By Connor Lynch
NAPANEE — Napanee-area tree farmer Gale Rogers wants kids to get back out into the great outdoors and is willing to put his green where his mouth is.
Rogers is donating 15 acres of his 67-acre property to the township of Greater Napanee for the town to use as a public space.
The farm started out as a project for his kids to experience nature and learn some responsibility. Originally a 2.5 acre parcel along the Napanee River, it also started with strawberries that his four children took care of and sold at roadside stands.
Rogers got the chance to buy a 67-acre parcel a few years later. He rented the agricultural portion to a neighbouring dairy farmer to grow crops on, and turned the forest into a Christmas tree farm.
The most labour intensive portion of growing Christmas trees is around the two-year mark. To give the trees their characteristic shape, they have to be pruned. The growth of the tree, called the candle, has to be fully extended, but not brittle. Best done in June, it’s a slow process, with the early morning providing only a few hours when conditions are right, often taking multiple days.
But Rogers realized that just growing Christmas trees in one area was essentially a monoculture, no different than corn on corn or soybeans on soybeans. So, he started interseeding other trees, eventually ending up with his own manmade forest.
His family and friends have made use of the land for cross-country skiing and hiking. He’s hoping that come the spring, his neighbours can too.