Horn Farm Happenings – February 17, 2023

More Ways to Learn: Horn Farm Ecosystem

At the Horn Farm Center, nature is our teacher, our companion, and our collaborator. By working alongside the natural world, we recognize how we, like the networked soils of our fields and forests, are rooted in a constellation of relationships.

With this ecological understanding, we see how everything we do ripples across an unbreakable fabric, human and more-than-human, biotic and abiotic, such that the health of one system is integral to the health of the whole.

That’s our birds-eye perspective on the work of the Horn Farm Center. But what does it look like on the ground, across the wild, semi-wild, and gardened spaces that weave the tapestry of our ecosystem? How are we leveraging nature’s interconnectedness in our stewardship practices? And, why are we so committed to ecology-based stewardship on the farm?

To give you the groundwork and share the story of this relationship with nature, we’re launching a new blog series called the Horn Farm Ecosystem.

This blog will offer monthly articles spotlighting different project areas at the Center. With each installment, we’ll walk the land in writing: visiting places like our forests, our regenerative fields, and our riparian buffers to contextualize, demystify, and address the seriousness of this work in a world that needs human hands as part of its healing.

Through a combination of science, history, and our own learning experiences, we’ll convey the bigger picture of our commitment to environmental stewardship, and why we constantly ask ourselves: what would nature do? 

This week’s blog explores our work with multifunctional riparian buffers on the farm. We hope you enjoy it!

Click here to read the blog: Upstream

Final Riparian Buffer Plantings This Spring

Since 2018, with the help of dozens of visiting groups and hundreds of volunteers, we’ve planted over 15,000 trees and reclaimed 14–soon to be 16–acres of farmland, transforming them into multifunction riparian buffers.

This year, we are planting our final 2 acres – and we need your help! Join us for a few volunteer workdays this spring.

Volunteers will help us plant and stake tree saplings, manage invasives, and install protective tree tubes to help our saplings succeed. Hope to see you at the farm!

Click here to learn more and sign up to volunteer!

What Do You Want to Dig Into?

As we look to expand and diversify our programs this year, we want your input! Let us know what kinds of classes or workshops you’d like to see in the future at the Horn Farm. Give us your input by taking a short, 3-5 minute survey.

Click here to give us your feedback!

Horn Farm CSA: New Members Welcome

From June to October, CSA members receive a weekly box of seasonal, organically-grown produce. Fill your plate with local flavor this year. Become a member of the Horn Farm CSA to support local, regenerative farmers and the Horn Farm Center’s land-healing mission.

To help make our CSA more accessible, we are offering payment plans this year. Register by March 15th to pay in installments.

Click here to Register.

Susquehanna River in PA, USA on a summer autumn day. It is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States that drains into the Atlantic Ocean, via the Chesapeake Bay.

Origins of the Susquehanna Valley Landscape 

Are you interested in the natural forces and human activities that have shaped our unique region? Learn to think in “deep time,” like geologists, to explore the landforms of the Lower Susquehanna Valley. This class will focus on the influence of plate tectonics and other geological processes that created our landscape.

We’ll also devote special attention to the ancient river at its heart and the influence of the massive ice sheets which, just moments ago in geological time, approached the region but never quite reached it.

Join us on Thursday, March 9th at 6pm-8pm for “Origins of the Landscape,” part one of the four part Land & Peoples of the Lower Susquehanna Valley program series with the Horn Farm Center. This session is led by Dr. Ed Wilson and Dr. Jay Parrish, former State Geologist of Pennsylvania.

Click here for more information and to register.

New Series: Windows to Wild Lands

Exploring primitive skills invites us to connect more closely with nature and our human ancestry. On the first Sunday of every month from 1 to 3pm, Horn Farm Center’s new introductory classes offer a glimpse of distinct skills that echo the resourcefulness, simple ingenuity, and nature-based lifestyles of our past.

By attuning our hands and minds to these tactile skills, we not only learn survival strategies, but the values of patience, attention, and respect that come with immersing ourselves in our natural surroundings.

The spring Windows to Wildlands class topics are:

  • Wild Basket Making – March 5th, 2023
  • Making Natural Cordage – April 2nd, 2023
  • Animal Tracking – May 7th, 2023
  • Alternative Uses of Plants – June 4th, 2023
  • Assembling Primitive Traps – July 2nd, 2023

Click here for Windows to Wild Lands

Upcoming Classes & Workshops:
February 16th: Baking Bread: White & Wheat
February 25, 2023: Maple Sugaring
February 25, 2023: Maple Sugaring
March 3, 2023: Wild Basket Making
March 5, 2023: March Foraging Walk
March 9, 2023: Land & Peoples Series: Origins of the Landscape
March 16, 2023: Flatbread
March 23, 2023: Land & People Series: The Indigenous Peoples
March 25, 2023: Hugelkultur Workshop
March 26, 2023: Bio-Intensive Garden Primer
April 2, 2023: Making Natural Cordage
April 6, 2023: Backyard Composting
April 6, 2023: Land & People Series: European Settlement
April 8, 2023: Regenerative Foraging
April 13, 2023: Spring Garden Prep & Planning
April 15-16, 2023: Foraging Foundations Weekend
April 20, 2023: Backyard Composting
April 20, 2023: Land & People Series: The Contemporary Landscape
April 20, 2023: Baking Bread: Sourdough & Flatbread
May 7, 2023: Animal Tracking
May 10, 2023: Sweet Potatoes 101
May 11, 2023: Understanding Your Garden Q&A
May 20, 2023: Botany for Gardeners
June 4, 2023: Alternative Uses of Plants
June 10-11, 2023: Foraging Foundations Weekend
June 15, 2023: Gardener’s Guide to Weeds
July 2, 2023: Assembling Primitive Traps
July 6, 2023: Insect Identification for Gardeners
September 9-10, 2023: Foraging Foundations Weekend

Upcoming Events:

February 25, 2023: Public Disco Porch Benefit Show
April 22, 2023: Go Green in the City
May 4-5, 2023: Give Local York
May 7, 2023: 11th Annual Plant Sale
September 23 & 24, 2023: 19th Annual York County Pawpaw Festival

Volunteer Opportunities & Work Days:

April 2, 2023: Tree Planting
April 15, 2023: Tree Planting
May 20, 2023: Riparian Buffer Upkeep
June 17, 2023: Riparian Buffer Upkeep
General Volunteer Information

For the Whole Stream: Riparian Buffers

Part 1: Upstream

This blog is the first installment of a new series called the Horn Farm Ecosystem. 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. To learn more about the Horn Farm Ecosystem blog series, check out our February 17th, 2023 newsletter.

Whether you’re gathering for a class at our corn barn or whooshing by on Rt. 30, there’s a site at the Horn Farm Center that can’t be missed. Look east of the farmhouse, beyond the community garden plots, and you’ll see an expanse of tree tubes covering nearly 8 acres of land formerly dedicated to annual monocropping. Dotting the landscape, a twiggy menagerie: thousands of saplings planted between 2020 and this past summer eagerly waiting to outgrow their enclosures and bring large vegetation back to the land. In a time frame that seems tedious to us but a snap for nature, the likes of American hazelnut, sycamore, black and sandbar willow, various dogwoods, and more will cover this swath: a new forest born out of a willful overtaking. We’ve convened hundreds of community groups and volunteers over three years to facilitate this afforestation–or creation of a forest where there wasn’t one before–committing hundreds of hours and thousands of trees to just a fraction of our 186 acres, but why?

A sapling outgrowing its tree tube in the Horn Farm’s 8-acre riparian buffer, October 2022.

It’s of little contention that diverse trees (in tree-favoring environments) are a good thing, especially in a bioregion like ours, which now contends with a centuries-long legacy of agricultural clear-cutting alongside concerning air quality compared to the rest of the state. But there’s more to the story of the 15,000+ trees that have taken residence in our soils since we turned our attention to riparian health.

Venture out to the spot mentioned above and you’ll notice that the tree tube procession parallels a deep trench carving its way down the hillside. This is a human-made seasonal stream corridor, originally dug to drain water from bordering croplands. The eroded cut deposits into a natural creek—Kreutz Creek for York County readers—which then meanders east before emptying, like so many of our regional waterways, into the Susquehanna River. This downstream connection is the primary impetus for our undertaking. What we’re building is a riparian buffer.

What is a riparian buffer?

