In 2023, the Horn Farm added 2 more acres to our multifunctional riparian buffers, getting us to 16 acres in total of once-farmed lands being reclaimed and converted to native wild habitat!
Sign up to join our tree planting and tending workdays below …
Current Upcoming Workdays:
- Tending/upkeep days:
- Planting days:
- Saturday, March 2nd (10am-12pm) — registration opening soon!
While volunteers are welcome to come and go at their leisure, we do recommend that folks arrive at the start time so we can provide a group orientation / mini-training.
Interested in staying in the loop on other volunteer opportunities at the Horn Farm Center?
About the Horn Farm’s Multifunctional Riparian Buffers
The Horn Farm Center is home to two seasonal stream corridors that were originally dug for agricultural purposes back when the land was conventionally farmed. They were designed to control water by draining runoff to Kreutz Creek: a natural stream that meanders through York County before emptying into the Susquehanna River. While unnatural, the streams are now an embedded part (literally) of our landscape; however, in being designed solely for cropland management, they lack the ecological infrastructure that stabilizes natural waterways and connected ecosystems in our bioregion. Like many streams on lands cleared for agriculture, ours have endured:
- Sedimentation (the depositing of excess solid particles in a waterway),
- Chemical leaching (things like nitrogen and phosphorous from historical fertilizer use).
- Streambank erosion (the destabilization and collapse of land along the stream edge due to rapid runoff and stream currents during rain),
- … and a significant loss of biodiversity, both floral and faunal.
Problems like this have rippling effects both upstream at the Horn Farm Center and downstream to the Susquehanna and beyond.
Exposed streams are inhospitable to fish and macroinvertebrates that serve as the basis of regional food chains, not to mention the pollinators we depend on for agriculture. Lands along these streams are also more susceptible to flash flooding, as we witnessed at the Horn Farm Center in 2018 and 2021. Additionally, a long history of unchecked mineral and chemical runoff into local streams–mainly from agriculture–has contributed to an ecological crisis in the Chesapeake Bay, since about half of the freshwater flows to the Bay come from the river that our waterways feed: the Susquehanna. Very quickly, two impaired stream trenches at our Center–in a story echoed across the state–have resounding impacts on wildlife, water security, climate resilience, and crucial downstream ecologies.
To address these compounding problems and play our role in statewide efforts to restore the health of the Chesapeake, the Horn Farm undertook a series of riparian buffer plantings beginning in 2018.
Riparian buffers act like safety nets for streams, rivers, and lakes. By planting trees, shrubs, and grasses along waterways, we restore the networks of deep roots and sprawling, biodiverse vegetation once characteristic of the aquatic corridors in our bioregion. Natural elements like this protect the water by intercepting sediment pollution, filtering chemical contaminants, and slowing the runoff that causes runaway bank erosion, all while providing forage and habitat for birds, bats, insects, and aquatic life. Riparian buffers help us give back to the ecology we depend on, recharge groundwater, and reclaim the watershed health that will, over time, relieve the Chesapeake Bay.
Our first riparian buffer planting–supported through the PA DEP’s Stream ReLeaf program and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Keystone 10 Million Trees initiative–began in 2018 and addressed the stream directly adjacent to our regenerative farmscape. We dedicated 6 acres to plantings that, while recovering soil health, could also serve agricultural purposes: willows for basketry and shrubs like elderberries and black raspberries for food. In 2020, we turned our sites to the larger of our two streams for an 8-acre project supported by DCNR PennVest, the GIANT Company & Keeping Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Healing the Planet Program, and the Keystone 10 Million Trees initiative. Here again, our approach to the riparian buffer is multifunctional: restoring ecological health to the area while leveraging native trees and woody shrubs that produce agroforestry products like basketry cuttings, cordage material, live stakes, nuts, fruits, and seeds.
Together with incredible volunteer support, we’re building a regenerative landscape that balances water protection, habitat creation, and the ability to harvest materials and calories that we can use without damaging the natural system.
The Horn Farm Center celebrates a vision of relationship between land and people where both can thrive in harmony and reciprocity, and riparian buffers are just one of the ways we’re bringing this vision to to our community.
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 for nature, water protection, and human health.
To learn more about riparian buffers and the Horn Farm Center’s efforts for the bioregion, check out the first three installments of our 2023 blog series, titled For the Whole Stream: Riparian Buffers
Securing trees, leading planting days, tackling non-natives, and dedicating dozens upon dozens of hours to the Horn Farm’s Center’s land stewardship commitments, Cindy has truly been a keystone species for our riparian buffers.
Cindy grew up on a pony farm in Chester County and moved to York around twenty years ago. She earned her BSN at Jefferson University, and spent fifteen years as a nurse in pediatrics at The Bryn Mawr Hospital. Always dedicated to lifelong learning, her love of the land and drive to protect it led to her becoming a Master Watershed Steward with the Penn State Cooperative Extension. In 2021 she was awarded the Watershed Stewardship Award from the York County Conservation District and was the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Volunteer of the year.
Since taking a leadership role in helping the Horn Farm transition acres of farmland into multifunctional riparian buffers, she has planted 100’s of trees and is leading a corp of Riparian Rangers that will steward these new trees into a forest. Educating children has been her favorite part of her hours of work as a Master Watershed Steward because they are curious and open to new things. She recently installed a pair of rain gardens at her home in Springettsbury, where she lives with her husband Rob and their beloved pit bull terrier, Nora.