We’re happy to be hearing from so many folks like you who are interested in planting chestnuts on their property. We’ve received a lot of requests for chestnut seedlings and that’s good news, since it indicates a high level of interest in restoring American chestnut to our forests. But we need to make everyone aware of the status of our program as well as our capacity to involve private landowners in it.
First and foremost, we’re not quite “there” yet in our disease resistance program. Our current and future efforts are experimental and will most likely continue to be so for many years. Neither the Georgia chapter nor our parent organization can guarantee disease resistance in seeds or seedlings we release to landowners like you, and we currently cannot commit to a timeline for that guarantee. That boils down to a strong chance that many trees we have today may not carry sufficient disease resistance, so most likely will not live to become the “mighty giants” all hope and dream about. While we are making great progress, the science of conquering chestnut diseases definitely takes time.
The Georgia chapter has worked with over 200 landowners in projects ranging from small demonstration and/or educational plantings of only a few trees all the way up to large experimental orchards with thousands of trees. Chapter volunteers help landowners get started then turn the project over to the landowner for long-term maintenance and upkeep. We want these partnerships with landowners to be successful but given that we are an all-volunteer organization with limited resources and funding, we are finding the need for a temporary moratorium on the development of new orchard projects so we can make sure our current projects are as successful as they can be.
That said, we certainly do not want to dissuade anyone from learning more about ways to get involved. Here are some things we ask of anyone interested in planting chestnuts on our behalf:
1) You must maintain membership in TACF (when you join the national organization you automatically become a state chapter member). In fact, it’s best to become a member for a few years, volunteer at a few events, and take time to learn more about our program before offering to plant trees on your property. See https://support.acf.org/membership
2) Basic information about your site should be submitted to the GA-TACF Science Coordinator at email@example.com, ideally via the submission of a “Potential Orchard Steward” form that can be provided. This survey lists the types of orchard projects that GA-TACF tries to support, along with expectations about each planting type.
3) A reasonably well designed, long-term orchard stewardship plan should be developed with assistance from the GA-TACF Science Coordinator. If the planting is simply a small demo/educational project, then an informal plan may be developed with our Demo Orchard Manager.
4) If planting hybrid trees emanating from the TACF breeding program, landowners must sign and submit a germplasm agreement to TACF’s Asheville, NC office (also available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org)
Whenever possible, GA-TACF tries to assist landowners with up-front materials, supplies, and seeds or seedlings. Given that we are funded solely by dues and donations, helping defray these start-up costs is another great way to help our chapter. Beyond that, the primary responsibility for long-term orchard maintenance and care must be left to the individual landowner. With no paid staff and small state membership, we do not have the capacity to maintain orchards for landowners.
If you want to plant a few trees on your property please note TACF has a “Seed Level” membership program https://support.acf.org/membership/new-seed-level that provides advanced hybrid seeds to donor members. Also, members are eligible to purchase pure American chestnut seedlings during TACF’s annual sale (see https://support.acf.org/wild-type-american-chestnuts).
Finally, besides planting trees on our behalf, there are many other ways GA-TACF members can help our program, including helping find wild American chestnut trees, collecting scion wood for grafting, assisting with maintenance at already established orchard sites, helping recruit new members, volunteering for community outreach events, etc. While COVID limitations have led to a decrease in large group activities, public outreach/educational/social events and in-person meetings, we very much hope to resume these the future.
Thanks so much for your interest and support in the Georgia chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation.