Combating COVID and Climate Change

Significant Challenges for Future Generations

Photo taken by Tatiana Byzova
Allies and Partners

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and addressing the impact of COVID-19. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

"As I contemplated writing this article, it struck me that combatting COVID-19 is similar to addressing climate change. We need to take firm, consistent actions to create safety for all."

John Elwell, owner of Maple Crest Farm in West Newbury.

We only had one family at a time come to pick

During our Maple Crest Farm pick-your-own blueberry season this year, we only had one family at a time come to pick. Folks had to call to schedule an appointment in advance and wear masks at all times. Clearly, this limited the number of sales, but more importantly, we kept everyone safe. In addition, I staggered the work times of my youth workers, so they were not usually at the farm at the same time.

We need to take a similar approach with climate change.

If we are to protect our world for current and future generations, we have to make purposeful changes in our lifestyles. We are losing our farmlands. Many are being bought up, especially in our area, for housing developments. Currently, only 3% – yes 3% – of the earth’s surface can grow food crops. With global warming and rising oceans, we will lose even more farmlands. Some reports forecast that the land available to grow crops will be 2% in the next 50 years. This summer alone has been so dry that our strawberries suffered greatly from the lack of rain despite our irrigating efforts.

Farming also helps the climate by growing crops which convert carbon into oxygen which we need for our health and sustainability.

We plant over 1,000 Christmas tree seedlings each year, which take 10 years or more to be marketable. But while they are growing, they are producing oxygen for our wellbeing. Research says that 7 to 10 trees will provide enough oxygen for a person to breathe for a year. Growing crops locally especially helps the environment in multiple ways. It preserves and restores the soil. Local farms reduce the amount of carbon monoxide that is put into the air from transporting crops across the country. ACES is an organization that will help to protect and improve our environment so that farms and humans can survive.

Please come see us:
John Elwell is owner of Maple Crest Farm in West Newbury. He can be contacted at

Contact ACES website to become involved.

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about the author
John Elwell

John grew up in nearby Byfield, attended GDA, and then received his BA in Economics and Masters in Mathematics Education from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. His career in education was significant as he then taught mathematics for 10 years at Dunbar High School in the District of Columbia. In 1979, he became Assistant Principal at Hamilton-Wenham and 3 years later, became Principal. After 19 years as Principal at HWRHS he pro-tired and immediately became the interim Principal at Newburyport High School from 2001 to 2003. From 2003 to 2017 he ran workshops for teachers and administrators in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and New York City.

A founding member of the Newburyport Education Foundation, John continues to educate others whenever there is an opportunity. In 2002 John and his wife, Carol, bought the Elwell family farm in West Newbury. An ACES Ally, Maple Crest Farms serves as a learning center for other educational entities and John, a member of the BOD, mentors Youth Corps interns whenever possible.  

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