Annual Chestnut Orchard Work Day Includes Young Volunteers

Anna Berry | November 10, 2022
7th graders from The Well School pose in front of the chestnut orchard sign at Tom Rush Forest.

7th graders from The Well School volunteered to help tend the chestnut trees and measure growth for ongoing research.

A student helps measure a tree.
The chestnut trees are growing so tall that volunteers used calipers to measure growth.

The Forest Society recently wrapped up its annual workday at Tom Rush Forest in Deering. We're grateful to The Well School's 7th graders as well as adult volunteers, who measured and analyzed the data of the growing saplings and helped put the saplings to bed for the winter (including weeding, mulching, and resetting rodent guards). The Well School students were led by science teacher Joslin Bennett.

The Forest Society established the American Chestnut Orchard at the forest in 2019, in partnership with the Vermont–New Hampshire Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation.

"This is the first year we measured diameter (using calipers) of the trees instead of height," said field forester Gabe Roxby. "As we get closer to the year when we will inoculate the trees with chestnut blight to test their resistance, the Chestnut Foundation needs to know the diameter of the trees, since that’s the metric they use to determine if they are large enough to inoculate. The trees are getting tall so it would have been quite difficult to measure height this year!"

Roxby reported that the largest tree was 2.0 inches in diameter, as measured just above the top of the rodent guard (~ 1.5 feet from the ground).  Most of the trees were between 0.5 and 1.3 inches in diameter.  We do not have growth data this year, because last year we measured height.  

The growing chestnut trees at the orchard.

He added: "At the end of our fourth growing season, our orchard has 504 living chestnut trees, which to me is remarkable. Since last year, only eight trees died, but surprisingly four trees marked dead last year sprouted back and were alive this year. A resilient tree species!"

Field Forester Gabe Roxby helps the students understand the research ongoing at the orchard.
  • Visitors are welcome to walk through the orchard and learn more about this ongoing community science project, but please close the gate securely when you leave to keep the deer from eating our trees. The entrance to the Tom Rush Forest is on Gregg Hill Road in Deering, near the Deering Community Church, and the orchard is a short walk up the entrance road.