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Children’s laughter and chatter could be heard in the woodlands of East Sable on Dec. 12.
It was the annual visit for students in grades primary and one from Forest Ridge Academy in Barrington to Sherm and Cindy Embree’s Christmas Tree Farm on the MacLean’s Lake Road.
“They love it,” said grade primary teacher Stephanie Reashore, who has been bringing students to the tree farm for at least four years.
“They love the walk; we talk about how Sherm takes care of the trees and the tools he uses and giving the trees a haircut,” adding the visit is an educational experience for students.
Cones and seeds, the regeneration of trees, how to shape trees for marketing, the tools used and safety are among topics the Embrees talk to students about. A short walk around the tree farm, followed by hot chocolate and cookies completes the visit.
The Christmas Tree Farm is just one facet of the Embree’s 500-acre woodlot. Third-generation stewards of the land, they received the Nova Scotia Western Region Woodland Owner of the Year Award in 2019.
The award “recognizes and rewards landowners for outstanding stewardship of their woodlands. It was developed to encourage woodlot owners to practice sustainable woodland management and to increase public awareness of the importance of private woodlands in Nova Scotia and good woodland management.”
Woodland owners are evaluated on their effort and commitment to setting and meeting sustainable goals for their land; improving their knowledge or understanding of the forest land or the forest in general; improving the condition of, access to and health of their woodland; using integrated resource management, with an emphasis on wood production; and considering values such as wildlife habitat protection and recreation.
The Embree’s woodlot extends from East Sable to Johnston’s Pond. While former generations cut firewood and building materials from the land and sent pulpwood to the mill for a small income, the Embrees primarily harvest firewood to heat their home and “cut mainly for purposes of thinning to keep the forest healthy for future generations,” said Cindy.
The areas that have been harvested are done using a precommercial thin method, which is “the absolute opposite of clearcutting methods and is common among the province's private woodlot owners.”
The woodlot is “self seeding and all natural,” she said. “There are no chemical fertilizers; we thin the trees, keeping the healthiest ones. Sherm shears to keep a nice shape and a sturdy tree. We keep a mixture of ages – known in forestry as uneven aged. We love the education aspects. It is good for children to know some of the good news about our forests.”
The Embrees also have recreational trails on their land and have set aside 150 acres facing Johnston’s Pond, which is home to a variety of wildlife, migratory birds and rare lichens, for conservation purposes.