performance statistics to model energy losses and predict annual energy production. It also creates financial models, which we have been using to optimize Maine Huts & Trails’ energy savings and calculate returns on potential investments.

The solar panels of Flagstaff Hut, 9 panels on the roof and 18 panels mounted on a pole.

Storage is key to the success of any off-grid solar power system, and investing in storage can have a considerable impact on efficiency. Off-grid systems rely on batteries and backup generators to make it through cloudy weeks and do not allow for the sale of excess solar energy. This means that whenever the battery bank fills up, the solar panels give off excess energy in the form of heat, and all the energy that is not required to meet the electrical load is wasted. Our models show that Maine Huts & Trails could store more solar energy and spend less on propane if it invested in much larger battery banks for each of its off-grid huts. By increasing the storage capacity of the huts, the organization would decrease its generator usage and rely less heavily on propane for power. When we doubled Flagstaff’s battery bank in SAM, its estimated propane spending decreased dramatically because there would be more battery capacity to harvest solar energy. Adding more solar panels in addition to doubling the battery bank showed an even greater impact with higher energy production and less dependence on the generator.

Earlier in July, we had a meeting with Calen Colby, a board member of Maine Huts & Trails and co-owner of Colby Engineering, to present our preliminary findings while we were still working our way toward these conclusions. In preparation for our meeting, we compiled our research into a document for Mr. Colby to read over. We also created a schematic of the energy flow for Flagstaff Hut to confirm our understanding of how the systems work together. It was a pleasure to talk to Mr. Colby about our research and to listen to his ideas about future projects for the huts as well as the feedback he had on our conclusions. It was clear that he is passionate about Maine Huts & Trails and sustainable energy through his company’s efforts to repair the hydropower system at Poplar Hut and his ideas about adding wind power to Flagstaff Hut. It was helpful to hear his thoughts on the sizing of the generators at the huts, which is a source of some inefficiency and translates to increased spending on propane and solar energy waste. He explained that the organization decided to invest in generators that can work at high wattages because these generators last longer.

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to talk about our research for a second time at the Colby Undergraduate Summer Research Retreat (CUSRR) in The Forks. We also listened to our fellow summer researchers speak about their projects and went white-water rafting down the Kennebec River. Overall, CUSSR was a great experience for us as we were able to share our work with others and prepare for our upcoming presentation to the Maine Huts & Trails board members this week.

For our meeting with the board members, we have compiled a list of potential investments Maine Huts & Trails could look into to improve the current energy systems. These include purchasing more batteries to increase the battery capacity and having additional staff training on how the systems work. This summer has been very informational and educational to us and Maine Huts & Trails. If we had some more time to continue our research, we would install current clamps to obtain more accurate electrical load data, look into Mr. Colby’s idea of investing in wind power at Flagstaff Hut, and investigate the possibility of using programmable logic controllers to efficiently control the photovoltaic and generator systems.

At the beginning of the summer, our knowledge of sustainable energy and waste systems was limited to the basics of solar power. After ten weeks of working with 

Hiking on the well-kept trails to Flagstaff Hut!

Maine Huts & Trails, we have gained valuable knowledge about sustainable energy systems and its applicability to residential homes. We have realized while that it is important to have sustainable energy systems,  it makes an even greater impact to have compatible and effective configurations that actually make use of the sustainable technology. Learning about these systems is important because it helps us to think of ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainability in the future. We have enjoyed our time working with Maine Huts & Trails and cannot wait to visit the huts again in the future!

