Friday, September 21, 2012

Answering the Call: Young Maine Native Living in Tel Aviv

Jamie Dandreta in Israel (courtesy photo)

By Rhyan Romaine
Staff Columnist

This week, Jews around the world observe Yamim Noraim, (translated from Hebrew as, “ימים נוראים‎ or, “Days of Awe”), the ten High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For one former Wells resident, this is remembered as an isolating time.
Jamie Dandreta, 22, now a citizen of Israel and student at Tel Aviv University, would rarely have friends or close family to celebrate with during her childhood growing up on the Seacoast in and around Wells, Maine. While Jamie always felt she had a special heritage, she felt disconnected from her heritage while growing up in an area where she didn’t know many other Jewish people. 
Dandreta first had the opportunity to explore her faith and culture in 2010 as a participant in the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, a nonprofit organization providing a free trip to Israel for young Jewish people. Her two-week tour helped her embrace her Jewish identity through peer education and cultural immersion.
“As soon as the plane landed in Jerusalem and I read Hebrew on all the signs, I had an immediate sense of inclusion,” a sense that Dandreta notes was lacking in her southern Maine youth.  While touring various locations in Jerusalem, it wasn’t rare for strangers to approach Jamie on the streets of Jerusalem and just say, “Welcome home.” It was at that moment Jamie felt she was answering a call, and she wasn’t alone.
In August, 2012, Dandreta officially made Aliya, a word that, when translated, means the return of Jews in exile back to Israel. This term is also used when establishing formal citizenship in Israel. This citizenship marks the end of a two-year process that also included studying abroad as the first University of Maine-Orono student in more than a decade to request to study in the Middle East. On a personal level, this accomplishment means so much more.  She was no longer a tourist or study-abroad student, she is a citizen of the world’s only Jewish state.
Dandreta has permanently relocated from the Southern Maine area to Tel Aviv to continue her studies, get married (she recently became engaged) and pursue a career in communications.
“When I’m in Israel, I feel like I’m home, in a community, a big beautiful family,” says Dandreta. While completing her degree in Digital Communications, Dandreta feels it is her obligation to communicate back to the US about the real Israel. “Before I came here, I thought it was just a desert.”
Most of all, Dandreta wants to underscore how her experience does not reflect the restive environment so often depicted in mass media coverage of the Middle East. Even as terrorist attacks continue to rock different areas of the Middle East, she says Israel is very safe.

Cross-Country Bike Trip a Testament to Energy Conservation

Stephen Kosacz on the shore of Lake Superior, Marquette, Wisconsin (courtesy photo)

