Horn Farm Happenings – August 18, 2023

Planting Seeds of Resilience

Read the latest installment of the Horn Farm Ecosystem blog!

“What would happen if, instead of planting individual trees, we approximated a forest? What if success hinged not on human tending but on trees tending, urging, and animating each other?”

Since 2018, mini-forests following the Miyawaki method have been taking shape at the Horn Farm Center. Today, over a dozen plots across our restoration landscape are flourishing with 30+ native canopy, understory, and shrub species, reviving biodiversity at an extraordinary pace.

So what is the Miyawaki method? How has it informed alternative approaches to ecosystem renewal at the Horn Farm? And why is it so promising as a process for restoring biodiversity while reawakening our sense of place on the landscape?

The latest installment of the Horn Farm Ecosystem blog series digs deep into the Miyawaki method, tracing its origins, necessity, process, and outcomes while inviting you to experience the “big tiny” forests we’re bringing to life!

Get Your Free Ticket to Pawpaw Fest!

Tickets are now on sale for the 2023 York County Pawpaw Festival, held on September 23rd and 24th at the Horn Farm Center!

So how do you get a free ticket? Sign up to volunteer! From admission to activities to parking and pawpaw purchases, we’re seeking volunteer support to help make our celebration of York County’s wild and uncommon a success!

As a volunteer, you’ll benefit from free admission to BOTH festival days, lunch, and a goodie bag. FULL DAY volunteers will also enjoy PRIORITY ACCESS to purchase pawpaws before doors open to regular attendees!

Consider joining our volunteer team to help us enhance this truly local and unique experience!

The 2023 Pawpaw Festival is presented by the Horn Farm Center and Explore York.

Sign up to volunteer

The Horn Farm Board of Directors volunteer to serve as the governing body of the organization. They establish the mission and purpose, ensure adequate resources, and provide oversight.

Horn Farm Center is seeking new board members for 2024, especially those with a background in finance, accounting, law, technology, or fundraising.

The major responsibilities of  board members include:

  • Establish and advise leadership
  • Oversee governance policies of the organization-not the day-to-day operations
  • Provide financial management including adoption and oversight of the annual budget
  • Promote the organization to external audiences
  • Conduct fundraising and outreach
Board members serve three year terms and should expect to attend meetings which are held on the third Monday of every month at 6pm. The time commitment is 1-3 hours per month. For more information and to express your interest, email our Executive Director at executivedirector@hornfarmcenter.org

What Homesteading Skills Do You Want to Learn?

From 2013-2016, Horn Farm Center hosted a popular educational program called Homestead Education Day. This day-long event included demonstrations, talks, and workshops focused on teaching common and forgotten homesteading skills.

In celebration of our 20th Anniversary next year, we are hosting a “throwback” Homestead Education Day on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

As we prepare to revitalize this program, we want to hear from you!

Let us know what homesteading skills you would like to learn at the 2024 Homestead Education Day by filling out the survey linked below.

Click here to take the survey.

Sponsor Highlight: 7group

7group is a long-time supporter of the Horn Farm Center! From Give Local York and Pawpaw Festival to our facilities and rebuilding efforts, 7group has been a partner in accomplishing our mission. This year, 7group is ensuring that you can explore regenerative programming at Horn Farm Center by sponsoring the York County Pawpaw Festival!

7group began more than 20 years ago to help to change how American builders, designers, architects, and owners understood the built environment as sustainable. When they worked on creating the U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification program, they knew that it was the first step towards true sustainability, but not the last.

Together with their clients and colleagues, 7group has been imagining a different way to understand how humans, their built environment, and the natural world around us all live and breathe with each other.

Learning the Language of Plants

How do plants communicate with us? What can we gather about their nutritional, medicinal, and ecological values through observing shapes, scents, tastes, and more?

Discover the secret language of plants through intuitive observation during a day-long workshop led by special guest instructor and herbalist, Alyssa Dennis of Eclipta Herbal.

As a way to fully engage the topic of plant language, we will focus on Goldenrod, which grows in abundance at Horn Farm. After exploring the plant’s ideal habitat and growth cycle, we will harvest and prepare a Goldenrod herbal tincture for each participant to bring home.