-Sarah and William

An Overnight Stay at Flagstaff Hut

After multiple day visits to Flagstaff, I wanted to have the full experience of staying overnight, so I booked a trip for the last weekend of July. Staying overnight at Flagstaff Hut was definitely a highlight of my summer as it was filled with breathtaking nature scenery and unexpected experiences. My adventure began by seeing a moose (!) on the road about a thousand feet away as I was turning onto the trailhead. Upon arriving at the hut after a hike along the lake, I was greeted by hut staff James and Erin who helped to check me in for my overnight stay. After settling into the spacious room that I had to myself, I decided to go kayaking. With no particular destination in mind, I kayaked across Flagstaff Lake and admired the stunning mountain backdrop that enveloped the lakeside. It was the perfect day to be out on the lake with the sun shining through the clouds and minimal wind to push me around. I eventually stumbled upon an island near the dam and stopped there to read my book for a couple of hours, situating myself on a rock by the shore to soak in the sunlight. After a few hours of exploring the island and kayaking around, I made my way back to the dock to see a few other families enjoying the lake. Eventually, dinner rolled around, and I was fortunate enough to meet a few of the parents I had seen earlier while enjoying some delicious homemade and locally sourced food. As nightfall came, I joined the hut staff in swimming under the stars and saw my first shooting star! It was a surreal experience because it was like swimming in space as I looked up to the sky with the serenity of Flagstaff Lake at night. Before going to bed, we relaxed outside around a campfire to watch some more shooting stars soar across the night sky. After a long day filled with many adventures, I retired to my cabin and quickly fell asleep. In the morning, I enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast (the blueberry muffins were the best!) with the parents I had met the evening before and packed up my belongings into my backpack. I said my goodbyes to the staff after breakfast and headed down the lakeside trail to begin my way back to campus. When I had the idea of staying at Flagstaff, I was only planning on going kayaking around the lake, but I left the weekend with some memorable experiences and newfound friends.

-William

My view from the island where I read my book!

 

Maine Huts & Trails Sustainable Energy and Waste Systems

Hello, my name is William Thao, and I am studying Environmental Policy at Colby. At Colby, I am a member of the Mock Trial team and participate in a couple of environmental clubs. I am from Minnesota, so I am excited to be spending the summer in Maine!

Enjoying the view from the Vista!

My name is Sarah Bash, and I am going into my junior year at Colby. I am a physics and philosophy double major from Bethesda, Maryland. On campus, I am a member of the woodsmen team and multi-faith council, and I am excited to join hall staff as one of the community advisors this coming fall.

We are the sustainable energy interns working with Maine Huts & Trails this summer through the academic partnership with Colby College. Our objective is to analyze the energy and waste systems at Maine Huts & Trails, which include wood gasification boilers, solar panels, and composting toilets. So far, we have been deepening our understanding of how these systems work and using data we have gathered to calculate their respective efficiencies. With this data, we hope to make recommendations to Maine Huts & Trails for possible investments in potentially more efficient or sustainable options. In the past few weeks, we have visited Poplar Hut, Flagstaff Hut, and Stratton Brook Hut to get a first-hand look at the systems.

At the beginning of the summer, we traveled to Poplar Hut with Professor Whitney King, our supervisor at Colby, and Merrie Woodworth, the Youth and Educational Programs Coordinator at Maine Huts & Trails. We were lucky to squeeze in a visit before the hut closed for the summer. We began our walk to the hut by crossing the Poplar Stream as it raged into a small pond, and we continued onto the service road where we ran into Poplar Hut’s kind caretaker. He accompanied us to the hut, where we looked at the sustainable energy and waste systems. Like all the other huts, Poplar Hut is heated by a wood gasification boiler connected to a radiant floor heating system, which produces significantly fewer emissions than a standard wood stove. For electrical power, solar panels provide solar energy to the off-grid hut. We also got to see the composting toilets for the first time, which use a special lubricating foam instead of water. These toilets are more sanitary than standard flush toilets because the composting process separates liquid and solid waste into components that no longer carry human pathogens. The composting tubs below the toilets have a highly effective drainage system, which helps keep the compost clean and dry. Added bacteria, fungi, and earthworms promote aerobic decomposition in the tubs, further decreasing the volume of the waste produced. Each hut only accumulates about fifty gallons of compost every four or five years. After walking through the hut, we learned a bit about Poplar Hut’s hydroelectric system that is currently under repair. We walked to the nearby dam that powers it and looked at some of its components. While familiarizing ourselves with the Bigelow Preserve after our visit, we saw a moose munching some of the vegetation on the side of the road! We got out of the car, and stood in the street for a while, admiring its overwhelming beauty. It was the first wild moose either of us had ever seen.

