This fall, Hilltown Land Trust welcomed two new members of our Board of Directors, Gaby Immerman and Michael Madole. Learn more about Gaby in the interview below and stay tuned to our website and enews for a profile of Michael coming soon!
Gaby teaches horticulture courses and connects students to plants and community as the Experiential Learning Specialist at the Smith College Botanic Garden. She is a Co-Moderator of the regional Mill River Greenway Initiative, and for the last decade has served as chair of the Mill River Greenway Committee in Williamsburg, a town committee working to extend the MassCentral Rail Trail to the center of Williamsburg.
Gaby was an early organizer and long-time Board member of Grow Food Northampton, a hub of local food security that owns and operates a 121-acre organic farm and has developed diverse strategies to increase access, equity, and education around local food in the community. Her affiliation with Grow Food Northampton continues as chair of the Program and Site Advisors committee, spearheading farm development and leading organizational transformation around equitable access to farmland and centering farmers and communities of color in policies and programs.
HLT is lucky to have Gaby join our Board, where her ideas, energy, and enthusiasm will all be put to good use!
What made you interested in joining Hilltown Land Trust’s Board? What excites you about this work?
By day I am the “professor of herbology” at Smith College, but nights and weekends I turn into a total citizen planner nerd! I am really jazzed by thinking about open space, maps, wayfinding, and especially, increasing access to land for communities that have been structurally disenfranchised or stripped of their rightful connections to it. When I was term-limited off the Grow Food Northampton board earlier this year, I immediately reached out to Sally to see how I could support HLT’s strategy and impact in our community.
What is your favorite outdoor space in The Hilltowns?
I’m devoted to the Mill River and give another big chunk of my big citizen planner energy to the Mill River Greenway Initiative, which envisions a shared-use path following the course of the river from Northampton to Williamsburg. Certain viewsheds in the Hilltowns, like Route 112 coming up through Ashfield or 143 across Worthington, get me every time. We are so blessed to live in this beautiful, spirit-sustaining part of the world.
How long have you lived in The Hilltowns? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the suburbs outside of New York City, spent my 20’s living in Brooklyn and then moved to Cummington in 1999. I’ve been a Haydenvillian since 2010.
What is your favorite plant?
I’m generally very moved by big old trees and the way they operate in another timescale as witnesses to the sweep of human lives around them. Smith College has 10 or 12 majestic old American Elms that I feel both honored and saddened to have the privilege to cross paths with daily; these trees are likely the last of their kind, survivors of the Dutch Elm Disease plague that has nearly wiped out the species. Smith inoculates them with an anti-fungal agent to fend off the disease, but when they die of old age, there’s not another generation coming up behind them.
What is your favorite Hilltown Land Trust property to visit?
I’ve had the great privilege of walking the Big View Trail with [landowner] Phil Merritt, whose labors of love and mischievous stone formations make that place vibrate with magic. I also get the shivers every time I come to the summit of the Historic Dam Trail and ponder the old abutments whose failure caused so much destruction and grief in the valley below.