Mark and Katie Raishart are the owners of Foxglove Farm in Leicester, VT. Foxglove Farm is a small farm and homestead that combines a working forest with agritourism. Featuring a log cabin which serves as an Air B&B, eggs, maple syrup, handcrafted jewelry and knitted apparel, trails for recreation, and more, the farm welcomes visitors of all kinds each year.
The Raisharts’ property covers 68 acres, 64 of which are forested and actively managed, located at the junction of the Green Mountains and the Champlain Valley. From the highest points of the property Moosalamoo, Brandon Gap, and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks in New York can be seen. The property became Tree Farm certified in 2016 and Mark said this was a way to better manage the property. Mark said, “Through my work in teaching (Mark was a natural resources teacher at a local technical center), my personal interest in forest stewardship, and in-depth research of my property, I wanted to expand and solidify my commitment to sound and diverse management goals on our property. Enrolling in the Tree Farm program was a way to demonstrate this commitment to visitors to our property and help my family identify and own that commitment as well.”
The Tree Farm program’s four core values of Wood, Water, Wildlife, and Recreation represent the priorities of the Raisharts’ management on the property. The Raisharts deeply value wildlife habitat, ecosystem vitality and overall forest health as Mark said, “To me, the range of wildlife we see on our property is a direct indicator of the quality of the forest.” The land includes a wetlands complex on which they view as a great asset to wildlife and something to take care of. As an agritourism destination they seek to maintain the land for recreational purposes. Mark also shared, “We deeply value the concept of the working forest – one that provides resources to our family. Harvesting timber, firewood, and maple sap have been important ways for us to maintain a working relationship with our land to help support our lives here. Meeting these goals means active engagement: trail maintenance, habitat enhancement work, removal of poor-quality trees, invasive species control, mast tree release, and work in the sugarbush.”
For the Raisharts, being in the Tree Farm program is about affirming and demonstrating their commitment sound long-term land management. To Mark and Katie, this means demonstrating it to themselves, their children, and the visitors and customers that come to their farm. It is about more than hanging a sign, although they do like to display their Tree Farm sign! It is for these reasons that they encourage other landowners to join the program. “[Enrolling in Tree Farm] symbolizes a commitment to [a landowners] role in land stewardship, and it’s an opportunity to access a community of like-minded partners and professionals who work together to advance that commitment.”
This community of like-minded partners is one of the aspects of Tree Farm that they value most. Being in Tree Farm gives landowners access to a network of citizen landowner that share the common goal of working forest stewardship. The ability to share experiences, ideas, and
knowledge is very valuable to a landowner. “Owning forestland is a privilege and a responsibility, and active engagement in the responsible stewardship of that land is a common value within the Tree Farm program,” said Mark.
For any new Tree Farmers Mark gives the advice to learn as much as possible. “A forest is a dynamic and responsive ‘organism’ that is both resilient and incredibly vulnerable,” says Mark. “There is always something new to learn about the forest ecosystem and what the challenges and opportunities are as we work with it. Try to understand what the options are for management, and be careful about making assumptions before you have learned more.”
Looking ahead to the future is something the Raisharts think about often and sharing their passion for landscape with their children and the next generation is one of their biggest priorities. Mark feels this can be done in several ways. One way is through education and making learning fun. “Turn every adventure into a learning opportunity and be open and honest. Kids take in everything, especially when they’re physically engaged,” said Mark. Welcoming kids into workshops and trainings with aspects tailored to them is another suggestion of his. This will help them feel the like they are a part of the forest community too and that the forest is as much for them as it is for grown-ups. Mark also mentioned, “More than anything else, kids need to have positive and immersive experiences in the forest. SPEND TIME OUTSIDE DOING FUN STUFF. This will inspire a sense of ownership, responsibility and stewardship.”