View from Flagstaff Lake

Next, we visited Flagstaff Hut during staff training, which gave Merrie the opportunity to introduce us to the entire hut crew as well as a few of the year-round staff. The atmosphere was energizing, and we had a lovely time meeting the passionate and knowledgeable members of the Maine Huts & Trails staff. It was evident that everyone there cares deeply about the Maine Huts & Trails mission. We had a great conversation with John Winter, the Huts Manager, during which he shared invaluable information about Flagstaff Hut’s solar power system, describing how and why it has changed over the years. Flagstaff Hut has twenty-seven solar panels, which power the electrical load of the hut. When solar energy cannot meet the demand of the electrical load, a propane generator turns on to provide additional energy. This generator is used in the summer to provide hot water for showers and domestic use. Flagstaff Hut also uses a wood gasification boiler and composting toilet system. Flagstaff Hut is perfectly nestled in the Maine woods by the lake, which provides a relaxing atmosphere in the outdoors. Before we left, we walked to the shore and admired the Canadian mountains across the lake as Merrie told us the story of Benedict Arnold sailing through Flagstaff Lake in 1775 to conquer Quebec City.

Heading into the mountains from the Airport Trailhead

This week, we hiked on the trails to Stratton Brook Hut. Our adventure began in the vast field of the Airport Trailhead with an open view of the Bigelow Mountain Range. During our hike, we saw Sugarloaf Mountain from Crommet’s Overlook and many vibrant wildflowers along the trails. The pleasant breeze and shade from the tree cover made it easy to maintain a chipper outlook throughout our long and beautiful hike. We caught the occasional tick scuttling up our pants, and thankfully none found a home on our bodies. As we entered Stratton Brook Hut, we were greeted by Aaron, a member of the hut crew, and chatted with him about our hike as we devoured our lunches. He showed us the energy and waste systems in the basement and pointed out where we could see the solar panels on the roof. Unique to Stratton Brook Hut, there are three solar panels solely for solar hot water in addition to thirty-three solar panels for electricity. While this hut is connected to Central Maine Power, the solar panels generate enough electricity to feed additional power back into the grid. For waste and heating, Stratton Brook Hut has the same systems as the other huts, a composting toilet system, and wood gasification boiler. As the afternoon arrived with some slight rain, we said our goodbyes to Aaron and departed from the hut. Before leaving the mountain, we visited the Vista and admired the beautiful view of the mountains.

We have enjoyed visiting the huts and learning more about sustainable energy and waste systems. We look forward to continuing our research and helping Maine Huts & Trails with their sustainable systems.

-William and Sarah

MH&T: An intermediary between food suppliers and guests

This week, the third week of my January Internship with Maine Huts & Trails (MH&T), I stepped outside the organization itself. I had the privilege of interviewing Jos Thalheimer of Riverweb Farm, Jarod Frigon of Carrabassett Coffee, and Deborah Chadbourne of Rasmussen Farm, all suppliers of food to MH&T.

My first interview of the week, with Jos, was valuable because he clarified the way I was viewing the relationship between food suppliers like himself, MH&T, and guests. I was referring to MH&T guests as the customers of food suppliers and of MH&T, and Jos gently corrected me by saying, “Don’t confuse my customer with MH&T’s customer. My customer is John [Winter, MH&T Hut Manager].” A successful exchange with a MH&T guest, a final consumer, is different than a successful exchange with an intermediary like MH&T, which relies only on the timely delivery of the desired quantity of clean, quality produce. Once that produce is out of the Jos’s hands, he can’t control what MH&T does with it, and it may not be productive for him to concern himself with its journey from the MH&T office to a table at a hut.

I think that in Jos’s place, I would have to focus on my buyer and ignore the final consumer of my product to avoid frustration. Jos has intermediary buyers additional to MH&T, and he feels that often, they don’t bother with what kind of fertilizer he’s using, if he’s certified organic, or how he’s paying his employees – they worry about the price of the product, when he can get it to them, and if they can call it local so that it has some added value to their customer. In the end, Jos doesn’t often know how intermediaries label his products. The label is up to them. That means he doesn’t necessarily get credit for being a producer, or for being a responsible producer.

Becoming aware of a lack of proper recognition to food producers made me eager to revisit the Carrabassett Coffee roastery in Kingfield, knowing that Carrabassett Coffee is kind enough to donate coffee to MH&T. Yes, donate. Jarod graciously showed me the coffee roasters and entertained my curiosity about the source of the beans for MH&T Backcountry Blend (Mexico, Peru, and Timor, if you want to know!), as well as the beans for Bad Dog Blend and Back Draft Roast, served in the Colby dining halls. Jarod shared that the reasons for Carrabassett Coffee’s support of MH&T are simple: the company’s founder was a good man who liked to do the right thing. He wanted to give MH&T a boost and he liked the idea of coming in from the cold for a cup of good coffee.

