In January, Pete McLean helped lead a new event with Hilltown Land Trust called “Birds and Books.” Participants got the chance to view rare ornithology and natural history publications focused on New England and Western Massachusetts, then go outside and experience the Bullitt Reservation through the lens of a natural history writer. Our Community Engagement Coordinator sat down with Pete recently to learn more about his passion for birding and what he does when he isn’t leading events with us.
Pete grew up in the Midwest, and his interest in birding began at home, where his father would identify the birds that visited their backyard. When he went off to college in Pennsylvania to study sociology and environmental studies, he made friends with a classmate who was a leader in the birding community. Pete’s admiration for his friend’s expertise inspired Pete to take an ornithology class and begin birding. His appreciation for birds deepened after graduation when he accepted a job in Belize, where he became fascinated by the different species that he encountered there. His self-directed study eventually led to a job with the Audubon Society at Constitution Marsh in Cold Spring, NY.
While still in Belize, Pete also began working as a farmer, a career path that led him back to Ohio and Pennsylvania, and eventually to New England. He came to Massachusetts to work at Brookfield Farm in Amherst, where he learned all about vegetable farming. At Brookfield, he combined his love of birds with his love of food and farming by starting the Birds & Breakfast program. Running this program helped Pete identify another of his passions: bringing strangers together and getting them to interact over a shared interest.
After a few years at Brookfield, he co-founded Book & Plow Farm at Amherst College, which provides fresh produce for the college’s dining services and offers students the opportunity to learn about farming. He quickly became a beloved member of the Amherst College community, and continued to host the Birds & Breakfast program at his new workplace.
In 2014, Pete badly hurt his back while working on the farm. This injury forced him to reexamine his beliefs about himself and his work. Pete decided to leave farming and start his own business as an educator and coach/consultant, who helps people ranging from individuals to business owners to sports teams gain clarity into how to achieve their goals. He also has brought his love of birding into his new venture, by offering avian assessments for land owners. In a bird assessment, Pete will walk a property with the owner and discuss the bird populations that live on or visit the land, and what they can tell us about the health of the land.
Throughout Pete’s life and work, he has had the same overarching goal. He sincerely wants to deepen people’s connections: to land, to food, to birds, and to each other.
If you are interested in learning more about Pete and what he can do for you or your organization, send him an email at peter.p.mclean <at> gmail <dot> com.
Interested in leading an event in your area of expertise with Hilltown Land Trust? Send an email to our Community Engagement Coordinator at hltoutreach <at> thetrustees <dot> org.