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FW: Pilot was a farmer

  • Subject: [cg] FW: Pilot was a farmer
  • From: "Kerr, Thomas J." <KerrT@missouri.edu>
  • Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 15:31:55 -0500


A tribute to the American Airlines pilot from a Community Food
Activist:

JOHN OGONOWSKI

John Ogonowski was the pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 to
Los Angeles that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York
City this morning.  At this time of immense tragedy, all our
hearts go out to his wife Peggy, to their children and to other
family and friends.  But it is also a time to remember John for
his generous efforts on behalf of farming in Massachusetts, and
particularly for immigrant farmers from Cambodia who he assisted
as part of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.

John became involved with this project at its very inception over
three years ago, when Paul Fischer of Farm Service Agency in
Westford contacted him looking for land to make available for
Southeast Asian families living in nearby Lowell who wanted to
farm.  John recognized this immediately as an opportunity to help
a worthy group of beginning growers to practice another kind of
agriculture.  He not only made land behind his home available to
these farmers, but became our first "mentor farmer" for
commercial growers.  In practice he was involved in every program
activity on his farm.  He tilled the land and fertilized it with
well-aged compost he would have otherwise used for his own crops.
He excavated a pond for irrigation, and set up an irrigation
system connected to it and to existing wells.  He ordered
materials and set up a greenhouse so the growers could raise
seedlings and do extended season production.  He provided advice
on managing production, pest control, harvesting and other
production practices.  He participated at project steering
committee meetings; in fact, he and Peggy hosted a number of
these meetings at their wonderful home where they would serve
dishes made from farm grown vegetables and fruits in additional
to other great foods.

All John Ogonowski was asked to do was to rent land to these
growers, which he did.  But he'd rarely collect the rents and he
did so much else for the growers that took up his time and
created out-of-pocket expense for which he often never asked for
reimbursement.  John did all this while he was a full time pilot
for American Airlines, while he raised his own crops on an
additional 200 acres spread around Dracut, and while he raised
three wonderful children.  He was a founder and active member of
a local land trust that has helped to save a substantial amount
of local farmland in Dracut from development.  This year, the
land trust negotiated the purchase of about 50 acres of land
about a mile from his house.  With John's own land out of
commission due to a major gas line installation, he made that
land available to our project and because of that a dozen new
growers got a new start farming this year.

John was interviewed by Susan Shepherd of NPR's Living on Earth
just a few weeks ago.  In that interview he talked at length
about how much he loved to farm and how he got involved with the
immigrant farming program because he wanted to offer it to others
who also loved agriculture.  He praised the hard work of the
participating Cambodian families and how it meant a lot to him to
be able to offer them this opportunity.

August Schumacher, Jr., former USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture
and one of the founders of the New Entry Sustainable Farming
Project, was, like everyone who know him, tremendously anguished
by this catastrophic event:
   "John Ogonowski's tragic death is a terrible loss to Peggy,
their children and his wonderful parents and to so many in
Massachusetts farming.  He was so committed to helping immigrant
farmers, to assist new immigrants from war torn Asia to make a
better life farming in America.  I just think how ironic it is
that someone who worked so hard to help victims of terrorism
should be brought down by an act of terrorism himself.  He will
be sorely missed".

John was a generous friend and partner to us all - and we will
indeed miss him greatly.

Hugh Joseph, Tufts University

       ------------------------
Tom Kerr
Food Circles Networking Project - Kansas City
University of Missouri Outreach and Extension
2700 E. 18th Street, Suite 240
Kansas City, MO 64127
tel: (816) 482-5888
fax: (816) 482-5880 
www.foodcircles.missouri.edu


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