MH&T is positioned as a receiver of goods, information, and kindness from the community and that position gives the organization power and motivation to provide community support beyond money transfer. In thinking about how MH&T could give more to food suppliers, I considered MH&T’s potential as a marketing channel for people like Deborah of Rasmussen Farm. Deborah shared that the Western Maine Market, Franklin County’s Online Farmer’s Market, which she manages, is not as profitable each week as she knows it could be. She knows that she just needs to do more marketing. The idea of the ability to shop (whenever it’s convenient) for fresh, locally-produced food, which can be delivered at no cost to homes and workplaces along a route in Farmington, through Kingfield, to Strong, must appeal to more people than those already using it. However, as she manages the online market, updates the facebook page, writes a weekly newsletter, and makes the deliveries on top of producing and selling her own value-added products all winter, she doesn’t quite have time for more marketing. It’s really hard to run a market like the Western Maine Market. Could MH&T help her out by providing some information about the market on a poster, or in a booklet at the huts?

Maybe! But I must remember that MH&T needs to make money itself, and guests probably don’t want to be advertised to as part of their hut experience. Perhaps, instead of becoming a marketing channel, MH&T just needs to continue to be a responsible information user. As a student, I am encouraged to use information responsibly by citing my sources – both in-text and in a bibliography. The MH&T equivalent of an in-text citation is the diligent acknowledgement of ingredient sources as the hut staff set a meal on the table. The MH&T equivalent of a bibliography is the list of farmers and food producers supplying the huts, posted both on the MH&T website and on the walls of all the Maine Huts. If the list of the farmers and food producers – the bibliography – were annotated to outline the responsible practices or the hard-earned certifications of the food suppliers, the guests who want to source-check would be satisfied, and the food suppliers would get full credit for the goods they produce as well as the work they put into production.

– Lena Martin ’20

Hut staff interviews at Stratton Brook and Flagstaff Huts

Lena Martin here, continuing my look at the Maine Huts and Trails (MH&T) food system. Last week, I made day visits to Stratton Brook Hut and Flagstaff Hut to interview hut staff Hannah Marshall, Danielle Walezak, Dawn Berthelette, and Conor Burke. Among that group are cooks, educators, farmers, and a nutritionist: my food-related questions were received with very informed answers, and I learned a lot.

Hannah and Danielle express their gratitude for Crooked Face Creamery Ricotta (both Original and Smoked) during their interview.

Last week, I also read the essay “Place and Civic Culture: Re-thinking the Context for Local Agriculture” by Laura B. DeLind and Jim Bingen, which discusses the “civic agriculture” movement to resist the “disaffection and inequity” of the globalized food system and to encourage people to eat locally by championing farmers’ markets, CSAs, community kitchens, and U-pick operations. By my interpretation, the essay asserts that those championed enterprises are not necessarily more than platforms for market transactions which serve consumer convenience and, ultimately, farmers’ income. Those enterprises do not necessarily create communities that promote social equity, protect forests and soils, and respect economic, cultural, and political interests all at once. They do not necessarily create the “civic” atmosphere which we hope for. According to DeLind and Bingen (2008), the “civic agriculture” movement will not be truly “civic” until we realize the importance of “the concept of place – what it means, how it feels, [and] how it is expressed” and “understand and…practice ‘being’ in place.” (p. 130).

The essay made me thoughtful about place as I drove back and forth from Colby to Carrabassett Valley and as I skied back and forth from trailheads to huts. The landscapes I traveled could be perceived to be stark, spread-out and almost achromatic, while hidden in them are productive copses of trees, spaces shortened by snowmobile rides or brisk walks in the cold, and people with colorful vernacular.

