Crones Cradle Conserve is a 756 acre ecological preserve and education center located in Marion County, thirty-five miles southeast of Gainesville, an area of increasing sprawl and development. Sustainability is the underlying theme of all the Conserve’s endeavors. The Conserve seeks to retain as much as possible the existing flora and fauna in its natural state within Conserve boundaries. Less than 100 acres are being used for human purposes. The ultimate priority of the Conserve is protecting and appreciating the earth before carrying out any of its “people-related” ventures. This approach is the only way to achieve sustainability for farming, for the local community and for the planet, emphasizes Jeri Baldwin, co-founder with Deborah Light of Sag Harbor, New York of the Conserve.
“Even with our emphasis on the land as wildlife refuge and land preserve, we still have several activities here at Crones’ Cradle Conserve which are heavily people oriented.” We do a Community Sponsored Agriculture, spend Saturday morning at a farmer’s market and serve customers here at the farm seven days each week. We also run workshops, conferences and rent the workshop space to groups. We offer eating facilities from one person to 50 people. My vision as manager of the Conserve is to have it be an on-going “demonstration project,” exemplifying how a business can care for the land, create community and connect people with quality food sources and educational materials in a smooth, seamless stream.
The Conserve, a conservation trust to ward off future development, includes a variety of native ecosystems, including wetlands and mature hardwood forests. It also includes areas radically changed by farming and forestry practices. In these areas, Conserve staff has initiated projects focused on wetlands and upland long leaf pine restoration. Land which was drained almost a century ago for agricultural use is undergoing restoration to wetlands. Areas formerly owned by timber companies who planted quick growing slash pine are being reforested with native, long leaf yellow pine. Two sections of the Conserve are designated as wildlife habitat and are off limits to humans so the native habitat can restore itself and the wildlife live in peace.