Dig deep into the multi-sensory wisdom of plant language with a day of foraging, medicinal tincture-making, and hands-on learning!

Join us on September 16th from 10AM- 5PM for Plant Language: Kin-centric Ecology within Herbalism at the Horn Farm Center.

Fall Container Gardening for Pollinators

Did you know migratory birds and butterflies fly 100+ miles per day? Making that journey requires a lot of fuel and stamina! But what can we do to ensure that our avian and insect friends get to their destination safely?

Join Pollinator Steward, Heather Andrews, at the Horn Farm Center to learn about the migrating creatures and how we can create our own sun or shade planting this fall to help them sustain their long flights.

Learn how to create a pollinator garden using just 3 plants for sun or shade that will be attractive to migratory butterflies or hummingbirds. We will create 2 demonstration pots- and you will select plants to take home to create your own!

Join us on September 9th at 10-11:30am for Fall Container Gardening for Pollinators with Pollinator Steward Heather Andrews at the Horn Farm Center.

The Horn Farm Ecosystem: Miyawaki

Planting Seeds of Resilience:

The Miyawaki Method

Planting Seeds of Resilience is the fourth installment of the Horn Farm Ecosystem blog series. Through monthly articles, we’ll walk the land in writing: visiting the forests, regenerative fields, and ecological action sites of the Horn Farm Center to explain our stewardship work, uplift nature, and inspire love for the land. Read past installments by scrolling down our blog page.


native to this valley, will spread over it

like a grove, and memory will grow

into legend, legend into song, song

into sacrament. The abundance of this place,

the songs of its people and its birds,

will be health and wisdom and indwelling

light. This is no paradisal dream.”

Wendell Berry (from Work Song: A Vision, 1977)

They’re unassuming from a distance. Nestled among the familiar marks of land restoration and farm activities, these plots of vegetation don’t necessarily command attention to the untrained eye. Beyond missing them completely, a new visitor might gloss them over as fallow edges or, how dare we!, would-be agricultural plots in wild disrepair. Whatever the impression may be, there is no ready clue to the wandering onlooker that what they’re seeing is actually extraordinary.

Step closer, however, and curiosity begins to spin.

Your eyes dart up, down, around, and into an impossibly dense cluster of flora, frenetically dappled and dizzying. Ablaze in summer green or tangled tawny in winter, every inch is taken up: branches and stems colliding with leaves of kaleidoscopic shapes and sizes, cascading upward and downward at once. The wind flicks and this sea of vegetation expands and contracts in unison, somehow luxurious and chaotic, like a single organism revealing to you their nested layers of complexity.

It’s a grand experience to have while standing on a modest mowed path surrounded by farmland and the noise of passing traffic. Somehow in spite of this, visiting these plots evokes the feeling of standing in a towering, boundless forest, abuzz from floor to canopy. Their greatest departure from this bucolic setting lies not in biological richness, as you might expect. They’re simply … compact.

The mesmerizing embrace of a century’s old woodland: condensed to the length of a fallen tree and the width of a deer’s leap. At the time this blog was published, the tallest trees grace 15, 20 feet–but you can easily imagine them shooting upward rapidly in a rebuke to time’s slow churn. So yes–somehow, the young, fresh, miniature community you’re touring is so recognizably a forest. Less than five years old, and already beckoning the scurries, buzzes, and wingbeats of diverse wildlife, as if time has accelerated and you’re peering into a wild future contained in ~20’ by ~8’.

Present and future are mingling in this big tiny forest–one of dozens that are taking shape across the Horn Farm Center.

Five years ago, Woodland Steward Wilson Alvarez began an experiment with students in the Woodland Steward Training Program–the predecessor of the Horn Farm Center’s current Land Steward Training Program. The prompt was straightforward: plant a ton of trees and shrubs in a little bit of space–little, as far as tree plantings are concerned. The site for this experiment was selected for its utility: paralleling the relentless highway that slices by the Horn Farm (Rt. 30 for our sympathizing community readers), these plants would create a border against noise, road pollutants, and an unsavory view. If, of course, the high-density, high-diversity approach would take. Counteracting the management recommendations of conventional riparian buffer planting, this experiment shelved the tree tubes and mower-centric spacing in favor of a new catalog of ideas. What would happen if, instead of planting individual trees, we approximated a forest? What if success hinged not on human tending but on trees tending, urging, and animating each other?

