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Karl's Column - If you were a tree

by Carolyn Binder

How many of you knew instantly that the next line following this title went something like, “What kind of a tree would you be?”  It just could be that I do not keep my mind busy enough on serious things, because occasionally a perfectly nonsensical thing like that will come charging in, unbidden, prompted in this case by consideration of the Editor’s Note on the inside cover of a Michigan State University AgBioResearch publication. Editor Holly Whetstone in that “note” is telling us of one of her rare excursions out of the office, even off campus.

She spent two days with MSU AgBioResearch farm manager Greg Kowalewski, who guided her and a television producer through several MSU forestry research facilities in southwestern Michigan.  I would have locked in on Greg’s name, even had it not been in bold print, as I remember working with him in his job then, as the Forester at Kellogg Forest

His name in the article prompted me to read further, and to do some further research, and all in all, spend a profitable few minutes loading useful information about trees into my mind and memory.  I knew, as most of us in Southwestern Michigan do, about the Kellogg complex, including Kellogg Forest.  I also knew about, having visited the Fred Russ Forest in Cass County. Two more facilities, the Rose Dell Seed Orchard in Calhoun County, focusing on hardwood forest management, and MacCready Reserve, South of Jackson, dealing with hardwood management, and red pine forest management were new things to me.  As I said, I did a little digging on my own, and, as is usually the case, I’m glad I did.  For example, I was reminded of a wonderful experience from our having moved to our second farm, way back when I was in Junior High School.  That farmyard including a huge old chestnut tree.  Not horse chestnut, but sweet chestnuts.  But, that tree was nearly dead yielding a few prickly handfuls of nuts, before the well-documented chestnut blight finished the job.  Well, Editor Holly Whetstone, somewhat willingly she says, was persuaded to make a quick, unscheduled visit to another of Greg Kowalewski’s charges, the Rogers Reserve, also south of Jackson.  The Reserve was once the farm owned by Ernie Rogers who had left his native Pennsylvania where the Chestnut Blight had killed off those trees there.  Moving to Jackson, Michigan, he found a professor working on the American Chestnut.  Rogers offered his farm as a chestnut planting site.

The latest information I have tells us Michigan has more sweet chestnut growers than any other state, and those growers are working on the most chestnut acres of any other state.

With that bit of knowledge, I should think any of us who want to, can celebrate the next Christmas season with our very own Michigan Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.....