Kentucky Kicks Off TACF’s 40th Anniversary Chapter Celebrations

On Saturday, August 26, the Kentucky Chapter held a special annual meeting in Berea. This year, in addition to the usual chapter business, a fun and informative 40th anniversary event took place, which included talks from TACF staff and KY Chapter members, a viewing of the documentary Clear Day Thunder: Rescuing the American Chestnut, a walk in the woods to view small American chestnut trees, and a silent auction and cash raffle. More than 40 people attended this successful event.

Table display with information about The American Chestnut Foundation

Display table at KY Chapter 40th anniversary event

TACF’s Director of Science Jared Westbrook spoke about Darling 58 updates and the future of the transgenic program. He also shared data about the true phylogeny of the Castanea genus and eight distinct hybridization events, revealing that various chestnut species have been naturally inter-bred throughout time, or in Jared’s words, “We don’t need to care about purity more than the trees do.”

Mid-Atlantic Regional Science Coordinator Cassie Stark also spoke about current findings in the Chapter’s orchards at Eastern Kentucky University and with the Kentucky National Guard, as well as broader ideas for how to move forward, particularly considering growing evidence of the presence of Phytophthora root rot. The engaged audience of volunteers and members alike asked thoughtful questions about prospective approaches. The meeting successfully fostered an atmosphere of inquiry and collaboration.

After a delicious lunch catered by KY Chapter member Patti Darnell, afternoon presentations were shared by Chapter member Lt. Colonel Dave Jackson and KY Board Member Anne Bobigian,. They covered topics such as the management of a hybrid American chestnut orchard at the Harold L. Disney Training Center, in partnership with the KY Chapter and the KY National Guard, and an overview of the Chapter’s data management.

Throughout the meeting, a silent auction took place in which attendees could view and bid on chestnut woodworks provided by Dr. Albert Spencer. KY Board Member Dr. Jennifer Koslow, announced the winners. The auction brought in more than $600 for the Chapter. Dr. Michael Hagan won the cash raffle for the second year in a row and generously donated his winnings back to the Chapter.  

Attendees listening to a speaker at the KY Chapter Event

Following the speakers, a smaller group participated in an optional hike to Berea College’s large in situ germplasm conservation orchard of wild-type American chestnuts. The hike, led by forester and KY Board Member Clint Patterson and assistant forester Glenn Dandeneau, took participants to a few sandstone ridges at 1,500 feet elevation where they could view the trees. The two explained how they have been thinning low-value red maples and sourwoods across several acres in this concentration of wild American chestnuts. Thinning permits better growth of the oak overstory while also allowing light into the understory of American chestnuts, which helps facilitate their growth.

Group of hikers in Berea Forest

Clint Patterson with hikers at wild American chestnut orchard in Berea College Forest. Photo Credit: Ken Darnell

Many thanks to all who attended this event!