Four short years later, nestled among the familiar marks of landscape restoration and farm activities at the Horn Farm, this planting has transformed an exposed highway-side border into just what our stewards envisioned: a wall of forest, teeming with beauty and biodiversity that surpasses its simple protective function. Wilson was betting on a method he had stumbled upon while studying approaches to wildland renewal on degraded landscapes–a method employed worldwide but only just gaining traction in the United States–and it worked superbly. This was the Miyawaki Method for forest building. Since helping us keep a highway at bay, it has become a staple of expanding land stewardship actions at the Horn Farm Center.

The Miyawaki Method: Origins, Urgency, & Promise

Dr. Akira Miyawaki, the Japanese botanist and ecologist who originated the Miyawaki method, arrived at his revolutionary approach to building forests from a similar tension: seeing a human-made problem, and envisioning how trees might provide the solution.

The Japan of Miyawaki’s pre-World War II childhood was changing drastically. Rapid economic growth in the wake of the war resulted in levels of pollution and deforestation unseen in the country’s history. Amid this march of environmental degradation,1 he took notice of how native forests were well equipped–often better than human infrastructure–for withstanding the natural disasters afflicting Japan during this time period. In particular, he noticed how natural forest resilience averted further human tragedy time and time again, giving an emotional edge to a scientific question.

Stirred by this conviction that age-old forests provided both direct and indirect security to the human communities around them, and pairing this with the world-scale disfigurement of forests amid rampant industrialization, he devised a method that, in many ways, was already millions of years into its own devising.

To recoup forest health in a scalable way, Miyawaki took inspiration from the forests themselves.

What we call the Miyawaki Method is really a modified short-cut of the forest’s method for becoming a forest: recreating the conditions for the most mature community of plants in a natural forest to develop, but doing so at a rate that matches the pace of their collapse—fast.

Arriving at this method was far from fast. A key influence in Miyawaki’s method came with spending ample time among the sacred forests of Shinto shrines. Shinto is an Indigenous Japanese religion that, like many Indigenous animist spiritualities, recognizes the divine in the natural world. From this reverence, worshippers have taken care to cultivate and protect biodiversity around religious sites, creating sacred pocket forests called Chinju no mori. The richness of these centuries-old forests is based on the tending of vegetation most suited to the conditions of a particular place. While biologically sound, this is at its core a spiritual approach: Shinto holds that nature’s health is based not simply in the presence of life, but in the presence of the members of a natural community resident to a specific place. Over time, this management ethic generated pristinely layered and heterogenous forests, where small space made no small work of diversity. The key, Miyawaki observed, was verticality; he saw these forests as “time capsules, showing how indigenous forest was layered together from four categories of native plantings: main tree species, subspecies, shrubs, and ground-covering herbs.” Overall, the treasured forests of Shinto care infused their wisdom into Miyawaki’s approach, from the selection of species to the emphasis on vertical space to the conviction that small areas could still serve as repositories for diversity and resilience.

A Shinto temple and its companion forest (Honshu Island, Japan).

Over time, Miyawaki honed his approach to build a capital M “Method” that incorporated that additional consideration absent from the Shinto guidebook: urgency. In the Miyawaki Method, forests move from a counterpart to spiritual practice to a counterbalance against environmental damage. Working with government ministries, cities, schools, and industrial companies, he oversaw the planting of hundreds of “environmental protection forests” on exposed tracts that were otherwise considered negligible. You could say that the Shinto conception of a human space wrapped in a forest’s embrace was infusing its way into secular modern life.

Miyawaki’s work in Japan quickly leaped into mainland Asia, and he became a spokesperson for his method globally. Insisting on forested landscapes as countermeasures to all scales of human overreach–from pollution to climate change–his method casts attention to the narrow, the little, the forest-less, and the seemingly infertile. How could these degraded spaces be reawakened to a point where they resemble the functions of our shrinking and threatened existing forests?

“It was human activity that turned much of the world’s land into an unproductive semi-desert, and it must be human efforts that restore at least some of this area.”

