Michael Madole joined the Board of Hilltown Land Trust this past fall, after many years as a volunteer and having served as our AmeriCorps Land Stewardship Coordinator seven years ago. He brings a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and experience to our organization. Learn more about Michael below!
How long have you lived in the Hilltowns and what brought you here?
Long story short, I grew up in Texas and as a kid I would come to Western MA to visit family. I always really liked it here. As an adult, I had planned to go to vet school in Philadelphia, but when my plans changed, I happily ended up living in Conway with my sister and her partner.
I have lived in the Hilltowns for almost 10 years, and moved to Plainfield after my wife Sydney and I purchased our home in 2020. We live here with our newborn son Arthur, horse Hazel, and goat Abby.
What do you like about living in Plainfield?
Oh man, I love everything about living in Plainfield! I love how quiet it is. I love our neighbors. I love that our new baby boy gets to grow up running around outside and down by Mill Brook and the state forest. I’m so excited that he gets this place as his playground. I love how close we are to our basic necessities, like Cummington Supply, The Creamery, and Ashfield Hardware. Between those three places we can really get most of what we need.
I love that! It’s not something you generally hear people say about life in the Hilltowns—being close to basic necessities.
Well, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, where it took at least half an hour to get to any kind of store, driving 70 miles an hour the whole time, so being eight minutes away from a small grocery store is fantastic; it’s a luxury!
So it’s a matter of perspective.
How do you spend your time when you aren’t volunteering with HLT?
Right now I’m on daddy duty, obviously, but I spend a lot of time thinking about forests and with my horse Hazel. I have a single horse that I log with on the side as Hilltown Horse Logging. I don’t spend all my free time logging, but keeping a horse and keeping up the farm is how I spend most of my spare time. Trimming hooves, harnessing her up, fencing in different areas of the property—it all takes up a lot of time.
My main paid gig is for a company called Dendroyka who makes Landscape. It’s a conservation software platform used by land trusts across the U.S. and in Canada. It’s a dream job (aside from being in the woods all day)! Working with land trusts and helping them get their records in order has turned out to be my specialty, which is not something I would have expected! The first time people log into their accounts and see all of their properties on a map, and see they can easily get information on a property—it’s very satisfying.
What made you want to volunteer with Hilltown Land Trust?
Hilltown Land Trust is the reason I live here. It’s the reason I was able to find a way to make a living in the Hilltowns.
I was working as a vet tech for a few years and had never thought about land conservation. I attended a talk about moose that was put on by an AmeriCorps member with HLT, and I had never heard of a land trust before! I ended up volunteering for a year, then became the AmeriCorps Land Stewardship Coordinator for HLT, which led me to my [former] job with The Trustees, and that job led to my job at Landscape. None of that would have happened without Hilltown Land Trust!
So I feel like I need to give back. And of course the work HLT does is fantastic, the team is amazing. It’s a lot of fun.
Well we are very glad to have you on board! What would you say is your favorite part of volunteering with HLT?
The people! I like spending time with the Board and the staff and the AmeriCorps members. It feels like a community and I always have very positive experiences. And I want to contribute to that community.
I love that you used the word community unprompted, because that is a theme for the current newsletter.
If I had to choose one word out of all the words from our new Values Statement it would be community. To me it’s all there is in land conservation and in living out here in the Hilltowns. It’s the most important thing.
The pandemic has made it really hard, hasn’t it? It’s hard to feel that bond. I’m looking forward to the pandemic being over and being able to really spend time with people, in person.
Speaking of the pandemic, you moved out to Plainfield during the pandemic. Has it been hard to get to know people and find community there?
Meeting people hasn’t been easy, but our neighbors have been amazing. Getting involved in the larger community has been a little bit difficult, but we are looking for ways to be more involved.
Do you have a favorite plant or animal or species of plant or animal that lives in the Hilltowns (aside from Hazel and Abby of course)?
There is an ash tree on the trail between Bear Swamp and Route 116 that is completely magnificent and will probably be gone within the next 5-10 years because of the Emerald Ash Borer. The ash trees we have on our property and that single ash tree—I really love those trees.
Part of that might be that Arthur might not know what a big ash tree looks like when he grows up, right? He may never get to split ash firewood which is a joy to do, because it just falls apart and is very satisfying. It makes a sound like a bat hitting a baseball.
I think that love is very bittersweet—that these magnificent trees are probably going to disappear from the landscape. So I have a special appreciation for them.
That’s lovely and very sad. I’m sure people of our grandparents’ generation had the same feeling about Elms, and their parents about the Chestnut. Is there anything else you would like to add or anything you want our readers to know about you?
Something I have been thinking about is that I have been here for ten years, and I love that I now run into people [that I met through HLT] and that I have all of these connections and that those connections keep growing. I saw [fellow HLT Board member] Andrew at the Chesterfield General Store the day before Arthur was born. It was so great to run into him and just chat; I love running into people and chatting. Hilltown Land Trust has been the biggest source of those contacts in my life. When I run into people [in the Hilltowns], it’s very likely that I met them through HLT. I really like that.