On February 27, a group of students from Eastern Mennonite High School braved wintery conditions to plant 220 seedlings of the American chestnut tree.
"We had forecasts of inclement weather, which included up to an inch of freezing rain and ice. It created a lot of challenges to our planting plans," said Loren Hostetter a volunteer with the American Chestnut Cooperator's Foundation (ACCF) who coordinated the planting. "However, we had a group of very energetic and determined students who would not be denied the chance to participate!"
The planting was funded in part through a grant from JoinTrees, a campaign launched last fall by Mennonite Men, the men's organization of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, to plant one million trees by the year 2030. While some individuals and organizations have funded their own tree planting initiatives as part of JoinTrees, this is the first planting funded by a grant from JoinTrees.
"This first project with Mennonite Men funding was especially exciting as it was part of an important work of restoring the American Chestnut," said Steve Thomas. "With this we are not simply planting any tree, but a keystone species in the ecology of God's creation in eastern hardwood forests."
The planting is part of a larger initiative of ACCF to reintroduce the American chestnut, a native species once the dominant tree in the Appalachian range, after it became functionally extinct from the American chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) in the 1920-1940s.
Although the group's goal had been to plant 300 seedlings, they needed to limit it to 220 seedlings because of weather conditions and restrictions on how many people could participate in the planting due to Covid. Hostetter said that they plan on concluding the planting in September when they will have more favorable weather.
To find out more information about the JoinTrees campaign, visit mennonitemen.org/jointrees. If you, your congregation, or your organization would like to support JoinTrees or get involved, please contact Mennonite Men at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo courtesy of Loren Hostetter