– Akira Miyawaki

Miyawaki in North America: From the Ground Up

It should be clear now that the adjectives associated with Miyawaki’s approach to landscape restoration encapsulate an urgency for the work: rapid, dense, diverse, and resilient. Words like these took the method global, but it’s only just beginning to take root–literally–in eastern North America. The Horn Farm Center has planted away at the cutting edge of that rooting, taking up the method to address both immediate concerns and a legacy of deforestation that has scarred the Mid-Atlantic region. For context, a brief hike is in order: to survey the recent history of forestlands in the eastern US.

It’s well understood that prior to European colonization, much of the east was covered in forests. These included forested lands independent of human influence and thoughtfully-stewarded forest-mosaic landscapes favoring the edible, medicinal, and infrastructural species that Indigenous peoples relied on. As settlers encroached and imposed their version of production, swaths of forest were cleared like never before, and the characteristic species and ecological relationships of the region–refined over thousands of years–began to unravel. A 2013 article comparing pre- and post-colonization forests in the northeast traces this drama concisely:

“For more than 10,000 years native people cleared modest areas along waterways and seasonal settlements and managed some upland areas through sporadic understory burning. Even so, the region was overwhelmingly forested and chiefly governed by non-anthropogenic disturbances and successional dynamics until around 1650, when two centuries of logging and agricultural clearing were initiated that removed more than half of the forest cover and cut over almost all of the rest. Outside of the far north and rugged mountainous regions, the northeast became a predominantly humanized agrarian landscape.”

By 1900, Pennsylvania in particular had lost more than 60% of its forests to agriculture, logging, and industries like iron production–the remnants of which remain scattered throughout our Lower Susquehanna region. Once dominated by forests so thick “it seems almost as if the sun had never shown on the ground since the creation” (1743)2, a landscape that was biologically and climatologically primed for bold, diverse forests was quickly supplanted by monocrops and moonscapes. It was, of course, the humidity, density, and complexity of dynamic forests and their shifting waterways (did somebody say beavers?) that built the arable soils so desired by settlers; but with the soil-building process undermined by intensive agriculture, soils depleted, erosion spread, and the seed bank of the past dwindled.

Example of a clearcut in Pennsylvania, taken before 1920.

As populations concentrated and the American “breadbasket” shifted to the Midwest, agricultural expansion plateaued and a process of natural reforestation in abandoned areas began. This, alongside state remediation efforts and updates in logging policy, did contribute to a “rebound” in forest quantity during the 20th century, but as we can see today, many challenges remain.

Namely, the land is missing most of the ingredients that built the dynamic, productive, mosaic ecosystems of the past.

The legacies of the last 300 years have compacted, eroded, and denuded soils; confined and contaminated waterways; extinguished or extirpated ecosystem engineers like beavers, wolves, and passenger pigeons; introduced novel species that are highly adaptable to unfamiliar conditions; and diminished our own sense of place in relationship with the landscape: tenders, gatherers, and fire-makers partaking generatively in ecological world-building. Human activities have even disoriented the carbon cycle, with climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions exceeding the rate at which natural systems like forests can recoup carbon from the atmosphere.3 It’s enough to induce a feeling of grim paralysis, but returning to the point: while we’ve certainly made strides in addressing ecological impairments through our households, industries, and communities, the full recovery of wild spaces stands against these odds. Any regenerating forest in the northeast is growing on a radically altered foundation, absent many of its ancient counterparts, strained by ongoing development, and under a rapidly changing climate.

All told, the Miyawaki method surfaces as a compelling addition to the toolbox for recovering dynamic, productive, and resilient northeastern forests. Designed for (modern) human-impacted landscapes and driven by the urgency of stacked environmental crises, it’s especially equipped for the situation we find ourselves. The services that forests provided are needed now more than ever, from protecting water quality to providing cooler microclimates, to diversifying food and material sources, and calling carbon back to the land to make climate change manageable. A way forward that expedites the revival of these services is evident, we believe, in Miyawaki’s east-coast debut at the Horn Farm.

Wilson standing in the Horn Farm Center’s first Miyawaki planting, December 2020.

