I first met Gene Proch in 1995. We were both volunteering on an effort to bring an International Countryside Stewardship Exchange team to the Spring Creek Watershed to gather new ideas and stimulate local momentum for watershed-based planning for our community's treasured natural resource. Gene was an environmental manager for the local Corning-Asahi manufacturing plant, and I was fresh out of college in my first job as a planner for the Centre Region Planning Agency.
He would go on to serve on the Board of Directors of ClearWater Conservancy, and I would become ClearWater's Executive Director. But about this time, Gene took an early retirement as Corning closed their State College facility, and with his wife Natalie got a gig working at Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery. I didn't know this at the time--and maybe they didn't either--but their experience at Mount Nittany would eventually lead to a brand new family winery established by "Jinx", as he was now known, Natalie, and their son Jeffrey. In 2016 the University Wine Company was born.
Since their early days at the Mount Nittany winery, the Prochs hoped to talk the owners into doing a special label project to benefit ClearWater Conservancy, but nothing ever came of the idea.
Now that they had their own winery, it really was no surprise to me when Jinx approached me at ClearWater's annual meeting last November with the resurrected idea for a special label project. The surprise--and delight--came when he asked me if I would be interested in creating the image to grace the inaugural label of their Impact Artist Series to give back to their local community.
With the enthusiastic support of ClearWater's new Executive Director and the Board of Directors, we collaborated to support the conservancy's newly launched Slab Cabin Run conservation initiative.
I agreed to create a pastel that captured the spirit and energy of Slab Cabin Run, an important tributary to Spring Creek, and the Proch family offered to donate $3 from the sale of each bottle of their Slab Cabin Run Red and Slab Cabin Run White wines to this effort to protect our region's drinking water at its source, restore the health of a degraded section of Slab Cabin Run, and preserve the appealing agricultural character of this part of the watershed just beyond the southern edge of growth of the State College community.
As it turns out, one of my favorite places in the Spring Creek Watershed can be found on the boardwalk of the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. From the Thompson Run bridge, you can see where Slab Cabin Run joins with Thompson Run and the waters from Bathgate Springs, just upstream of their junction with the main stem of Spring Creek. "Confluence" is the title of the pastel painting that I created to capture the beauty of the stream, the fragility of the water resource, and yet also the resilience of the ecosystem from the stream's emerging headwaters on Tussey Mountain near Pine Grove Mills, through farm fields and urban development, to its confluence with other Spring Creek tributaries in the wetland jewel of our watershed community, Millbrook Marsh.
University Wine Company's Slab Cabin Run Red and Slab Cabin Run White wines officially debuted at ClearWater's Art & Chocolate Winter Gala on February 10, 2017. My original pastel, beautifully matted and framed by the State College Framing Company & Gallery, was also the star of the event's live auction. I am honored to report that my pastel package raised more than $1,200 for the Slab Cabin Run initiative! Thank you to each of the bidders but especially to wine maker, Jeffrey Proch who apparently wasn't leaving without the original in his hands.
As is true with all fundraising, every little bit helps. But the work is far from done. ClearWater still needs to raise about half of the $2.75 million it will take to conserve 300 acres of the Meyer and Everhart farms in the Slab Cabin Run watershed. The project will result in the Meyer Dairy Partnership owning both farms and ClearWater Conservancy holding conservation easements on both farms permanently.
Protecting our most valuable resource, our water supply, is the smart thing to do not only for us, but for future generations. Please join ClearWater Conservancy in this effort by making your tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!
I am a loving, joyful, passionate woman | pastel painter | conservationist | fundraiser | Penn State alum | Bellefotian - class of '89 | loving wife of Chris | "mommy" to cats Hammie and Moe | with a wonderfully supportive Mom and Dad | a talented brother and sister-in-law | two amazing nieces | and an ever-expanding circle of beautiful family and friends.