Chapter Outreach: Making Connections with the help of a Summer Intern in 2021

We have received a $5,000 matching gift from two donors challenging us to create a one-time summer internship in 2021.  After planting thousands of trees in PA and NJ, and many new scientific breakthroughs, we are at a critical juncture. The intern’s primary role will be to connect with the dedicated orchard owners and volunteers across our two states, assess orchard conditions and help us find the best trees for the future.
How Can You Help Us Make This Happen?

Our Chapter Staff and Board of Directors want to double this match to fund a 12-week outreach program to cover wages and travel expenses for a young student. We are asking for your support to match our donor’s generosity and raise $5,000 by May 12th.

Help us make this Spring match:

 Please Donate by May 12th!

Why is this important now? 

Twenty years ago, Ann and Bob Leffel worked with the Duke Stanback Internship program to hire Sara Fitzsimmons as a summer intern.* Her role was to visit and evaluate the many member orchards across Pennsylvania. Since then, orchard outreach has been limited by staff resources. Sara remembers her intern experience fondly and it’s apparent that she never quite recovered from her love of the American chestnut. Today, she is Director of Restoration for TACF and a valued authority on American chestnut restoration. At Sara’s recommendation, the Board is championing a renewal of this position in 2021.

Today, there are over 15,000 hybrid and wild-type American chestnut trees growing in over 100 orchards, restoration projects, and woodland locations. We are seeing great advances in both genomics and breeding for resistance. And, we’ve all been cooped up during the pandemic, making travel and personal connections problematic. Now more than ever is the right time to reach out to growers, assess conditions, and find the best trees. And we would like to give an interested student this unique opportunity to learn about our restoration mission. Because the interns of today may be the leaders of tomorrow.  


Unlike Sara’s journey 20 years ago, social media will allow this intern the opportunity to share their outreach experience with regular posts of photos and stories, so we can follow their progress together.  A full report will be published when the project is complete.   Please help us match the generosity of two donors so that we can fund this critical outreach.

Donate online on our Fundly page.

To donate by check: Make your check payable to PA/NJ TACF and mail it to the PA/NJ Chapter Office:

Pennsylvania State University
206 Forest Resources Lab
University Park, PA 16802

2021 SGM Guest Speaker _ Robert Jetton

Hemlock Branch with cones

What are the similarities between the restoration of Eastern Hemlock and the American chestnut?  The state tree of Pennsylvania is threatened by an invasive insect species, the hemlock woolly adelgid. The efforts to save it run parallel to those of our efforts to restore the American chestnut. Understanding how the many threats to our forest is critical to our restoration mission. The American chestnut does not stand alone. 

Presentation Title: “Conservation and Restoration of Hemlock Species in the Southern Appalachian Mountains Threatened by the Invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.”

Robert Jetton: Associate Professor of Forest Health and Conservation, Dept. of Forestry and Environmental Resources at N.C. State University.

Dr. Jetton studies the ecology and management of invasive species in forest ecosystems and the conservation genetics of threatened and endangered tree species. His presentation will introduce the audience to the invasive insect pest hemlock woolly adelgid, discuss its impact on native hemlock ecosystems; and review ongoing research efforts to conserve hemlock genetic resources, breed for adelgid resistance, and restore hemlocks to their native environments.

Register here!

 Return to the meeting schedule.


2021 PA/NJ Spring Growers Meeting (SGM)

You are invited to join the PA/NJ Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) for our 2021 Virtual Spring Growers Meeting. This meeting will be held online due to the requirements of COVID 19. This meeting is free and open to the public but registration is required. Scroll down for more information.

 Saturday, April 10th / 9:30 A.M. to 11:45 A.M.

Register here!

We hope to be together again soon!

Meeting Description

The meeting will include a short Chapter update from our new President, Jim Searing, followed by an update on the Science and Breeding Priorities for 2021 presented by Sara Fitzsimmons, Director of Restoration for TACF.

