A small group of volunteers representing Maryland & Virginia, Turkey Hill Dairy and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay gathered on a gray November day with one common mission - to plant trees on a dairy farm. I’ll admit that when I arrived and saw fifteen people or so, I doubted how we’d be successful in planting 400 trees in a day.
The farmer and two of his young children greeted us and showed us to the planting area. Ryan Davis, Forests Program Manager for the Alliance, gave us a quick lesson on how to plant the seedlings and the reasons behind our work. Our task that day was to create a riparian barrier, a stretch of land on either side of a waterway that is planted with a combination of trees and shrubs to reduce erosion and runoff into the stream.
The Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership (THCWP) funded the project. The Partnership was developed to help farmers meet conservation goals. Many farms have struggled due to years of low milk prices and that tends to leave strategic conservation planning low on the priority scale. Having a program like the THCWP brings technical and financial support to farmers supplying Turkey Hill Dairy, and now I’m part of the boots on the ground team that’s executing this conservation plan.
Field representatives Becca Bush, Dave Kleintop and Bob Cooksey spent the day working hard, along with Janae Klingler and Hannah Walmer from Maryland & Virginia’s Animal Care and Sustainability team. Shoulder-to-shoulder with Turkey Hill and Alliance volunteer, we kept our heads down and moved along our planting path. One group dug small holes for the seedlings. Another team planted, while a third set stakes and protective barriers. Ryan explained all the materials were reused over and over and that our day’s work would look much different in a year; expecting the plants to be growing out over the tops of the four-foot high protective tubes. The covers keep the cows and other grazers from eating the new plants and allow them some protection while they get established.
Taking a welcome break, we ate pizza in the harvested cornfield and with renewed energy, we finished putting all 400 seedlings in the ground. Late in the afternoon, one of the dairy cows had a tantrum and nearly toppled the Port-a-Potty which was happily not occupied. That was the only dramatic moment of the incredibly organized and executed event. I was proud to get the chance to be out on farm and to make some small contribution to one of our members.
Learning about the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership has made me much more aware of how farmers contribute to conservation. I live in northern Virginia which is very congested area. Working on this project has motivated me to find ways to be more sensitive to how I might implement small changes to reduce my carbon footprint. It is the small changes that add up to make a huge impact. That was us, a little group planting for the next generation and supporting a member in the process.
We encourage everyone on this Giving Tuesday to consider the small ways in which we can contribute that collectively will make a big difference. Visit our partner, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, to learn how you can support our joint conservation efforts.
View from the Field written by: Rebecca Churchill, Communications Specialist