One of the questions I asked the hut staff was whether they believe that there is pressure from the MH&T customer base (guests) to serve local food, or that that drive comes solely from the one or multiple people inside the organization who created the MH&T mission to stimulate environmentally sensitive economic growth in western Maine and promote an environmental stewardship and conservation ethic. None of the hut staff that I interviewed reported having felt pressure from guests to serve local food. In general, the staff weren’t sure how much guests care about the sources of MH&T food, but one of Hannah’s comments on this topic caught my attention: “I think that [guests] appreciate local [food], but the [guests] who appreciate it most are [those] who are from this area.” I think that this comment captures an idea about locality versus place. If the locality of a food source – the geographic proximity of a source to, say, the MH&T office – was the concept of value to guests, those from away would be as excited about food from Riverweb Farm or Rasmussen Farm as those from nearby. If guests from nearby are more excited to hear the source of the beef, the carrots, or the garlic that Hannah sets on the table, perhaps it is because those guests can place that source in their maps of space and time: perhaps they know the troubles of the tiny town in which the farm is located, or the family who runs the farm shop.

MH&T can stimulate local economic growth and promote environmental stewardship on one level by continuing to support trustworthy businesses in the greater Kingfield area. To stimulate local economic growth and promote environmental stewardship on another level, though, could MH&T inspire all their guests to care about the sources of the food which they are served? How could this be done? Of course the answer is not to restrict outsiders – guests who cannot place MH&T food providers on the map, or who do not know the landscape well enough to see beyond the stark, spread-out, and achromatic – the support of people from away is incredibly important to western Maine. Besides, as DeLind and Bingen (2008) argue, “while…sense of place is personal, it is hardly insular.” (p. 137). Knowledge, cultures, and homes are meant to be shared.

The three Maine Huts that I have visited are cozy and beautiful, and I think of them as full of warmth, light, and good smells. DeLind and Bingen might say that becoming aware of each hut as a place which has meaning and instills feeling is important both on its own and in sparking the civic natures of MH&T guests. As the huts age, and more art is hung on the walls, and more music is blasted from the kitchen or shared by the fire, and as, over family-style dinner, more ideas are exchanged among farmers, business owners, regular Mainers, and those from away, the huts and everything connected to them could become more familiar and special. People who return to be in a hut – to be “in place” – could be community members, and “civic” community members, who take interest in the social, environmental, economic, cultural, and political implications of the MH&T food system.

Sunny Stratton Brook Hut.

Sources

DeLind, L. & Bingen, J. (2008). Place and Civic Culture: Re-thinking the Context for Local Agriculture. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 21, 127-151.

Why local? An experience with a MH&T “food run” and a visit to Poplar Hut

My name is Lena Martin, and I am a Colby environmental policy major and art minor. This January, I am interning with Maine Huts & Trails (MH&T), working to answer the questions, “Why does MH&T make it a priority to source and serve as much local food as possible?” and “How can MH&T educate their community about the impact and importance of their commitment to local food?” This week, I went on a “food run” with Hut Manager John “Young Gun” Winter to restock Stratton Brook Hut and Poplar Hut, and spent an overnight at Poplar Hut with hut staff members Rose Morgan and Connor Phillips, and two kind guests.

Loading Allagash, Baxter Brewing, and Maine Root products for delivery to Stratton Brook and Poplar Huts.

The “food run” began by loading orders and purchases from Allagash, Baxter Brewing, Maine Root, Island Farm, Crooked Face Creamery, Carrabassett Coffee, Jordan’s Lumber, and Tranten’s family market into the MH&T van. I noticed that although John is on a tight schedule during food runs, tasked with loading products from several locations in Kingfield and delivering them to the backcountry within an afternoon, he doesn’t rush when he’s interacting with food producers. The food producers are community members, and he knows them, so there’s news to catch up on. There’s also advice to be given and received: at Carrabassett Coffee, a mid-pick-up discussion ensued about the ideal water to Carrabassett Coffee grounds ratio. Back in the van, I learned that farmers also give John guidance about when and how their vegetables should be used. The information sharing reminded me of the term, “co-producer”, coined by Slow Food, which is a global organization founded to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and combat people’s dwindling interest in where their food comes from. The term “co-producer” refers to a consumer who takes interest in those who produce food, how they produce it, and the problems that they face in doing so. Co-producers not only purchase food, but seek information and advice to gain an understanding of what a healthier, tastier, and more responsible diet means in their region. I am glad to observe MH&T’s role as a co-producer, and hope that like other aware and informed co-producers, MH&T motivates farmers and food suppliers to safeguard their workers, their environment, and the quality of their products.