Planting a Miyawaki: In Praise of Chaotic Biomimicry

Since Wilson’s initial experiment on the highway’s edge, the Horn Farm Center has undertaken the planting of over a dozen Miyawaki plots across our restoration landscape. This is the highest concentration of Miyawaki-inspired plantings in the east, with the 2018-2019 installations being the first of their kind on this side of the continent. The work of pioneering the Miyawaki method for eastern temperate forests has brought, collectively, 38 native species to our recovering landscape, as well as countless birds, insects, beneficial soil bacteria, fungi, and other beings that would not have found refuge when the land was conventionally farmed.

As mentioned earlier, the Miyawaki method is less about growing individual trees and more about approximating a mature, biodiverse forest in a short period of time. It’s an extension of a broader restoration concept called “biomimicry,” or imitating the structures, strategies, and relationships found in nature to aid in its recovery and solve human design challenges. So how does Miyawaki biomimic? And how does it move impaired land to a dynamic forest state so rapidly?

As winter transitions to spring and the prime time for tree planting approaches, the Horn Farm Center hosts classes led by Wilson that dig deep into the process for establishing a Miyawaki forest. A written summary cannot do any class justice, but some of the essentials are covered below, and “digging deep” is the step one:

Deep Soil Preparation

Just as a house requires a sturdy foundation, a forest requires stable soil. In a natural system, soil is built over time by decomposing layers of vegetation and organic materials. With each stage of ecological succession–or the movement of natural landscapes from initial “pioneer” species to forest species–the soil conditions are improved. Most agricultural and developed landscapes degrade soils by keeping natural elements “locked” in an idle or liminal state, thereby excluding the processes by which materials and nutrients cycle through the land and build living soils. These landscapes are also mowed, plowed, sanitized, and bereft of deep-rooting vegetation, exposing vulnerable topsoil to erosion while compacting the ground to the detriment of potential vegetation.

Landscapes like this are not prepared for forests, which grow out of the improved soils of previous successional stages. Therefore, in planting a Miyawaki mini-forest, we need to manually improve soil conditions to make the plot conducive to the mid- and late-successional forest species we are going to introduce. Practices for priming soil include decompaction by “double-digging” and aerating, the addition of organic matter like leaf mulch and compost, and inoculation with fungal mycelium typical of forest soils. It’s worth noting that Miyawaki stewards avoid undoing these improvements by not stepping on prepared soil areas–an experience strangely reminiscent of the “floor is lava” game. Together, these practices enable air flow, improve water retention, nurture the soil biotic community, and grant the return of regular nutrient cycling that sustains soil over time without artificial inputs.

Volunteers piling compost for amending soils in soon-to-be Miyawaki plots (winter 2020).
Volunteers double-digging and leaf-layering to prime soon-to-be Miyawaki plots (winter 2020).

Potential Natural Vegetation

“Potential Natural Vegetation” (PNV) describes “the hypothetical ecological potential of a piece of land” or “theoretical endpoint of succession.” In practice, it constitutes the overstory, understory, shrub, and herbaceous species that would characterize a mature natural space unaffected by human impacts. PNV is usually the outcome of natural succession, whereby hardy (“weedy”) pioneer species create the conditions conducive for perennial grass and shrublands, which create the conditions conducive for early forests, which transform overtime to mature layered forests. The Miyawaki method bypasses this time-intensive process for a similar result, favoring the community of species most appropriate for the environment when it reaches its “climax” state.

This high-diversity assortment collectively improves more soil, retains more water, and inhales more carbon than the modest plot size might suggest, thanks to variations at both the terrestrial and subterranean levels: staggered heights, root depths, shading/sunlight preferences, growth habits, and ecological roles. The inherent diversity of PNV also boosts resilience against disease and disturbance, with plants better equipped to exchange resources, and no single genetic vulnerability dominating the space. For the Horn Farm’s eastern temperate plantings, PNVs include overstory trees like oaks, hickories, and sycamores, understory trees like eastern redbud and dogwood, and shrubs like buttonbush, elderberry, and viburnums.

Graphic comparing natural forest succession with the Miyawaki method, created by Education & Communications Intern Mel Beans.

High Density, High Randomization

“In natural forests, fertilization is done by the wind or by wandering pollinators […] It is a total random disorder. This Chaos model is an optimized system. This tactic is the best protection from windstorms, powerful floods or even heavy snowfall.”

