County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Earth Day Celebrated at Farwell School Forest

Hundreds of trees planted as part of natural forest plan


Cleaver Managing Editor
FARWELL – Farwell Schools celebrated Earth Day almost exactly the way Steve Scoville envisioned last year. Scoville, superintendent of Farwell Schools, quite literally drove the bus for the event. The event was part of the school forest long-term plan, and he also drove the bus bringing third-graders to the event. Even the weather cooperated with a chilly morning that turned into a warm afternoon.
Farwell Schools has been managing its three school forest locations for almost a hundred years. The three locations total 91 acres donated by local businessman and prominent citizen Josiah Littlefield, and the focus of this event was on the Washington Road property. Management of the school forests has been a legacy endeavor that Scoville has embraced.
A lot of progress has been made at the Washington Road location since the Cleaver reported on the school forest project last June. The parking lot is now cleared, and Earth Day activities brought high school students, Farwell third-graders, CTE and Farwell woodshop students, and Farwell Schools staff to plant trees and acorns, and enjoy lunch along with an Earth Day program.
Also in attendance was James Gray of Natural Capital Forestry, LLC. Gray is the author of the 70-page Forest Stewardship Plan for Farwell Schools created in 2019 and made possible by a Michigan DNR Forest Stewardship Program Outreach and Education Projects Grant plus some revenue from harvested trees.
“The biggest thing is we are trying to convert it from a plantation to more of a natural oak forest,” Gray said. “Red pine and white pine are in rows. From back then there was more of an agricultural mindset sort of like ‘Lets maximize our productivity on the landscape’. We are realizing the fruits of that labor [by harvesting and selling those trees] but at the same time especially in a red pine setting, red pine if it doesn’t have fire, it’s not going to regenerate itself, so you are left with a blank slate that is vulnerable to invasives, especially the Autumn Olive shrubs.
“The idea was to utilize that legacy for income but invest the income back in trees that are really happier with this spot; the soils, the climate and what’s here already. We are trying to transition to a diverse mix and a natural forest. Nature doesn’t work in rows.”
Many components of the plan have been integrated into the school curriculum and involve students in Farwell and throughout Clare County through the CTE program. High school students arrived first to begin planting over 700 white oak trees and prepare the trees for the third-graders to plant by taking them out of their growing containers and bagging them up. The oaks were grown from acorns harvested at the site, then grown by CTE agriscience students. Acorns were also collected at the Mangus Center.
“The acorns were started last fall and [students] Tyler Wardwell and Braylee Bower were the oak tree managers,” said CTE teacher Tony Wood. “They made sure they stayed watered and stayed alive throughout the winter.”
Also attending the Earth Day festivities was Jeff Thompson, woodshop teacher at Farwell Schools.
“We will take ten trees for the wood shop each year,” said Thompson. “The white pine in the woodshop is very multicolored. It cuts and sands easy.”
Thompson marked many of the white pines, so they weren’t cut during the clearing of the property over the last year. He has a sawmill, and wood cut from the school forest is used in his high school woodshop class. The projects his students created are extraordinary, and each year there is an auction open to the public to purchase those projects. Visit the Farwell Area Schools Facebook page for auction details.
The noon arrival of over 65 third-graders brought a lot of energy as they lined up to receive their lunch and sit in the meadow created by the pipeline that intersects the 39.6 acres of school forest. Scoville read aloud two children’s books while they ate lunch.
The first was “Trillion Trees Restoring Our Forests by Trusting in Nature” by Fred Pearce and the second was “Because of an Acorn” by Adam and Lola Schaefer. Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower, etc., and Scoville wrote his own version of this story to tell the story of part of the school forest’s recent history. He also presented Acorn Awards to Tony Wood, Craig Clingan, Jeff Thompson, James Gray and me.
Scoville’s story read in part:
“Because of Josiah Littlefield who donated this property to the Farwell Schools we are out here today to enjoy it. Because of Mr. Thompson learning about Littlefield, he has an amazing woodshop program, and he owns his own sawmill, and he helps take lumber and take it to our woodshop to make beautiful things. Because of Mr. Anthony Wood, the agriscience teacher at Clare-Gladwin and he helped grow all the trees we will plant today. Because of Mrs. Kellogg, editor of the Clare County Cleaver. She will help us put up a billboard about the history of Mr. Littlefield and because she wrote an awesome story about our project last year and lots of people learned about it. Because of Mr. Gray, our forester, wrote an amazing book about all the properties and all the trees and it was his idea to that we harvest our own acorns and grow our town trees. Because of Mr. Clingan we will have a disc golf course, he read about our project in Mrs. Kellogg’s article.”
Each student will receive a copy of the Farwell version of “Because of an Acorn” and Scoville encouraged students to add pages of their own to the story.
“I want you to remember which trees you planted today,” added James Gray, addressing the third-graders anxious and ready to plant. “Come back and visit those trees, as you grow up come back and visit those trees. They are your trees.”
In addition to planting trees, the third-graders participated in a treasure hunt that included natural and unnatural features, and they also tried out the disc golf course. Students learned about wetlands and invasive species like the autumn olive. More than 500 trees were planted at the Washington Road property, and the other 200 trees were planted later at the school forest property by the middle school and the Clarabella Road property.
Next up for the Washington Road location is a May 3 pouring of concrete pads for the 18-hole disc golf course. The construction trades class will do the pour under the supervision of local contractor Eric Cotton and A-1 Concrete. In mid-May they will hold a ribbon cutting for the course’s official opening.
The next priority will be installation of a vault toilet. A pole barn also will be erected in the near future for storage, shelter, and for use as an onsite classroom. It will include a kiln for drying wood, as well.
These plans all started years ago with locals like Josiah Littlefield donating the land, followed by decades of educators, superintendents, and school board members caring for the school forests. Now, these Earth Day activities and the school forests’ continued success are all ‘because of Steve Scoville’ and his efforts to find and work with willing partners and drive that bus!

© Clare County Cleaver


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