Article by James Gage
The Swann Farm Back-Cross Chestnut Orchard is a cooperative partnership between the Northern Connecticut Land Trust and the American Chestnut Foundation.
On two beautiful Saturdays in April (April 21 and 28) a total of 20 enthusiastic volunteers met at the Northern Connecticut Land Trust’s Swann Farm in Ellington, CT. This hardworking group prepared and planted 233 chestnuts and erected 1,100 feet of 7 foot high deer fence to establish a breeding orchard for blight-resistant American chestnuts.
The one and a half acre orchard includes 188 nuts from a mother tree in Stafford, CT pollinated with pollen from The American Chestnut Foundation’s CH283 tree, a third backcross to American that carries blight-resistant genes. Also planted were 45 chestnuts from other sources to be used as controls in measuring blight resistance.
The orchard can be seen on the South side of Reeves Road, approximately ¼ mile west of the Ellington/Somers Town line.
Special thanks to the Norcross Wildlife Foundation for a grant for fencing materials, to Conrad-Fafard Inc. and W.H. Milikowski Inc. who donated and delivered a generous supply of peat moss, to the Bartlett Tree Experts who last summer provided a bucket truck and operator for the controlled pollination of the Stafford mother tree, and to our volunteers from Connecticut Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation and the Northern Connecticut Land Trust who contributed a total of 160 hours of their weekend time. These organizations and volunteers made this orchard possible.
The photo above shows some of the many volunteers. From left to right: Scott Johnson-Yasufuku, Jerry Stage, Richard Bailey, Gayle Kida, Paul Lagel, Mike Dziadzio, Jim Gage, Margaret Steinbugler, and Gayle Manning. Other volunteers not pictured included Jesse Amsel, Mike Bilheimer, John David, Albert Grant, Leslie Grant, Alexis Kuchel, Wendy Leard, Doug Metivier, Joe O’Brien, Ginny Patsun, Martin Smith, and John Wraight. Photographer unknown [click on photo to see larger version]
The photo above shows the “pre-bagging” of the Stafford tree (courtesy of Bartlett Tree Experts). This tree has resisted every effort to kill it over the past years including damage by brush crews and snow plows. It’s those genes providing the foundation for our Orchard. This was just one of three visits total Bartlett Tree Experts donated to the Foundation’s cause. We are truly indebted to Bartlett Tree Experts for their generosity and expertise. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Husking and measuring the nuts produced by the Stafford Tree. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Preparing the soil for planting. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Laying out the deer exclosure fence. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Demo nut planting. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Planting the Stafford back-cross nuts. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Swann Farm planting looking south. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]
Swann Farm planting looking north. Photographer Gayle Kida [click on photo to see larger version]