The Foraging Forest
The Foraging Forest is a native plant restoration project funded by the Simcha Rudolph Charitable Trust and is in Partnership with the Sourland Conservancy, Mercer County Park Commission and D&R Greenway.
The Foraging Forest is a unique restoration project that brings together habitat restoration and community engagement in an innovative and creative way. Restoration projects are often thought of as being important only for plants and animals, but we don’t usually include humans as those who benefit from doing restoration projects. Restoration projects are important for everyone. Areas that are restored are beneficial for all beings that live on this land. From pollinators, soil microbes, birds and humans.
We are building community through education and participation. This restoration project has engaged the public to participate from its inception, to create a sense of ownership throughout the community. We are working with our partners to develop a recipe that will allow the public to take the information they learned from participating in the evolution of the Foraging Forest and from visiting The Foraging Forest, to implement their own native edible restoration project at home.
The Foraging Forest will be a community space in the outdoors, a place where people can learn about habitat restoration, native edibles, or perhaps, a moment of serenity in Simcha’s Corner.
Our Spring 2019 REACH intern, Keana Werlen, wrote a wonderful cookbook about cooking with native edible plants as her capstone project. She researched recipes, spoke with foragers and tested the recipes in order to create a true forest to fork cookbook! The cookbook recipes showcase some of the native edibles that will be in the Foraging Forest. Download her cookbook here!
The Foraging Forest is currently in the beginning stages of restoration.
The first stage was to remove the invasive plant species in the restoration site. This is a standard practice done in almost all restoration areas. Removal of invasives is important in order to give the native plants a chance to become established and then thrive. There will be continued intermittent treatments to remove invasive plants during the restoration project.
The second stage is to protect the plants from deer herbivory by installing a deer exclusion fence around the Foraging Forest.
The third stage is prepare the site for planting, which may include planting a cover crop and laying woodchips down for pathways throughout the Foraging Forest.
The fourth stage is installing the native plants in the Foraging Forest.
The fifth and final stage is to maintain the Foraging Forest by maintaining native plants and regular removal of invasive plants until the native plants have become established.
American Chestnut Restoration Project in the Sourlands
“Bringing Back the American Chestnut.” The tragic history of this iconic tree, which once dominated Eastern forests but was virtually wiped out by an imported blight that first appeared in the early 1900s.
The challenges and varied strategies of the greater effort to help propel the tree over what researchers have called “the cusp of extinction” and to re-establish it in the North American forest.
Three organizations have partnered to introduce blight-resistant chestnuts to parks and preserves in the Sourland Mountain region. Currently, the partners are planning two planting projects: St. Michael’s Farm Preserve and Hopewell Borough Park.
At St. Michael’s Farm Preserve, volunteers will plant American chestnut hybrids.
Volunteers will also plant American Chestnut hybrids in Hopewell Borough Park as part of a larger Foraging Forest project. In addition to chestnuts, the Sourland Conservancy and Mercer County Park Commission will create an educational space where visitors can learn about a variety of edible native plants through hikes and interpretive signage. This project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Simcha Rudolph Charitable Trust.
The Sourland Conservancy hosted “American Roots: a musical celebration of the American chestnut on October 12, 2018. This fundraiser was held in the Antique Barn at Cashel – a privately owned, beautifully restored barn on a working farm in Hillsborough Township, NJ.
The Sourland Conservancy would like to thank our project partners, D&R Greenway Land Trust, Mercer County Park Commission and The American Chestnut Foundation, for helping to restore the American chestnut to public parks and preserves in the Sourland Mountain region of central New Jersey.