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Planting a better future: Wyoming County starts work on a forest farm

chinese chestnuts fruit grow on tree
lzf/Getty Images/iStockphoto
chinese chestnuts fruit grow on tree

A Tunkhannock farm is planting the seeds for a new forest – grown by a tree species making a comeback across the country.

In the 1930s, a blight called Cryphonectria parasitica ravaged American chestnut trees, decimating the nation’s chestnut forests. However, not all chestnut trees are vulnerable to the disease.

“Chinese chestnuts show really good blight resistance. So, they aren’t as susceptible [to the blight] as the American chestnut.”

That’s Jay Jadick. He and his partner, Jordan Delzell, plan to plant Chinese chestnuts on their farm, Twofold Farm and Studio, this spring. He hopes the trees will diversify the agricultural industry.

“The framing of [the farm’s work] shouldn’t be like, ‘We’re saving the chestnuts,’” Jadick says. “It’s just that we’re trying to like start an alternative agriculture that can coexist [with existing farming techniques].”

Chinese chestnuts have been in Pennsylvania for decades, but Jadick aims to use the blight-resistant tree to foster a new ecosystem: a forest farm. Berries and other shrubs will be planted around the trees in the hopes of creating a network.

“Over time, the system will change because the chestnuts will shade out certain trees and shrubs. So, it will be sort of ever changing on what will be growing with the chestnuts,” says Jadick.

That continuous change of available crops will create a perennial farming system, says Jadick. Most farms harvest annually.

“The perennial agriculture requires less input [from farmers] and it’s over time just more regenerative and better for the environment,” says Jadick.

Besides supporting Jadick’s farm, the chestnut trees benefit the surrounding stream. Chris Faux, Agricultural Conservation Programs Coordinator for the Wyoming County Conservation District, says the project protects the Chesapeake Bay by creating a riparian buffer.

“So, these trees actually suck up a huge amount of that nitrogen and phosphorus, and stop it from going into the stream,” says Faux.

Faux says agricultural runoff can create algae, suffocating aquatic life.

“[Algae] will actually use up all of the oxygen that’s in the water and cause these big dead zones,” Faux says. “And that’s what they had down at the Chesapeake Bay where [there were] these huge dead zones where there wasn’t any fish.”

Planting at Twofold Farm is funded by the Wyoming County Conservation District and county commissioners. 80 percent of funds, $25,000, comes from the district’s Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP), which finances agricultural water conservation projects. The remaining 20 percent, around $6,000, comes from commissioners’ American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.

Isabela Weiss is a storyteller turned reporter from Athens, GA. She is WVIA News's Rural Government Reporter and a Report for America corps member. Weiss lives in Wilkes-Barre with her fabulous cats, Boo and Lorelai.