A tree-mendous effort
Armed with a baseball cap full of home grown apples, Richard Rodewald let members of the Douglas County Conservation Roundtable see and taste the fruits of his labors at his farm south of Eudora.
But Rodewald doesn't expect to harvest this crop anytime soon. The pride and joy of his farm are rows of walnut, oak and a sundry of other trees he planted through the Conservation Reserve Program.
"In 60 years from now, this will be 25 trees per acre," Rodewald said. "That's a lot of cash."
The trees total 8,700 on 23.5 acres. Many of them were planted a decade ago with the help of neighbors.
"We got them all placed in two days with no break for lunch," Rodewald said. "We just kept relieving each other."
The Forest Service awarded Rodewald with the 2001 Kansas Landowner Forest Stewardship Award for the Northeast No. 1 District. The conservation roundtable members on a tour of area farms Aug. 30 parked their pickups on the gravel road running perpendicular to Rodewald's meticulously straight rows of trees. As they walked around munching on apples from Rodewald's trees not part of the CRP program, the visitors examined leaves and branches.
Some of the trees are native to the area, meaning Rodewald scours existing trees on his property for seeds for his seed bed where he grows his own saplings. But the CRP program has certain requirements for him, too.
"I had to plant a few of those oddball ones for the birds," he said.
Yet deer pose the greatest threat to his trees.
"The bucks come in the fall and horn them," Rodewald said. "In the spring, they eat the buds off them. You've got to fight the deer and the squirrels."
The rows require constant attention. Rodewald mows and keeps down the weeds around the trees to lessen the chance of severe damage from a spreading wildfire, which can cause its own problems.
"You can't tell a little oak from a weed, and you end up spraying them," he said.
Working with the weeds around the trees has caused Rodewald to develop allergies he never had before working with the trees. Coughing as he drove his pickup truck, Rodewald pointed out not only the trees he's planted, but also the areas of the land with historical significance. His family has been in the area since his great-great grandfather's time. Unlike the majority of the state, covered with prairie grass, this area of Kansas, Rodewald said, was heavily occupied by hardwood trees like the ones he's planted.
Rodewald understands the intricacies of planting trees. He explained to his visitors that some of his trees grow better in particular areas than in others.
Knowing what goes where, keeping the Ys out of the trees and managing the weeds require an amount of work Rodewald said he couldn't estimate.
"I spend more time than if I would have planted corn," he said.