Editorial: State trooper gets due recognition for act of bravery

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

A state trooper who hails from Deerfield has received his agency’s highest recognition for actions last year during a gunfight with a felon who fatally shot an Auburn police officer.

State Police Sgt. Michael H. Baker of South Deerfield was awarded the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor at the State House.

On May 22, 2016, Baker and two other Special Tactical Operations Team members, breached an Oxford duplex culminating an hours-long standoff with a convicted felon who had a history of violence and was accused of shooting a local policeman earlier in the day during a routine traffic stop.

Earlier this year, Baker and his two fellow officers also received “Top Cop” awards in Washington, D.C. from the National Association of Police Organizations.

“For his actions above and beyond the call of duty, exhibiting extraordinary bravery and courage in the face of extreme risk to protect and save the life of a colleague, Trooper Michael H. Baker is well deserving of the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor,” state Rep. Stephen Kulik said last week. “I thank him for his service and for his steadfast commitment to public safety.”

So do we.

GHS helps hurricane victims

Kudos to Greenfield High School students who took time out to help the Americans on the storm-ravaged island of Puerto Rico recently.

Nearly $600 was raised for hurricane relief in an event they called the “Miracle Minute” — just 60 seconds of solicitation, intended to get $1 from each student. They got more.

“There are students that I have that in the wake of the hurricane … you could see the stress from not being able to hear from their families,” Angela Mass, a teacher and student council adviser told the Recorder.

“The ‘Miracle Minute’ symbolizes that even in the face of such destruction from a hurricane, in just one minute, the kindness and generosity of others is evident,” Mass noted.

Shade grows on trees

It’s good to see that amid all the immediate concerns that afflict us, it’s still possible think long-term about our local environment. An example is the Franklin Regional Council of Governments inventory of Deerfield’s public shade trees along the town’s streets.

It’s easy to take them for granted and assume they plant themselves and last forever.

The tree inventory will help local and regional planners in diversifying existing tree populations by replacing species in decline with hardier ones starting next year.

The project, a collaboration between the regional council and Deerfield, is paid for by a $20,000 state grant through the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“It’s important for us to have a baseline tree inventory to help us plan for future maintenance and planting, and to provide documentation in aftermath of a destructive storm,” explained Highway Department Superintendent Kevin Scarborough.

In past years, tree surveys have been conducted in Greenfield and Montague as well.

Food island

West County is thinking local again — around the issue of food.

The hilltowns of Heath, Colrain and Charlemont have no full-service supermarkets within their borders, but they have farmers, growers, food processors and consumers. So the towns’ agriculture commissions are trying to figure how if they can directly connect their producers with local consumers to everyone’s benefit.

That would bolster the prospects of farmers and bring more locally grown food to town residents.

How to connect local food producers with local eaters has been one of the goals of a Community Food Assessment, led by the Heath Agricultural Commission with assistance from Charlemont and Colrain.

A survey found many respondents would buy more eggs, chicken, cheese, apples, milk, honey, cider, berries and vegetables from local growers if they could be purchased close to home and at affordable prices. Now the trick is to find ways to do that.

For example, food growers don’t necessarily have all the equipment needed to produce and sell all the food they could raise. The survey noted that for growers to make and sell a food product — like jams, pickles or pesto — they would need a commercial kitchen, explained Jessica Van Steensburg of the Heath Agricultural Commission. “Well, there are three commercial kitchens in Heath,” she noted. Making those kinds of connections may be one thing these assessments will lead to.

“The next step is to create a resource guide that makes these connections,” Van Steensburg said.