Last week our Vice President of Marketing, Morgan Lamphere, took a tour of the tree farm that was started at Berry College several years ago.

“The idea for the tree farm came in 2011 when Berry was hit by a massive tornado,” said Nick Hopper, Associate Director for Plant Operations at Berry College. “More than 1500 trees were lost in that storm.”

The College worked with a local tree company to purchase new trees and replenish the beautiful and historic trees that were lost in that storm. Hopper worked closely with Chris Hughes, one of the area’s top tree experts. Chris and some others included students at Berry to develop the “Tree Team.” These students gather seedlings and nuts throughout the campus and work with Chris and his team to propagate new trees from cuttings of historic trees. They are currently working on propagating trees from an award-winning Japanese Maple tree from Oak Hill’s campus and other historic trees from all around Berry’s campus.

Now Berry has more than 1500 trees that were planted from this program – achieving the goal of replacing the trees that were lost in that storm. The trees start in a small shed behind Plant Operations, where they are grown from acorns and seeds that students collect from campus. “It is difficult to know what type of stock the tree will be when you grow it from seed,” said Hughes. “Our best luck happens from a cutting that we can propagate.”

What’s Next?

The next stage of growing takes place on a 3-acre tree farm across from the Welcome Center, protected by an 8-foot fence.

“I’m very proud this fencing and the farm was all done in-house,” said Mitch Davis, Head of all Grounds at Berry College. Mitch and his team worked to create a fence that is deer-proof and rabbit-proof. In addition, they added heavy stone around the fence to protect the area from cattle that are close by in the pastures.

The tree farm is currently growing several species of trees that will be planted on the campus of The Spires at Berry College. The student tree team has been diligently watering and caring for the trees, many of which will be ready to harvest in the summer of 2020, when the community will be opening.

The species vary from hardy maple trees to American elm. With the heavy deer population that is on Berry’s campus and The Spires campus, developing measures to keep the trees healthy will be very important. “We’ve found many ways to keep the trees protected from deer,” said Hughues, “And once the tree is at least 8 inches in diameter it is less of a problem.”

Nick Hopper is excited about the idea that the trees that students grew in the tree farm will be used on the campus at The Spires. “Trees are a big part of our history dating back to when Martha Berry started this campus,” said Hopper. “The fact that students plant these trees knowing they won’t necessarily see them mature is a great lesson to them.”

Hopefully many of the students will return to the campus at Berry and to The Spires campus to see the fruits of their labor.