Erica came to Maine in 2004, chasing visions of Winslow Homer’s winter ocean. She landed in Belfast, where what was intended to be a temporary gig at the Belfast Co-op blossomed into 16 years of work in the Maine food system, including 10 years of service at Maine Farmland Trust. She’s excited to bring a mixed skillset in collaborative leadership, facilitation, program development, and data analysis to support the work of RJP Maine. A Montana girl at heart, Erica originally came out east to attend the College of the Holy Cross, where she discovered a passion for social justice and community development. She feels fortunate to care for a small, off-grid homestead in Searsport, where she and her husband, Scott, are cultivating abundant food and joy.
Get To Know Erica
by RJP Maine Knox County Volunteer, By Molly Mulhern
“We’ve forgotten how to be in community,” states Erica Buswell as we near the end of our zoom interview. She was reflecting on the retraining that she sees us all going through as we relearn what has always been a primal instinct- “taking care of each another.” Wise words from RJP Maine’s newest team member, who started with the organization the week after Thanksgiving.
Erica’s official title is Knox County Community Justice Coordinator, a new position designed to weave together RJP Maine’s work in prevention, intervention, diversion, and reentry in one geographic support location- Knox County. Erica comes to RJP Maine most recently from Maine Farmland Trust, where she was VP of Programs. Working in the areas of food sovereignty is not such a far leap to the work she hopes to do for RJP Maine; both are united by a thread and strong belief in the power of communities and their individuals to creatively work out “what will be best for them.”
Erica’s beliefs have been informed and influenced by several years as a volunteer for Wabanaki Reach, her formal education in Religious Studies (“Liberation Theology”), studies in Zen Buddhism, years living off the grid, much literary exploration, as well as training as a facilitator. When I spoke with her in her Searsport office, she recounted how last spring she felt a need to take some time without paid work to explore how she could best bring her gifts and passions to her community. Her months of reflection included reading, gardening, obtaining a certificate in data analysis, and deep listening. What emerged was a notion that her next career chapter would involve restoration. She wanted to find work that would strengthen community, create transformation through relationship building and thus bring about deep impact. And as she was coming to these understandings, RJP Maine began its search for the Community Justice Coordinator. This new position and her interests aligned perfectly; social justice has always been a strong thread in her interests. Erica remarked, “It feels good to get back to some roots.”
Erica credits Winslow Homer, or rather his art, on the walls of the Worcester Art Museum (home of Holy Cross, where she attended college) with instilling a curiosity about seeing and living in Maine. As she wound down a cross country road trip Erica asked herself, “the winter ocean, I wonder what that looks like?” and she headed East to find out.
With her home off the grid in Searsport, and a new office eventually in Rockland, we hope Erica will have many happy opportunities to ponder that ocean, in all its seasons.