Shu­mak­ers named Ce­cil Tree Farm­ers of the Year

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By BRI­ANNA SHEA



— 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.

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