Indeed, the Miyawaki method embraces the game of chance that governs forest dynamics. This means relinquishing the human impulse to control or design. Once determined, species are interspersed arbitrarily, and at a seemingly precarious density: 18 to 24” apart. 4000 sq feet, in this case, can accommodate 1500 trees: the outcome of the Horn Farm Center’s 2020 volunteer plantings. Density like this bucks the cultural notion of cutthroat competition defining ecological relationships, which is a dangerous misreading of Darwin to say the least. High density planting actually stimulates the dance of mutual and competitive interactions found in forests: urging plants upward while fostering cooperative exchanges below ground, aided by the mycelium added during soil preparation. It also maximizes the presence of roots with which beneficial soil microorganisms develop their own symbiotic relationships. What appears to be a paradox–a coexistence of cooperation and competition–yields upwards of 90% survival in Miyawaki plantings.

Now, there are a few recommendations to placate a desire for order, and these help to ensure randomization doesn’t inadvertently compromise diversity. For one, the species categories represented in a given Miyawaki plot–those being canopy trees, understory trees, and shrubs–can be mathematically parsed out into different proportions depending on planting goals that might accompany landscape renewal, like creating bird habitat, a food forest, riparian cover, etc. Plantings can also be divided between “major” and “minor” species representations, with 5-7 species chosen for 50% of the whole and a large amount of alternative species set aside for the other 50%.

Volunteers closely spacing seedlings in a prepared soil bed (spring 2021)
Volunteers planting randomized seedlings in a prepared soil bed (spring 2021)

STUN: Sheer, Total, Utter Neglect

Over the history of the Earth, most forests became forests without human intervention. Being forest-adjacent, a Miyawaki plot is no different. That brings up another human impulse to stem during the process of mothering a Miyawaki: the desire to tend to its growth with watering, weeding, fertilization, etc. Weeding in the first year in areas prone to encroachment from prolific species is one exception, but otherwise, barring unexpected circumstances, the longevity of a plot is best achieved when it’s left to fend for itself. Trees watered too routinely become dependent on a consistent watering cycle, which isn’t reflective of the natural world, especially one undergoing climate change. After potential weeding in the first and second years, a third-year Miyawaki plot is usually self-sufficient and self-sustaining: filled out by trees helping themselves and nudging each other through a marriage of cooperation and competition. Part of the joy in the Miyawaki method is casual visitation, to watch maturity unfold in a digestible time frame–ten times faster than conventional restoration tree plantings.

Woodland Steward Wilson and Farm Manager Andrew surveying the Horn Farm’s first Miyawaki plot in the summer of 2020.

Rewilding & Reintegration: Spreading the Miyawaki Seed

The smallness of a Miyawaki planting is its greatest strength. While the scale of ecological wrongs to be righted is unutterably daunting, stepping foot on a path straddled by two Miyawaki mini-forests–surpassing ten feet in just two growing seasons–is enough to temper the despair and recognize that seeds, small as they may be, are solutions. If allowed, Miyawaki plots will cast themselves outward from their nuclear origins. The seeds and pollen they produce as they mature will grow forth from those confines where humans gave them life, moved by birds, insects, wind and rain, and ourselves. New sprouts will volunteer in the nearby landscape, just as new ideas will take root in backyards, schoolyards, farmyards, and those other once-forested lands left barren by a myopic vision of progress. Planting a Miyawaki forest gives nature its missing pieces while piecing together our own sense of place on the land, as we re-learn what it needs to grow, thrive, and give immeasurably on and on:

“Mini-forests are where we touch life. We explore our place, discover what is native, restore our soil, nurture a small ecosystem that restores life. Watching a mini-forest grow several feet a year, watching it become more complex and beautiful in front our eyes, knowing that it has a direct impact on the biosphere and atmosphere—these relationships feed us. They feed our longing to make a difference, our need to connect to what is regenerative and act. Facts do not change our minds. Actions change our minds. As we get involved with the acts of regeneration […] our sense of self and what is possible transforms. A mini-forest of ideas and hope is born within us as well.”