After all the supplies were loaded in the van, John and I intended to make our first delivery to Stratton Brook Hut using a snowmobile and a sled. We were in for an adventure: after uncovering the snowmobile and loading the sled, we discovered that the snowmobile’s suspension was blown out. We had a cold wait in the van, but were rescued by Operations Director Mike Spurrier, who came over the river and through the woods with a different snowmobile, taking over the Stratton Brook delivery. John and I moved onto Poplar Hut, and this time, we were successful in delivering supplies.

A load of supplies ready for delivery to Stratton Brook Hut.

At Poplar Hut, I was served a delicious dinner made by Rose, including Morrocan Shepard’s Pie, broccoli with spicy balsamic vinaigrette, and warm multigrain bread. Rose was able to tell the other guests and me which parts of the dishes were grown locally. Everyone exclaimed at how good the food was, and as we ate, I enjoyed discovering that the other guests and I knew people in common, as they and I are all southern Mainers.

In the morning, I got up as Connor was beginning to make breakfast to interview him about food. Connor gives a talk at Poplar Hut called “Food of the Future”, and I learned that he has always cared about local food because of his family connection to Michael David Winery in Lodi, California. Michael David Winery developed the Lodi Rules certification, which is a set of over 100 rules geared toward environmental, social, and economic sustainability, vetted by scientists, academics and environmental groups alike to become the most thorough set of sustainable standards in California. The MH&T commitment to local food is one reason that Connor is working as part of the hut staff. Another reason that Connor is working for MH&T is that he loves to cook, and I am pleased to report that his breakfast was just as good as Rose’s dinner.

Poplar Hut Master Rose, enjoying breakfast made by Connor, and engaging guests.

Obviously, food is a central part of our lives – we eat (ideally) three times each day, and have routines, likes and dislikes, and traditions surrounding eating – but sometimes, meals become rushed events amidst other tasks. This week allowed me to consider how much work goes into a single meal at a hut between food sourcing, food orders, food pick-ups, sled runs, carefully chosen recipes, and skillful and time-consuming cooking. It makes sense for guests to be informed about what they are eating, and for them to take the time to sit down together and enjoy the warmth and the tastes of what they are served. The dinner and breakfast I ate at Poplar Hut were the centerpieces of my stay. I skied out with plenty of food for thought, and I think the other guests did too.

The clear morning view from the Airport Trailhead.

Economic Impact Internship Summer 2018

In the heart of western Maine’s lakes and mountains region, Maine Huts & Trails operates as one of the premier sustainable ecotourism and adventure tourism destinations in New England. My internship initially sought to understand the global and national trends in ecotourism and how MH&T positioned itself as an industry leader. As my experience and research progressed however, I found my focus shifting to a single, but extremely important aspect of the nonprofits work; its economic impact on the local, rural economy.

I first heard about Colby and MH&T’s partnership and internship opportunity at the environmental studies job fair held in the spring and was surprised to see several economic-based internship projects. I had heard of MH&T beforehand but had never had the chance to hike the trails or visit one of its eco-lodges, so I thought this would be a perfect experience to both pursue my academic interests and enjoy the outdoors.

Within the first two weeks of the internship I spent several nights at the huts and on the trails participating in trail work and hut staff training, which exposed me to the extensive work that goes into making their mission a reality. As I became more familiar with the organization, I began my research into sustainable ecotourism and its many facets, one of which is the importance of supporting the local community and economy. With a goal to support a vibrant, thriving economy in Franklin County and further reaches of Maine, MH&T makes an effort to purchase as many products and services from local sources as possible. This local spending supports local business and jobs and adds to the overall welfare of the region. My research focuses on accurately quantifying this value so that MH&T, its visitors, and its donors can see the significant beneficial impact the organization is having on Maine’s rural communities. Because it is a nonprofit, MH&T relies heavily on donors from around the state to support its annual operation and future expansion. This study will provide MH&T with a powerful “selling point” to potential donors as they will see how their investment in MH&T is also an investment in the wellbeing of western Maine’s economy and communities. As the summer is coming to a close, I am still in the midst of this analysis and will have the chance to continue my work during the fall semester.

This experience has been unique in that it allowed me to apply concepts I have learned at Colby, acquire new modeling and analysis skills, and also enjoy the Maine outdoors simultaneously. My work conducting an impact analysis has been a valuable experience that will help me as I pursue future jobs and a career. What makes the experience more satisfying is that I will be leaving knowing that my work has helped this great company and will set the stage for future internships and research. As one of the first summer internships offered through this academic partnership, I believe that there is great potential for both Colby and MH&T to take advantage of each other’s resources and most importantly, offer Colby students the chance to work outside of the classroom with a Maine based company that does so much to support the local economies and environment. I will carry this experience and everyone who I met along the way in high regards as I leave Colby and hope to come back to an even more successful Maine Huts and Trails and prosperous western Maine economy in the coming years.

