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June 26, 2024

Green Briar Offers Education And Sanctuary To Sandwich


The start of Green Briar Jam Kitchen was spearheaded in 1903 by Ida Putnam, whose laborious efforts proved she was not suited to run a tearoom, but was able to run a beloved jam kitchen. Now, 121 years later, Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen continues producing jam and adding to its rich history as a sanctuary for travelers and locals.

Mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers occupy the day-to-day staff at the Route 6A nature center. The majority of the staff at Green Briar has served in maternal roles, which has influenced the programs they offer. From the wildflower garden tours to the menagerie of local wildlife, Green Briar has specially curated its programs to the interests of children and families.

Green Meadow Forest is an indoor play area with physical representations of Harrison Cady’s illustrations from the Thornton W. Burgess books. The weekly KidSummer program teaches children about local wildlife and natural phenomena. The Menagerie hosts box turtles, bullfrogs, rabbits, doves and a corn snake.

“This isn’t a one-time visit place. Every single time I come here, I have a new experience,” said Janice Donovan, wildflower garden manager.

The jam classes are most popular among visitors, said Joan DiPersio, the head of membership and reception. “It’s something special for the summer people, especially,” Ms. DiPersio said. The jam kitchen is run by Emalee Pierce, who runs the jam-making classes and facilitates much of the jam production.

Most of the staff at Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen are women, including Ms. DiPersio, who has worked at Green Briar for 43 years. She said, “The love of the work, what we’re doing here, and the people I work with” keep her coming back each year. Barbara Knoss and Marje Miller are other valuable members of the team, Ms. DiPersio said.

“It still is a feminine world that we are either put in, or want to be in. To have that support system as moms in the world doing work in a place of service is such a gift,” Ms. Donovan said. “We laugh, and we have the best time.”

The Shirley Cross Wildflower Garden has become a “sanctuary” for people. Many people come by to sit and breathe and then continue on their way, Ms. Donovan said. Maidenhair ferns, foxgloves, irises, and more native plants occupy the garden, and several of its spaces commemorate and honor people who have contributed to Green Briar’s programs and mission.

Shirley Cross’s purpose in curating the wildflower garden was to educate guests about preserving wild space as society became more industrial.

Much of the work that Ms. Donovan does includes making the campus appear as though it has always been filled with wildflowers, mirroring Shirley Cross’s mission.

Ms. Donovan also said her work stresses the importance of allowing green space to coexist with buildings and developed areas. “We can create what was once wild in our backyards. We can reclaim it in little ways.”

Ms. Donovan practices cultivating native wild spaces by leaving the clover in the grass, so that the bees may use it in pollination.

But the green space is not the only part of Green Briar that attracts visitors. The Thornton W. Burgess Society finds its home on the green campus, where the author spent much time as a child and subsequently used it as the setting for many of his books.

“It’s the moral lessons told in child-like terms that make them timeless,” Ms. Donovan said. “You may not remember the stories or the characters’ names, but you remember how it made you feel.”

Maria Green, who runs the Mercantile at Green Briar, said last summer she was greeted by a little boy whose family traveled from New York to find the “smiling pool,” a place that several Thornton Burgess books center on, and was inspired by the pond on Green Briar’s campus.

“The little ones are still reading the books. That’s what catched my heart,” Ms. Green said.

Green Briar hosts speakers series, Wednesday morning garden tours, Saturday playtimes at Green Meadow Forest, morning bird walks, plant sales, a book club and more. The center will also be hosting an event on July 25 to celebrate Thornton Burgess’ 150th birthday.

“Something happens when you turn off 6A and come in here,” Ms. Donovan said. “Our goal is that everyone leaves having had a positive experience.”