The idea to bicycle across the United States started in May 2011 at Ceres Bakery in Portsmouth when Peter Billipp of Eliot ran into Stephen Kosacz of Cape Neddick.
Billipp, a commercial real estate broker at Kane Company, and Kosacz, owner of Autoworks in Kittery and vice chairman of the Seacoast Energy Initiative, have known each other, off and on, for thirty years. But a coast-to-coast trip, covering more than 3,600 miles, was something they had never imagined before.
While both may be considered senior citizens (Kosacz is 63 and Billipp is 59), they had been keeping in shape all their lives. Billipp is an avid hiker, bicyclist, and Nordic skier of the White Mountains while Kosacz races Lasers, an Olympic class single handed dinghy, cycles, works out at the gym, and cross country ski raced with Peter decades ago.
“For me, the toughest part was the mental aspect” said Kosacz. “Preparation, online research of what to leave behind, wondering if we could climb all those snow covered peaks in the Cascades right at the beginning of the trip, and then a few days later get over the Continental Divide in the Rockies at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park produced a fair amount of anxiety.”
The epic journey is a great example of what Kosacz espouses though his work with the Seacoast Energy Initiative, and is a living testament to energy conservation.
SEI works with residents in Kittery, Eliot, York, South Berwick, North Berwick and Ogunquit to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
“We worked with Efficiency Maine to reduce energy consumption of residential homes through a revolving loan program they set up,” Kosacz said. “If people pay down the loans to weatherize their homes, those funds became available to other homeowners.”
The group set up a half million dollar revolving loan fund. Homeowners could borrow up to $10,000 with zero percent interest if they paid the loan off in three years, and if loan went to improvements. The idea for SEI came to him during another journey.
“I was inspired while on a trip to New Zealand in winter of 2009,” he said. “I was amazed by what other countries were doing to reduce energy consumption.”
The bike trip with Billipp called upon all of their energy reserves, as they traveled through five mountain passes as high as 5,600 feet in the first week. Fifty-seven days later, they pedaled back to Maine.
“I like to do physically demanding trips,” Kosacz said. “I’m not a cruise type of person”
The trip began on July 5 when the two flew to Seattle, took a bus up to Anacortes in the San Juan Islands, and the following morning started pedaling home.
They had shipped their bicycles ahead of time and picked them up from the bike shop on the morning of July 6, loaded them with their panniers filled with spare tires, tubes, camping and sleeping gear, clothing, food, and headed out to the Cascades. They biked all but two days, on which they rested, they were welcomed by friends and family on August 31 as they road into the Atlantic Ocean at York Harbor Beach.
“Once we had the mountains behind us, we gained confidence,” they said.
“For me the most spectacular part was Logan Pass on the Road to the Sun where the highway had been cleared of a rock and mud slide the night before.  As we wound our way up we could see clouds, backlit by the sun, cascading over the ridges.  At the summit I hiked in the snowfields to see mountain goats with the kids,” Kosacz said. “Until you witness it firsthand it is hard to comprehend how much moves by rail in this country: freight trains are carrying containers filled with goods from the Far East, coal from Montana, grain from the Midwest.”
It seemed to take forever to cross eastern Montana and North Dakota where every day was basically a grind as they rode through hundreds of miles of corn, wheat, soybean, or hay fields in the scorching record heat.  With temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s, the water bottles were quickly emptied but the evaporation that comes from riding at 15 – 20 miles per hour cooled them off.
“We were relieved to get to Minnesota where it was green again from the thousands of ponds and lakes,” they said. “ After crossing Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Duluth is a great city to visit with all of its activity of grain, coal, and iron ore being transferred to boats to cross the Great Lakes), we entered Ontario Canada at Sault Ste Marie re-entering the US at Niagara Falls.”
Returning to New England brought familiar sights and welcome relief from the heat and western mountains.
“Aside from the last 100 feet of our journey, the happiest day for me was descending the Adirondacks into Ticonderoga NY, seeing the Green Mountains of Vermont, crossing the lower end of Lake Champlain on a cable barge, and making our lunch on the village green of Orwell, Vermont.  After the mountains of the West we knew could go over anything.”
In addition to many memorable scenic vistas, they saw some less attractive sights as well.
“It’s sad to see some towns pretty empty. Imagine a town the size of South Berwick but less prosperous. On Indian land, we spoke with people who said gambling had sucked the lifeblood out this town,” Kosacz said.
“The most dangerous part of the trip was riding on the Trans-Canada highway across Ontario – a two-lane highway with no paved shoulders.  We cringed every time a tractor trailer or giant RV passed us in the rain wondering if this was ‘it,’” said Kosacz, who talked with Canadians about their health care system, marveled at the wind turbine blades being transported from factories in South Dakota heading to Montana, Oregon, and Canada, and was impressed by an electrician they met in a public campground in Shelby Montana. “He was wiring the wind turbine generators but was terrified of heights. He said  ‘I’m 300 feet up inside the tower, I don’t dare look down, I just focus completely on what’s directly in front of me.’”
What’s directly in front of Kosacz and Billipp now? Miles of memories, lots of time to rest and recover, and plans for the next trip.

Farming Documentary to Premier at Marshwood High School

A couple of cows greet their newest arrival (Photo by Peter E. Randall)

