Planting time in Port Republic

Chris Anderson presses dirt around a sapling she planted on a farm near Port Republic on Friday, March, 27.

Photos and story by Mike Tripp, contributor

Over about 20 years, Chris Anderson has planted thousands of trees. Last Friday, she added a few more to that total on a farm near Port Republic.

“Oh, I’ve got a beautiful farm with a lot of different slope aspects,” she says. “And gorgeous soil, incredible soil, really deep, rich loamy soil with a lot of earthworms.”

Anderson uses a whetstone to sharpen the edge of her hoedad.

Anderson, of Luray, plants trees for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, a conservation program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Benefits of the buffers include a stable income source for landowners (through government payments); erosion and flood control; lower disease rates for livestock; improved habitat for wildlife; and healthier rivers.

Native saplings, ready for planting.

The trees and shrubs planted through the CREP program must be native to the area.

“[CREP] works with landowners to pick the species that the landowner wants, and that will do well in the different areas that are being planted,” Anderson said.

“It used to be about 110 trees per acre, but now it’s about 300 per acre,” she continued, “because the agencies realized that quicker canopy cover is better for water quality.”

Anderson continues her planting, moving from spot to spot with shovel, hoedad (a planting tool) and bag filled with assorted saplings.

Normally the hoedad opens a hole big enough for a young tree or shrub. But for those with slightly larger or even monster-sized roots? … That’s what the shovel is for.

Anderson breaks up the soil around a just-planted sapling.

“I really like planting trees, says Anderson. “It’s hard work, but it’s very it’s meditative.”

“You get into a rhythm of planting, and it’s outside. It’s always by water and on beyond beautiful farms in this valley,” she continues. “And the benefits to water quality and to wildlife are immeasurable.”

Patting the soil firmly around a swamp white oak sapling, Anderson looks up with a final thought.

“Even if a person plants just one native oak tree, it makes a difference.”

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