Shumakers named Cecil Tree Farmers of the Year
— When asked how it felt to be named the 2015 Cecil County Tree Farmers of the Year, Kenneth Shumaker was a man of few words. “We feel honored and proud,” he said. Kenneth and his wife, Susan, found out in December that Tom Frederick, project forester with the Black Hill Ranger Station, had nominated them for the 2015 Maryland Tree Farm of the Year program. Last month, Frederick informed them that while they didn’t win the state honor, they were named the top county operation.
“I think we just felt proud to have been considered at the state level,” Susan said.
Frederick said he wanted to recognize the couple for their accomplishments on their 16acre farm, including impressive reforestation over the last 10 to 15 years. He said the Shumakers also pitched in to clean up downed trees after a severe storm in 2012.
“They have done a very good job on implementing conservation practices on their farm,” he said.
Kenneth said that before they began their efforts in 1996, the couple reached out to multiple outlets, such as the Cecil Soil Conservation District, about how to address soil erosion. They were then referred to Frederick, who advised them on what types of native trees should be planted.
The Shumaker tree farm, which lies between the intersection of the Coppin Creek and Sassafras River in Warwick, began after the couple could not decide what to do with a 5-acre plot of land.
They tried to grow alfalfa and clover, but their crop was an easy target for deer. So they turned to a more hardy product: trees.
At first, they planted 1,000 trees — a mix of black walnut and white oak — in alternat- ing rows, Kenneth said. Those trees cannot be harvested as lumber for another 80 to 100 years. In 2002, they planted 2,000 more trees, consisting of 1,000 black walnut, 500 white oaks and 500 red oak, on an 11-acre plot of land, Kenneth said.
In order to complete the plantings, the couple reached out to many people.
Kenneth said they asked family and friends to help them plant the trees on both occasions. Susan said it like an “assembly line process,” in which every person had their job in the projects.
The primary motivation for their farm has always been to be as environmentally friendly as possible, Kenneth said, noting that the couple consciously wants to reduce their carbon footprint.
In starting the farm, the Shumakers had to clean up quite a bit of trash left over from previous owners. They’ve also cut back invasive plants and weeds, and made access easier to their trees to allow for improved care.
Over the years, the Shumakers have used a variety of strategies to reduce runoff and erosion on their property. Their driveway is permeable stone, which absorbs water, and drop pipe structures help reduce erosion. They built ravine crossings in the farm’s fields, utilizing culverts and drop pipes, to ease runoff and allow passage.
Although not part of the farm, 100 bald cypress trees were also planted to help reduce runoff that flows to nearby tributaries.
While all of the work they’ve done to protect the farm’s land has been successful, the work in growing healthy trees remains. The Shumakers thought the trees would maintain themselves after five years, but that didn’t happen. They spent a lot of time tending to the trees and trying to protect them from deer.
“It’s a job to take care of them, but it’s kind of fulfilling to see them grow,” Kenneth said.