Rebecca Trigger Tree Farmer of the Year 2020

Greene County, 140 Acres

Rebecca Trigger and son, Mark Foley, 2020 Tree Farmers of the Year, invite you for a guided tour conducted by speakers to view their forestry work on the farm in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The farm is 140 acres with about 100 acres of woodland and 25 acres of pollinator fields in various stages of growth. The tour includes hands on demonstration of tools, techniques and resources to establish and maintain a healthy forest.

The farm was established in the 1880’s when Benjamin Craft was given a land grant for fighting in the Civil War. The barn, cookhouse and main house were built between 1882 and 1891. During that time much of the land had been cleared for pastures for dairy cows and apple orchards. In 1950’s the buildings, fencing, and land began to fall into disrepair and the farm was eventually abandoned. The farm deteriorated significantly. The forest regrowth was a tangled mass of vines, tree of heaven groves, and other invasives. The canopy of the vines were so thick it was difficult to see, much less identify the trees struggling to grow under these conditions.

I purchased the farm in 1994 and I have been renovating the buildings and re-establishing a healthy forest. The buildings do inspire my forestry work because they are inextricably linked by the American Chestnut used for the floors, the enormous hand hewed beams still supporting the barn and the bricks made from the earth on site. It is evidence that a healthy forest and soil is a bountiful resource. And being a good steward of this land, home, and community is meaningful to me as well as the living legacy it provides my descendants.

The “educated” forestry work began in 2014 when I met with the Service Forester, Russell Gibbs. Since then, in partnership with my son (who lives in Rochester, New York and travels to assist me when he can), we have attended the Penn State Forest Steward Program, Game of Logging, joined Southwestern PA Landowners Association and attend Landowners Conferences to learn all we can. As a result we have developed approx. 2.5 miles of access roads, hired a forester to do a Forestry Plan, planted nearly 500 trees (e.g. red oak, white walnut, dogwood, persimmon, hazelnut, witch hazel) with assistance from the local envirothon team, developed a pollinator field with assistance from California University, participated in studies with WVU using biological control (weevils) of mile-a-minute and recently, mason bee hives.

We continue with ongoing thinning of units, releasing of crop trees, and overall maintenance of the trails and units. I have also learned to do things in a way that “works smarter, not harder” for this mostly one-woman farm. The result has yielded an explosion of forest growth and an abundant return of wildlife that is remarkable in this short period of time.

We appreciate all those who we have met and who have taught us so very much. And most of all it is the sharing with others, who love the forest and nature that we enjoy the most.