On Thursday, July 13, we welcomed a group of XploreUSA students to our Community Farm for a workday in the Shortleaf Pine reforestation area. The teen volunteers consisted of international exchange students along with some of their American host siblings. XploreUSA is a day camp which offers several language classes, fun activities, and meaningful weekly volunteer projects. The volunteer projects for this day included thinning of non-native invasive plant species and seeding Kentucky 31 Fescue grass and perennial flowers.
Upon arrival, SAHC’s Community Farm & Food Associate Chris Link discussed the history of the 103-acre farm with the group. The students listened contentedly while reading over the informational signs at the head of the trail. After obtaining a general overview of what goes on at the Community Farm, students filled their water bottles and hit the Discovery Trail.
Chris took time to stop and teach the group about specific farm operations. Students from Spain were delighted to learn that the Pineywoods Cattle on our farm are of Spanish origin. The animal-lovers were excited to pet, feed, and take pictures of the goats. Young agriculturalists peered into the greenhouses curiously observing the crops being grown by our Headwaters Market Garden incubator farmers.
Once the group finally reached the Shortleaf Pine reforestation project area, Chris demonstrated the procedure for thinning out the sapling Virginia Pines (Pinus virginiana) from the area, leaving only the Shortleaf Pines (Pinus echinata) to flourish. “You’re going to use these loppers to cut them at the base,” he explained. The group watched and quickly picked up the technique. The large group then split up, with half opting to cut the Virginia Pine saplings, and the other half hiking up to a higher area to spread grass and flower seed.
Despite the beaming sun, the group worked hard and had fun, too. Sights of rabbits, squirrels, and turkeys were especially exciting for some of the international students who were unfamiliar with WNC wildlife.
After a couple hours out in the field, Chris led the students and camp leaders back to their vans to reflect on a great volunteer day before seeing them off to their next adventure. Thanks to XploreUSA for donating their time to support and engage with our Community Farm work!
SAHC’s City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy intern, Fisayo Bashorun, interviewed student volunteers about their experience on the Community Farm.