Matthews State Forest Planting, Grayson County, VA

TACF’s Eric Jenkins working alongside VA Chapter volunteers

Do you know what a landscape fabric spreading machine looks like? I didn’t, until the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDF) lent one to the VA-TACF Chapter on December 7 and 8. This machine helped greatly as volunteers planted 678 hybrid chestnut seedlings at Matthews State Forest in Grayson County, VA. In addition to the landscape fabric spreading machine, VDF lent us the land, a tractor, and help from capable forester/longtime chestnut enthusiast Zach Olinger. Zach was onsite to supervise us and lead the project with Tom Saielli, TACF Mid-Atlantic Regional Science Coordinator.

Twenty-six volunteers from Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and North Carolina were recruited by VA Chapter President John Scrivani to plant these seedlings. The seedlings contribute to a study comparing first-year blight resistance of trees grown in a greenhouse vs. in the field. We hope these data will enable faster selection for blight resistance.

“I’m so grateful for our amazing members, volunteers, and staff that showed up for this project,” says Saielli. “We took a really big job and turned it into something easy and fun, albeit still challenging. Getting lots of good help is the difference between a successful, challenging project that leaves everyone satisfied and a tough project that burns people out. In this case, we had it.”

VA Chapter volunteers planting at Matthews State Forest

A landscape fabric spreading machine is a tractor attachment with a giant spool of fabric mounted on the back, framed by wheels that help push the fabric into the ground. Other things we learned on this trip included “do not eat scalding hot pickle fries too fast,” a takeaway from the first night’s after-planting social at Creek Bottom Brewery.

In 2022, we hope to continue spreading awareness and love for the American chestnut even more capably than we can now spread landscape fabric with a dedicated machine for that purpose. We remain grateful to Judge Jack M. Matthews, the public servant and conservationist who bequeathed the Matthews State Forest to VDF for chestnut restoration prior to his passing in 2002.

Thank you also to the MD-TACF Chapter for growing the seedlings at the Baltimore Agriculture Center and conducting early screening via small stem assay. Finally, thanks to TACF’s Meadowview Research Farms staff for bringing their expertise, equipment, and skills to the planting.

VA Chapter volunteer Anna smiles for a selfie in front of the planting area

Anna Sproul-Latimer, VA-TACF Chapter Member