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Ohio Growers’ Workshop

TACF Ohio board member, Joe Reardon, passionately describes why TACF's mission is so important to restoring the health of our eastern woodlands. Photo by Greg Chopko

Sara Fitzsimmons shows the group a tree shelter to use when planting the pure American seeds they received at the workshop. Photo by Greg Chopko

On April 7, a snowy Saturday in northeastern Ohio, TACF’s Ohio Chapter hosted a Chestnut Growers’ Workshop at the Trumbull County Ohio State University (OSU) Extension Office along the shores of Mosquito Creek Lake in Cortland, Ohio. There was a full house of about seventy attendees, in addition to TACF presenters. The workshop was proposed and organized by OH Chapter member, Greg Chopko, who made the welcoming remarks. Joe Reardon, also with the OH Chapter, set the stage with a PowerPoint presentation about the American chestnut story. TACF’s director of restoration, Sara Fitzsimmons, challenged Ohio chestnut enthusiasts to find, identify, and conserve existing American chestnut trees still hanging on in the wilds of their own state. Sara explained how a diverse mix of genetic material is required to ensure the long-term success of TACF’s mission, and that many more samples are needed from Ohio in particular.

Greg Miller demonstrates chestnut root development using a Chinese chestnut. Photo by Greg Chopko

The meat of the workshop was provided by TACF Board member and former founding president of the OH Chapter, Greg Miller, owner of Empire Chestnut Company in Carrollton, Ohio. As someone who has been intimately involved with chestnuts nearly his entire adult life, both as researcher and as entrepreneur, Greg has fresh dirt under his fingernails to attest to his accumulated wisdom regarding all things chestnut, from collecting the seeds and germinating them to managing them in groves or in the wild. He provided a wide variety of seeds and seedlings in various stages of growth for an attentive audience to handle and observe. Following the formal presentation, Greg and Sara were nailed down for an extended period with numerous questions from the appreciative and enthusiastic attendees.