– Paul Hawken, “Forward” in Mini-Forest Revolution: Using the Miyawaki Method to Rapidly Rewild the World (2022)

1) Deforestation worldwide is an ongoing crisis. Between 1990 and 2015 the world lost 129 million hectares of [forests], which equals “two Texases.” Deforestation is responsible for an estimated 5 billion tons, or 17 percent, of annual global carbon emissions, not to mention soil erosion and biodiversity loss.

2) Journaled by John Bartram while traveling up the Susquehanna River in 1743

3) With an estimated loss of 270 kilohectares (khas), or 667,184 acres, of forest cover between 2001 and 2022, Pennsylvania emitted the equivalent of 94.6 megatons (Mt) of the greenhouse gas CO2 from deforestation alone. 1Mt is roughly equivalent to a space filling a cube 27 feet tall, wide, and long (imagine a cube made of telephone poles), so that much carbon fills a three-dimensional space of about 2,554 feet–about half a mile tall, wide, and long. The importance of these regional numbers is underwritten by their concurrence nationally and internationally.

About the Authors:

Andrew Leahy

Growing up in the foothills of Ricketts Glen State Park, Andrew spent his early life in the embrace of Northeastern PA forests, sowing the seeds for his ongoing enchantment with the natural world and its stewardship. While studying English and Music Composition at Muhlenberg College, he gravitated toward nonprofit engagement as a work study student in the college’s Office of Community Engagement. Now, at the Horn Farm Center, Andrew manages social media, develops educational programs, coordinates volunteer events, and collaborates on marketing projects, large events, and organizational capacity-building. Through all of this, he is a dedicated student of the land, with a life’s mission of learning (and providing spaces for others to learn) about bioregional ecology, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, foraging, and locally-focused ways of living in reciprocal relationship with nature.

Mel Beans

Mel is a rising junior at Franklin & Marshall College pursuing a B.A. in environmental studies and public policy. After taking an environmental justice course and diving into research on “forever chemicals,” she realized that she wanted to pursue a career that actively acknowledges and addresses the ways in which the environment is deeply interconnected with and integral to our wellbeing. She jumped on the opportunity to intern at Horn Farm Center, seeing how our mission aligns with her passions and career goals. As the Education & Communications Intern, she’s grateful to contribute to HFC’s essential role in demonstrating not only sustainable, but regenerative and resilient agriculture by assisting with research and outreach. In her free time, she enjoys being with friends and family and in nature, thrifting, listening to music, and watching video essays. On campus, she is a house advisor and the president of Catastrophic Relief Alliance, an F&M organization that addresses housing needs locally and nationally, especially in the wake of natural disasters.

Horn Farm Happenings – August 7, 2023

Telling the Story of Horn Farm

The Horn Farm is a mosaic of stories, going back centuries to present day. The history of this place is as complex and meaningful as the work that occurs on the land today.Providing a comprehensive picture of our story isn’t easy, especially since the Horn Farm Center is many things to many people. From community gardeners, renting farmers, and CSA members to our program participants, volunteers, and event attendees, each individual who engages with the Farm writes their own narrative in our community storybook.

Complimenting our human perspective is the land itself. Each field, woodland, meadow, and pathway of the Horn Farm’s 186-acre property tells a story of what was, what is, and what will be. So much has changed over time but the land paints the clearest picture of what’s been accomplished and what work still needs to be done.

This summer, Communications Intern, Mel Beans took on the herculean task of weaving together Horn Farm’s story through words, images, and geographic locations. Using ArcGIS StoryMaps as her communication tool, Mel crafted a virtual tour of the farm that shares the unique history, programs, projects, features, and even future goals for the farm.

We plan to continue to update this StoryMap as the organization and our work on the land continues to evolve. Mel did a fantastic job of capturing Horn Farm’s Story and we hope you will take the time to enjoy it!

“When I began my internship at the Horn Farm Center, I quickly realized that there is a lot to learn about the center’s diverse work and 186 acres. The farmland, woods, and meadows of Horn Farm tell a long and constantly transforming story. There was a need for an easily accessible resource that provided a comprehensive overview of all that goes on at the farm as you explore the land.