Picture: a lush array of grasses, shrubs, and trees snaking along both sides of a freshwater stream. This is a riparian buffer. The word “riparian,” from the Latin “streamside,” describes the area’s natural character: a transitional zone between the land and the waters of a river, lake, or stream, sometimes taking the shape of a wetland. “Buffer” designates the riparian area’s function in absorbing the impacts of adjacent land uses on the water. Across PA, riparian buffers have grown increasingly popular (and imperative) in agricultural fields, yards, commercial sites, and along roadsides: any place where the proximity of human activities to critical waterways is apparent and felt. Each riparian planting provides a host of benefits for water quality, soil health, and the surrounding ecology.

Simply put, the presence of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation along a waterway provides natural protection for the water and the life it carries.

Riparian buffers act like safety nets for streams, rivers, and lakes. Networks of tree roots help to keep soils in place, mimicking the porous earth of forests. Forested waterways are also better equipped to intercept sediment pollution, filter contaminants, and slow runoff that causes streambank erosion, all while providing favorable forage and habitat for birds, bats, insects, and aquatic life. Indeed, in the absence of riparian buffers, waterways become degraded. Impacts upstream quickly move downstream. Below are just a few of the ecological problems of exposed waterways:

  • Sedimentation: without vegetation to stop the runoff of solid particles and minerals, excess sediments enter the water and accumulate at the bottom, depleting aquatic oxygen levels and suffocating wildlife. 
  • Algal blooms: “nutrient pollution” from excess nitrogen and phosphorus leaching off croplands promotes a runaway “bloom” of algae on the water surface. This overabundance of algae depletes oxygen levels and blocks critical sunlight from reaching the stream floor. Nutrient leaching, especially of nitrogen, is a common side-effect of intensive agriculture that relies on industrial fertilizers. 
  • Streambank erosion: rapid runoff and unstable soils expedite the otherwise natural process of erosion along the stream edge, creating inhospitable conditions for fish and macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) that depend on intact edges to spawn. This leads to population declines that can ripple up the food chain.
  • Temperature: without tree cover in the summer, unshaded waters overheat, making them uninhabitable for aquatic organisms. This is becoming increasingly common as our climate changes. 
  • Food availability: fish and aquatic insects require leaf litter that accumulates in the fall and winter to weather the cold seasons. Missing vegetation around the stream results in a lack of these vital nutrient sources, again destabilizing the base of the food chain. 
  • Carbon sequestration: trees and grasses are essential for balancing atmospheric carbon dioxide and absorbing the excess of greenhouse gasses emitted by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels. Simply put, missing vegetation is another missed opportunity to work proactively against climate change. 
  • Human value: Unstable streambanks, eroded soils, and a lack of biodiversity negatively affect our mental health and sense of belonging in the landscape.

While our regenerative farming approach does not apply chemical inputs like herbicides or synthetic fertilizers to the ground, we still see the impacts of a vacant landscape along our stream: drastic erosion, sediment deposits, and fast-moving water that, in 2021, partially flooded our riparian plantings.

Many locals will remember, as well, the destructive flash flooding of 2018 that affected much of York County, which was a major push for the Horn Farm Center’s turn to watershed health as an essential companion to healthy agriculture. Lastly, with runoff controlled by the return of a root web to the land, the farm will benefit from greater infiltration to better recharge our groundwater supply for community gardeners and other uses. Water security on the farm is becoming increasingly unpredictable as we endure drier, hotter summers each year. 

Ultimately, the newly planted 8 acre riparian buffer, which will grow to 10 acres this spring, will have an incredible impact on the farm and the ecosystem we’re a part of–from wildlife habitat to water security.

And like a drop of water in a stream, ecology ripples outwards. This is one of nature’s many teachings: how healthy elements positively affect relationships beyond the scope of what we can see. With this reality, our regenerative landscape is not just for us and our other-than-human neighbors, but for the health of waters, ecologies, and generations downstream.

Winter view of a Miyawaki mini-forest row adjacent to the stream edge (3/2023). The Miyawaki method for forest generation is another tactic we’re using beyond conventional tree spacing and tubing as we rewild the riparian area along our stream. An upcoming blog post will spotlight Miyawaki planting at the Horn Farm Center–stay tuned!

Click here to read For the Whole Stream Part 2: Downstream

About the Author: 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.

