Respecting Mother Earth

As is said, “Take care of Earth and she will take care of us.”

Photo by NASA on Unsplash
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John Elwell

Editor’s note:

This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Native Americans and Yankee farmers, like me and some of my ancestors, share a certain sense of honor to Mother Earth. Though separated by many centuries and very different cultures and histories, we do our best to respectfully treat the Earth and its creatures as almost a part of our families.

As a former teacher and high school principal, I retired to the role of running the 106-year-old Maple Crest Farm in West Newbury. We’ve been working for several years to bring it back to its full productive glory using sensible and Earth-friendly techniques.

The farm is adjacent to Indian Hill Reservoir, one of Newburyport’s water sources. We work at protecting the reservoir and follow versions of what the native Americans taught the Pilgrims by using variations of companion planting and avoiding monocultures. The Native Americans diversified and used the earth reverentially and in season. and we try to maintain the same “Love the Earth” attitude and ethos as they did.

We host two schools, River Valley Charter School and Heartwood Nature School, which bring kids to our farm fields and woodlands for active environmental learning programs. Two Newburyport high school student interns created a Tree Walk at the Indian Hill Reservoir exhibiting numerous native tree species in their original spots with well researched and executed infographics. Come by and take a walk and learn about these trees.

Two years ago, while on a Military Vehicle Preservation Association convoy traveling to the upper peninsula of Michigan, I visited the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in Saint-Ignace, Michigan, where I found a Native American author I’ve come to respect. His name is Nakoma Volkman, and he wrote this piece titled “Gift of the Earth.”

“Earth, Mother Earth, Gaia, is a blue gem of a planet, floating like an island in the primal sea of dark, sparkling space. A living organism in the sense of being a self-regulating body. We can understand her better by knowing her birth and growth. Earth is a very unique and life supporting paradise within an immense universe or cosmos … . In Native American spiritual terms, we say Father Sky, Grandfather Sun, Mother Earth, Brother Moon and so on. All things are family, relatives, connected, dependent. Earth grew from the spinning gases and dust of the Sun as did the other planets of the Solar System, forever circling.

The sun and spinning Earth create our day and night, dawn and dusk, our annual seasons. All life upon the Earth shares the same shoreline with the sky. Our precious planet sustains life, nurturing an amazing variety of species. Each has a birthright to inhabit Earth maintaining dignity.

Everything that grows has a lust for life, a surge to survive. Understand their struggles. All of nature is our cradle and benefactor. Benefit them in turn. Abuse none.

Earth has a delicate balance not to be tampered with. She can survive without our interference. She has all the exact amounts of elements for life to exist.

It is an honor to call Earth our home, to reverently live each day with appreciation for its gift. Be conscious to take responsibility for her care and that of all life upon her. Mother Earth is a masterpiece, to be admired, respected, cared for and revered.

As is said, “take care of Earth and she will take care of us.”

The last 400 years have been centuries of exploration and exploitation of Mother Earth. It helped the human family prosper, but also caused harm to the Earth. We can’t continue to exploit the Earth and water resources heedlessly. Our future generations need our help to heal Mother Earth.

Farmer John Elwell can be reached at ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to, in your own way, find things you can do to protect and enhance our Mother Earth. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@ To learn more about ACES and its initiatives, visit https://

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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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