“Farming 101,” a new documentary film by Peter Randall about Kittery and Eliot dairy farming, will have its premier on Friday, September 28, at Marshwood High School auditorium. The event is co-sponsored by SeacoastLocal, an organization that encourages residents to “think local first” to cultivate socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities in southeastern Maine and coastal New Hampshire. The film will be shown at 7 p.m.
When Randall moved from seacoast New Hampshire to Goodwin Road in Eliot, his well-seasoned photographic eye was immediately attracted to the beautiful fields, many of which were regularly used by local farmers. Goodwin Road, along with Wilson Road in Kittery, is an eight-mile stretch of winding Route 101 between Route One and Route 236. Here are located two dairy farms, the last of the dozens of such farms that once made agriculture a common business in York County.
Recently retired after forty years and 450 titles as a book publisher, Randall also has authored a dozen books of his own, combining a love of history and photography into prize-winning publications. Always ready for new challenges, Randall made a decision to make a video documentary about the dairy farms.
“Although I had no experience with making a film, I charged ahead anyway,” Randall said. “Not many years ago, dairy farms were commonplace and most people knew how the farms operated. But now, in this area anyway, farms are disappearing along with knowledge of this way of life. I wanted to help preserve this culture.”
Now three years later, Randall has finished his film telling the story of the two dairy farms, but also a working hay production farm, three former farms, a dairy, a tractor dealership, a tractor collector, and a cider mill.
Randall used a new type of Canon digital SLR camera that was made for still photography, but had a video capability that exceeded the quality of consumer video cameras. In fact, this type of camera has been used to make production television and Hollywood films. With relatively inexpensive digital equipment and software, it is now possible for anyone to make a quality film.
When it came time to turn his raw film footage into an organized narrative, Randall turned to his grandson, Kael.
“Editing video to me is like another language,” said Randall, who also got help from his daughter, Deidre, who wrote a song for the film. “Deidre and Kael actually lived on one of these farms a number of years ago. They rented a house from Fred Schultze.”
Randall has published a lot of book on local history, including one a few years ago on North Berwick. Also, he has written a history of Hampton, New Hampshire, a short history and guide to Mount Washington, and three books of photographs of New Hampshire.
“I was not a farmer growing up,” Randall said. “I can hardly grow anything. I had a neighbor who grew radishes. I asked why and he said, “they come right up.’”
In his formative years, Randall lived in Hampton Falls, where he spent a lot of time roaming around fields and woods. “I’ve always had a feel for the land, always had sort of a conservationist outlook on things,” said Randall, who was chairman of the Hampton Conservation Commission for ten years.
“I saw, in particular the seacoast of New Hampshire, farms going out of business for one reason or another and saw houses moving onto their fields. When I moved to Eliot in 2000, I was amazed to see most of the open fields still being used - haying, growing crops,” he said. He had been using panoramic cameras, and started taking pictures for Goodwin farm and Leavitt farm on Goodwin Road in Eliot.
“Farming is sort of a – I hate to say it – dying way of life,” Randall said. It’s been in decline over the last forty or fifty years. Now the farms are gone. People don’t know about farming anymore, as a common way of life, the way it used to be.”
He hopes his documentary will re-instill in locals some of that lifestyle, and let people know how farms operated and where their milk came from.
“The original plan was just to do video interviews of farming families. Once I got started I was told I needed to have more video. I needed to have B-Roll. So if I have a farmer talking, the tractor in the field becomes the B-roll,” he said.
Editing is perhaps the most complicated aspect of any film. Randall’s grandson edited what began as a short documentary into an 80-minute film. Making this a family affair, Kael’s mother, singer-songwriter Deidre Randall, composed a song called “Dig,” especially for the film. Local performers Mike Rogers and Dave Surette provided other music.           
“While my first approach to filming was simply to document what happened on the farms, “ Randall said, “People who knew what I was doing asked, ‘What’s the point of the film?’ As I talked with the farmers and looked at the landscape, I began to wonder what the future holds for the businesses and the property.  When the Kittery Land Trust recently announced plans to purchase a conservation easement on the Johnson Farm on Wilson Road, I knew my film then had a point!”
Kenneth and Richard Johnson own Rustlewood farm, but Ken stopped working there several years ago, leaving the operation of the farm to brother Richard. In order for Kenneth to receive his value in the farm and for Richard to keep working, the brothers accepted the Kittery Land Trust proposal. Richard and his wife Beth will now own the farm outright, and the conservation easement means the land can never be developed, preserving it’s valuable soils as open space, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat. While the farming continues, the property will be open to the public for passive recreation and hunting.
The film also features the dairy farm of Fred and Tony Schultze, and the haying operation and former dairy farm of David and Jeanne Leavitt, in addition to the former dairy farms of the Pettigrew, Pearson, and Kashmere families, and the former Rowan dairy. Numerous historical photographs illustrate the film, that also includes the Pearsall family’s tractor dealership, tractor collector John Sullivan, and Ken Tuttle’s King Tut’s Cider Mill. Other details are found on the website
Admission to the film is by a suggested donation of $2 for adults, students are free. DVDs of the film will be available for purchase.
A related film is also showing on Saturday, September 29, at the John F. Hill Grange Hall, 1333 State Road, in Eliot. You can view Randall's short documentary, “Rustlewood,” featuring Johnson Farm in Kittery/Eliot, and segments of Maine Farmland Trust’s film, “Meet Your Farmer.” Bondgarden Farm's Paul Goransson will introduce the film and Great Works’ challenge to raise $25,000 in support of Kittery Land Trust's conservation easement for Johnson Farm. For more information on this event, contact 207-646-3604 or