Creating this virtual tour became a way for me to tell the story of the Horn Farm Center. It is the culmination of my two-month long internship here that captures both the diversity of the actions and opportunities taking place at Horn Farm, as well as their cohesiveness—rooted in community, education, and in living in reciprocity with nature.

Through compiling and synthesizing information gathered from key contributors to the Center, internal archives, local news articles, social media pages, and the Horn Farm Center’s website, I got to deepen my understanding of the organization’s work and its positive impact on our community and the environment. I’m excited for people to use this new resource as an introduction to the Horn Farm Center or as a way to deepen their familiarity with this important organization and its work!”

– 2023 PSSI Summer Communications Intern, Mel Beans

Pawpaw Fest: Tickets Now on Sale!

The 2023 York County Pawpaw Festival at the Horn Farm Center is on September 23rd and 24th, and TICKET SALES have just gone live!

Enjoy guaranteed admission and perks by reserving your tickets online today:

  • Premium Pass: includes admission to one day of the Pawpaw Festival, a t-shirt designed by local artist Joanna Tice, and entry into a door prize drawing for Horn Farm Center class vouchers.
  • General Pass: includes admission to one day of the Pawpaw Festival.

Over the next two months we will highlight the many new and exciting features enhancing this year’s event! For starters, we have a one-of-a-kind lineup of educational talks and tours AND a growing list of vendors offering food, products, crafts, and artwork from the heart of York County.

Visit our website for full festival details, and sign-up to volunteer!

The 2023 Pawpaw Festival is presented by the Horn Farm Center and Explore York.

Click here to purchase tickets!

Squirrels, beavers, and mastodons-in-training took over the Horn Farm!

This week, students in our Becoming the Animal youth series learned all that it takes to shape the landscape like animals do every day!

Our squirrel day enTAILed lessons about squirrel’s diet and habitat, followed by a visit to the outdoor classroom to journal, draw, spot the squirrel-friendly trees, and build a squirrel nest! Of course, our spotlight on squirrels wouldn’t be complete without planting trees ourselves, since squirrels are pros at dispersing the seeds of the forest!

The next day we moved from the woods to the wetlands for beaver day, learning about what makes a healthy watershed and watching the creepy crawlies of a healthy waterway in action! We tromped back to the outdoor classroom to feel beaver fur, draw beaver dams, and build our own using beaver-approved materials. Overall, we learned just how incredible beavers can be at engineering their ecosystems and supporting other animals!

We finished the week with a lost, but not forgotten, animal friend – mastodon! We learned how this smaller, hairier cousin of the elephant was well adapted for North America and helped to shape our landscape in ways that we no longer see today. Students also explored plants that co-evolved with mastodon and still thrive in our wetlands and forests. We completed our animal training by learning how to safely use tools to be an ecosystem engineer and steward – just like mastodons once were!

It’s been a perfect week for our young naturalists to Become the Animal!

What Skills Do You Want to Learn? 

Homestead Education Day

From 2013-2016, Horn Farm Center hosted a popular educational program called Homestead Education Day. This day-long event included demonstrations, talks, and workshops focused on teaching common and forgotten homesteading skills.

In celebration of our 20th Anniversary next year, we are hosting a “throwback” Homestead Education Day on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

As we prepare to revitalize this program, we want to hear from you!

Let us know what homesteading skills you would like to learn at the 2024 Homestead Education Day by filling out the survey linked below.

Click here to take the survey.

The Joy of Foraging 

Foraging is the act of finding and gathering wild foods. By engaging in this age-old practice, we can provide ourselves with healthy and abundant food, become more self-reliant, and connect on a much deeper level to the landscape in which we live.

Discover the joy of foraging this fall at the Horn Farm Center! Gather with others to learn and connect while exploring all that our landscape has to offer.

  • August Foraging Walk: August 13th, 10AM-12PM
  • September Foraging Walk: September 3rd, 10AM-12PM
  • Making Natural CordageSeptember 3rd, 1PM-3PM
  • Plant Language: September 16th, 10AM-5PM
  • Foraging Wild Teas: October 1st, 10AM-12PM
  • Fall Foraging Foundations: October 21-22, 9AM-3PM
  • Foraging for Roots: November 5th, 10AM-12PM
Join us for our monthly Foraging Programs this fall at the Horn Farm Center!