Our special guest speaker will be Robert Jetton, Associate Professor of Forest Health and Conservation, Dept. of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. He will be speaking about his work to restore a kindred spirit of the American chestnut —  Eastern Hemlock   Read more…

Meeting Schedule

9:30 — 9:45 AM

Chapter Update / Jim Searing President

9:45 — 10:15 AM

Chapter Science and Breeding
Priorities for 2021
Sara Fitzsimmons

Presentation and Q & A

10:15 — 11:15 AM

Restoration of Eastern Hemlock
with Robert Jetton

Presentation and Q & A

11:15 — 11:45 AM

Break Out Sessions:
Debrief & Catchup with Speakers & Attendees

What is a Break-out Session?

As we plan for our 3rd virtual Member meeting the thing that we miss the most is socializing. We can’t ship donuts and coffee to you,  yet we can provide this opportunity to meet in small groups and connect in a more personal way with other members. Each small group of 6 to 8 people will be guided by a staff or board member. It will be informal, but we will provide some questions to get the conversation going.

This is an experiment so we don’t exactly how it will go but we hope you will stick around and hang out with your fellow members. Hope to see you there!



Happy 10 Year Anniversary to the Merry One!

Mike and Kieu Manes recently returned to visit the Merry One — a wild-type American chestnut that they first discovered in New Jersey, back in 2011. Their tracking of this tree was reported in TACF’s Chestnut Magazine, in the Winter issue of 2018.

It will be ten years this November that Mike and Kieu have been tracking the Merry One and it has gone from 39” circumference = 12.5” DBH, to 55.125” circumference = 17.5 DBH. . So 16” circumference growth =  5” diameter growth which is > 0.5” DBH/Year – pretty good for a wild tree!

DBH stands for Diameter at Breast Height. Learn more here

Many thanks to Mike and Kieu Manes for their dedicated monitoring of this and many other wild-type American trees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Chestnut Grower Guidelines for Spring

With the arrival of Spring, we are getting more calls about planting times and best practices for growing.  Orchard Manager, Stephen Hoy shared these general guidelines below:

Starting Seeds and Transplanting 

Chestnut seeds should be sown indoors anytime in March and April and outdoors between March and May. While most seeds will remain dormant in the fridge it is not uncommon to find radicles emerging before the seeds are planted. With a little extra care, the seed should still be planted, radicle down, and a stem will emerge in 4 weeks for indoor plantings. If planting directly outdoors be sure to protect your seed from the many animals hoping for a delicious snack. Seeds planted directly in the ground outside will take longer to germinate based on the local weather conditions.

Bareroot seedlings can be planted as early as the soil can be worked because seedlings are dormant when lifted at the nursery. Be aware, bareroots can dry out quickly if not properly watered and stored while awaiting planting. It is recommended to soak the root system in a bucket of water for several hours or overnight prior to planting.

Containerized seedlings should be hardened off at least two weeks prior to planting if they are fully leafed out. This requires the seedlings to be gradually exposed to the environment so they can better handle the wind, sun, and rain after planting. Here at Penn State, the chestnut orchard plantings occur between May 15-25. Containerized seedlings can be safely planted into June as long as seedlings can be watered consistently for the month following planting.

There are many websites where you can find your average last frost date, examples include,,

Fertilizer: There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fertilizer. For best results, growers should purchase a soil test and apply based on that data. Chestnuts prefer more acidic conditions so if planting in a higher pH area it may be wise to amend the soil prior to planting with sulfur. Here at Penn State, we do not use fertilizer the year trees are planted. When fertilizer is applied we use a slow-release (6 months) fertilizer

Ambrosia Beetle: Now is the time of year to construct and deploy traps to monitor for the granulate Ambrosia beetle. Follow this link.

Introduction to the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) — Online Course Available

An online interactive course on the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) has been developed by Stacy Clark, Research Forester with the USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station.

The course is available for free to anyone through a simple registration process. The learner will be introduced to the basic ecology and silvics, historical significance, and the demise of the tree species that once occupied 200 million acres in the eastern United States. The course contains a glossary and links to dendrology tables, external webpages, and published scientific papers.

A certificate of completion available at the end of the course qualifies for 1 CFE credit with the Society of American Foresters.

Please visit this website (