Carolinas Chapter Board Meeting, March 15, 2008

March 15, 2008

Judy Coker hosted the Carolinas Chapter Board at Cataloochee Ranch located near Maggie Valley, NC was founded by her parents, Tom and Judy Alexander in 1933, that now is jointly owned and operated by Judy.   Cataloochee Ranch features accommodations for 65 guests, including 12 cabins and 12 rooms, delicious home cooked meals, and facilities to host conferences and special events. Cataloochee Ranch offers activities for the entire family, including horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and pack trips on 700 acres that adjoin the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Judy, who was elected to the Board of Directors the fall of 2007, maintains an orchard of over 250 hybrid chestnuts she and other volunteers planted the spring of 2007 under the supervision of Dr. Paul Sisco, Regional Science Coordinator for The American Chestnut Foundation. Judy also serves on the Board of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

With welcomed rain on the way, the Board’s first business was a tour of the orchard at Cataloochee Ranch which Board Member Judy Coker maintains.

The orchard is a BC4 Orchard, consisting of hybrid chestnuts that are the fourth backcross of the American/Chinese parent to pure American chestnuts. Some pure Chinese and pure American chestnuts are planted in the orchard as control trees to be used to compare reactions to chestnut blight when trees are inoculated with the fungus in about four years.

The seedlings at the orchard are protected with plastic mulch from encroachment by weeds and native grasses. An aluminum cylinder inserted into the ground prior to planting the nut wards off voles and other critters that would chew into the bark and roots of the young tree if given the chance. A translucent collar discourages deer from eating the twigs of the seedlings. As the trees grow, fencing will be placed around each tree to provide additional protection.

After the orchard tour, the Board resumed its meeting inside a building at Cataloochee Ranch. Board discussions included a review of 2007 finances and audit report and presentation of a proposed budget for Chapter operations for 2008. Breeding and orchard planting efforts were discussed, including work of Carolinas Chapter members at the Meadowview Research Farm in Virginia. Work that Dr. Joe James and others are doing to develop hybrid chestnut trees resistant to Phytophthora cinnamoni (root rot) disease was reviewed. Tentative plans for the fall 2008 Annual Chapter Membership Meeting were made. Publication of a Spring 2008 Chestnut Mast newsletter was discussed.

Scott Pryor shared with the Board information about the display his grandson prepared and submitted for judging in a science fair. The kindergartener’s display was entitled, “I can make a difference by bringing back chestnut tress to America!!” Pictures showing what is involved in that effort, including him being personally involved, are included in the display. (You can see him helping plant hybrid chestnuts at his grandfather’s farm in an album on this Web page, “Gleanings from the Spring 2005 Planting”. The young boy was awarded second place. He made a big impression on the judges. His family is proud of him and of his interest in helping restore the American chestnut tree.