If a blizzard with inches of snow had blown through the Valley or a hurricane with flood conditions had closed roads, Karin Slawinski and the volunteers with the Oakbrook Church, Stewards of Creation from Reston, Virginia would have said enthusiastically “no problem- we want to plant trees, so we will be there at 9:00 as planned”. It would not have mattered what weather conditions occurred, these folks were determined!
About 30 members of the Stewards of Creation donned rain gear and wielded shovels to install bare-root tree seedlings next to a tributary of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River at the EMJ Farm, sister property to the White House Farm. They were joined by Bobby Whitescarver and his equally enthusiastic students from James Madison University and a busload of dedicated students from Flint Hill School.
Fueled by donuts brought by Wayne Showalter, the volunteers worked diligently through the morning, planting a mixture of native trees and shrubs in the rich topsoil. The day went well with Alston Horn from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation handing out swamp white oak, river birch and bald cypress for the wetter bottomland areas and Northern red oak, chestnut oak and persimmon for the better drained upland sections.
Through a program offered by the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, in conjunction with the National Resources Conservation Service, landowners can receive cost share funds to fence cattle out of waterways, install concrete stream crossings and put in alternative watering systems, among other conservation practices.
“Good luck Tiffany,” some of the students loved their little seedlings so much they began naming them. The students were invited to come back to the farm in a few years to visit Tiffany again and see how much she had grown.
The recent planting is part of a holistic restoration plan the Plein family has for the historic EMJ Farm in Luray. The goal is to improve water quality in Massanutten Creek (now known as Big Run) and the tributary, stabilize the soil and eventually lower the water temperature in the creeks by allowing the trees and their overhanging branches to provide shade which benefits aquatic life. These native trees and shrubs will provide habitat for wildlife by creating cover and food for caterpillars, birds and mammals. The cattle on the farm are on a rotational grazing system allowing the pastures to regenerate quickly and retain more nutrition and cover crops are planted in the winter to improve soil health.
We really appreciate the work of the volunteers – 48 total – who continued to plant enthusiastically throughout the day and got a tremendous amount of work done – in all, planting more than 250 trees!