Horn Farm Happenings – February 03, 2023

Rebuilding at Horn Farm

Since the night of October 21, 2021, our team has been working hard, adapting to our new reality, revitalizing our programs, and planning for reconstruction. Over the past several months, HFC’s Rebuild Task Force has been digging deep into the design process with Murphy & Dittenhafer, Lewis Contractors, and 7group.

The schematic design phase is complete and we are nearing the close of design development. If our process stays on track, we will be ready to start construction on the farmhouse this spring!

The rebuild will feature a complete renovation of the interior—including a large classroom downstairs and office spaces upstairs to carry out our mission. We will use simple, natural materials secured from local sources. In addition to preserving the historic character of the exterior, we will rebuild the farmhouse with the highest levels of energy efficiency inside and offset all of the building’s energy use with a powerful solar generation system.

Our timeline and design activities are:

  • October 2022 – December 2022 (6 weeks) – schematic design (completed)
  • January 2023-February 2023 (4 weeks) – design development and early cost estimation
  • February 2023 – March 2023 (6 weeks) – development of construction documents
  • April 2023 (3 weeks) – bidding and pricing

As the project ramps up and we get closer to the reality of rebuilding, we will continue to share our progress with you. We set up a new webpage just for that purpose!

You can find more information at rebuildhornfarm.com

Ecological Core Immersion

Are you interested in expanding your ecological knowledge? 

Join us for a holistic primer on ecology, reciprocity, and preparing ourselves to be lifelong stewards of the natural world. The Ecological Core Immersion is a stand-alone 4-week course that is part of our 16-week spring training programs!

Topics include (and are not limited to):

  • Basic ecology and natural cycles.
  • Historical land uses and misuses.
  • Considerations for regenerative land design.
  • Disturbance-based land management.
  • Physical movement training for field and forest work.

Join us for the Horn Farm Center’s unique Ecological Core Immersion series starting on Monday, February 13th 8am-4pm.

Click here to learn more and register. 

What Learning Adventures Do You Want to Explore at Horn Farm?

As we look to expand and diversify our programs this year, we want your input! Let us know what kinds of classes or workshops you’d like to see in the future at the Horn Farm. Give us your input by taking a short, 3-5 minute survey.

Click here to give us your feedback!

community-gardens 2019

Gardening in Community 

Registration for Horn Farm Center’s Community Garden Plots are now open!

One of our oldest programs, the Community Gardens at the Horn Farm Center offer local growers the opportunity to cultivate fresh, chemical-free food on prime farmland in the company of other enthusiastic and dedicated gardeners.

Garden plots are rented annually from April 1st through October 31. Each plot measures approximately 20 x 20 feet. Plots are assigned on a “First Come, First Served” basis.

Click here to Register.

Rooting & Listening

Let this Black History Month be a reminder of that powerful pairing of actions. In rooting and listening, we begin not only to heal our relationship with nature, but to uproot racism in our communities.

We’re gratefully humbled and inspired by the leading-edge land stewardship spearheaded by Black leaders across the country: folks reviving broken ecosystems, rebuilding biodiversity, and reclaiming traditions and foodways based in caretaking relationship with the land. Rooted in our own vision of helping land thrive in community, we listen to their stories with reverence and resolve while reflecting on how we can better deliver on the whole force of our mission.

This weekend, take some time to check out this recent article on the Shelterwood Collective and other BIPOC-led environmental orgs. We also invite you to check out and support local and regional black-led environmental organizations and businesses, including Discerning Eye Community AgricultureThe Bridge Eco-Village, and Backyard Basecamp.

“A big piece of what we’re trying to do here stems from the perspective that ecosystems are not healthy unless human communities are thoroughly woven into their fabric. It’s about nurturing a community of land tenders who are learning to be in relationship with one another, with themselves, and with the land around them.” – Nikola Alexandre, Shelterwood Co-creator

More Bread Baking Classes!

Back by popular dough-mand, we’re hosting another beginner bread baking workshop in the Horn Farm Summer Kitchen!

Don’t miss your chance to try your hand at simple-yet-versatile white and wheat breads. Thursday, February 16th from 6 to 8pm, we’ll explore the ingredients and practice rustic techniques for home baking that nourishes the body and spirit while acting gently on the land.

Spaces are limited on account of the size of our Summer Kitchen, so reserve yours today!

Click here for Bread Baking Classes