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MA/RI Chapter Experiencing Growing Partnerships with Educational Institutions

MA/RI Chapter President, Lois Breault-Melican, speaks to forestry students at NCAHS about the American chestnut.

In February 2018 our chapter received an inquiry from Lisa Collins, Environmental Science Teacher at Norfolk County Agricultural High School (NCAHS) asking if her students could work in our orchards as part of her forestry class. We were intrigued and inspired by the thought of participating with another school in an effort to restore the American chestnut tree.

Future site of American chestnut seed orchard at Norfolk County Agricultural High School.

In early spring, four board members of TACF’s MA/RI Chapter met with teachers at the school and had a tour of the grounds and facility. The meeting went well and after much discussion, it appeared that NCAHS would be a potential site for a new seed orchard. It was decided that the next step should be a presentation to the students. On the day we visited Lisa’s class we were impressed with the questions and comments of students and teachers alike. It was apparent that they’re enthusiastic about getting involved with TACF and have the resources to follow through.

Lisa Collins attended our summer quarterly meeting and gave a comprehensive presentation to our board members. We all agreed that this collaboration could be a win/win situation. Lisa and the chapter have already established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and are looking forward to the establishment of an orchard on school grounds. Partnering with educational facilities enables us to reach a large audience of enthusiastic volunteers who could potentially become the leaders of the next generation of our organization.

To date, our collaborations include Smith College – MacLeish Field Station in West Whately, MA, Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton, MA, Tantasqua Junior High School in Fiskdale, MA, and now Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole, MA, which actually enrolls students in more than 70 communities from within and beyond Norfolk County. Our message is being spread far and wide across the generations and as teacher Jesse Greene, who spearheaded the Tantasqua Chestnut Project states, “gives us hope in human ingenuity.”

The winter issue of TACF’s Chestnut magazine will feature an article that elaborates on each institution and how their collaborations have enabled the planting of a research orchard at Tantasqua Junior High School, a seed orchard and forest test planting at MacLeish Field Station, a forest planting on conservation land in the town of Dighton, MA, along with an army of students from Bristol Aggie who have been growing and storing seedlings and nuts in their greenhouse for planting in our seed orchards over the past seven years.