Colton Leach ’19

 

Locally Sourced Food Internship Summer 2018

This summer I was the locally sourced food intern for MH&T. At the beginning, it was open ended what exactly within locally sourced food I was going to look at for them. After getting to know the organization better, what I realized was that although MH&T tries to source as much of their food locally as possible, there wasn’t a concrete definition of what exactly local was to them or why locally sourced food mattered. If MH&T is putting in so much time, money, and effort into sourcing their food locally, I felt it would be important for them to have a set food philosophy to go off of moving forward and an articulated reason for why it all mattered. I also thought it was important for those things to be communicated with guests. If guests could learn about the importance of local food, it would be an educational experience for them. This could help make a broader impact, for if guests understand why locally sourced food matters, they might put more effort into trying to source their food at home locally. It also hopefully will enable people to view MH&T as a leader in recognizing food as an important factor in sustainable ecotourism. This food philosophy will be put on MH&T’s website. It will include an updated summer 2018 list of their local food producers as well as a video to promote some of those individuals. I also developed a more in depth explanation of the environmental impacts of locally sourced food and agriculture as a whole which is linked to the page articulating the food philosophy.

In order to effectively do this, I spent much of my summer trying to grasp why locally sourced food matters for environmental, community, and economic reasons. This is because those three qualities are critical parts of MH&T’s mission statement. A major portion of my time was spent looking at online sources and books. When I wasn’t just doing that, I often tried to talk to different people. I would talk to people who knew a lot more than I did about the topic, such as individuals from Chewonki and Maine Farmland Trust. I also spent time talking to MH&T’s local food vendors so that I could understand how the practices they are using benefit the environment, and put a face behind the community members that are benefitting from MH&T’s choices. I also spent a lot of time getting to know the people at MH&T and how the organization works. I attended much of the hut staff orientation and went on a food delivery to Grand Falls hut. Doing this enabled me to have the proper background information to understand what challenges might be to sourcing food locally. I also frequently visited the MH&T office for check-ins. In addition to the work I did to develop the food philosophy, I also helped plan and co-lead an activity on the global food market to a group of middle schoolers from the Boys and Girls Club that were visiting Flagstaff hut.

It was an absolute privilege to get to know the people that work for MH&T. The hut staff and year long team are filled with truly kind, interesting, hardworking and passionate people. Everyone was always ready to help when I needed it. Merrie and Carolann, our go-to people at the huts, were eager to ensure that our work at the huts were not only helpful to them but also exciting to us and that we pursued research projects that we were interested in. It was also an extremely valuable opportunity for me to spend time working in a small but mighty non-profit. Doing so has made me realize how much I enjoy that type of work environment and I hope to find that sense of community and dedication in whatever jobs I may eventually choose after Colby. I am so excited to return to MH&T throughout my time at Colby and hopefully continue my relationship with the organization. I am so lucky to have been able to work for them this summer, they are really such a special organization!

Bronya Lechtman ’20

Check out the video of Bronya’s experience here.

Summer Internships at MH&T

Colby College and Maine Huts and Trails with support of the Buck Lab is sponsoring two summer internships.   Students will be based at Colby and travel to each of the Maine Huts for overnight visits at least once each week.    Interns must be able to hike four miles and be comfortable with backcountry travel.

We have funding for two interns.   Please apply to one or more of the following internship opportunities.   We will review all applications and select two interns   whose interests best align with the available projects.

Please email application materials to:  Merrie Woodworth, Education and Youth Programs Coordinator, mwoodworth@mainehuts.org, and Whitney King, Miselis Professor of Chemistry,  dwking@colby.edu.   Applications will be reviewed starting 3/11/2018.

Project Details

Economies & Trends of Systainable Tourism – Maine Huts & Trails 2018

Energy System Efficiency Review Maine Huts & Trails Summer 2018

Locally sourced food Internship Maine Huts & Trails l Summer 2018

Review of Transportation Logistics at Maine Huts & Trails