An unfolding story, made possible with the vision and support of many, including camp staff Jonathan Fridley and Amy Huser.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. – Chinese proverb
. . . and the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations. – Revelation 22:2
A number of years ago we entered into a land trade with a neighbor to the north of Camp Friedenswald. In exchange for a portion of land off Union Road (near Round Lake), Camp Friedenswald received 37 acres of land adjacent to Main Camp, just north of the Allan Hill campsite. The trade opened up possibilities, including the chance to steward more of the rare prairie fen habitat, home to the federally endangered Mitchell's satyr butterfly. We hoped that having more direct access would help us to better steward the land, reduce the flow of chemicals into the wetland, and hopefully increase the butterfly's chance of survival.
While one portion of the land is wetland and other is forest, approximately 17 acres of land has been conventionally farmed for decades. In acquiring this land, we knew there was something more that needed to be done – something that would align with our values of sustainability and stewardship and our commitment to the work of repair. After dreaming about possibilities, we decided to transition most of the land from conventional farmland to forest, enrolling the land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), with the goal of increasing habitat for wildlife. Camp will receive financial support for this transition for the next fifteen years.
We are excited to partner with Mennonite Men in their JoinTrees campaign to plant one million trees by the year 2030 by planting 9,000 trees on this land next spring (2023). This initiative targets climate change by increasing tree and forest cover with the goals to help (1) mitigate global warming, (2) promote climate justice, and (3) sustain biodiversity.
Photo captions: (Top) A "before" photo taken in fall 2022 of the farmland that is to be converted to forest. (Bottom) In spring 2022, volunteers from Assembly Mennonite Church (Goshen, IN) assisted with planting 50 trees across Camp. Next spring 9,000 trees will be added to that count.
The trees will consist of a variety of oak, hickory, cherry, and walnut trees, among others, and will be planted with the help of experienced foresters and a few of our own staff. In time, this new forest will aid in sequestering carbon, providing habitat for wildlife and contributing to the overall resilience and health of the natural communities in this area. Someday, campers might even walk under its canopy.
If the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, and the second best time is today, we hope that the third best time will be the spring of 2023. And with each of the 9,000 trees planted, we pour our prayers for the leaves that have yet to unfurl. May the leaves of the trees be for the healing of the nations.
If you, your congregation, or an organization you're part of are interested in learning more about the JoinTrees campaign contact Steve Thomas at SteveT@mennonitemen.org or visit mennonitemen.org/jointrees