There was a faint fall chill in the air as the hikers for TLC’s Members-Only event gathered in the Irvin Farm parking lot. While the J. Logan and Elinor Moor Irvin Farm Preserve is home to the Learning Outside education program as well as the Transplanting Traditions farm, its beautiful woodlands are closed to the general public. This was a special opportunity to see both the restoration efforts on the property as well as the beautiful scenery.
Led by TLC’s Easement Steward Matt Rutledge and Steward Maintenance Technician Kyle Obermiller, the group set out into the grassy field before following the trail into the forest. Evidence of the Learning Outside children’s program, which strives to provide students with hands-on outdoor experience and discovery, was everywhere, as small huts and forts made from twigs and other natural materials lined the trail. The sun peaked through the tree leaves as it made its daily ascent, warming us as we walked while providing dappled shadows on the ground beneath our feet. We heard the tittering of Carolina Chickadees in the trees overhead as well as the buzzing of Tufted Titmice and the faint whacking of a nearby woodpecker.
As we walked, Matt and Kyle gave us a quick history of the preserve. At just under 270 acres, the farm provides wildlife habitat, ecosystem services, and also a place to grow local food. Donated to TLC in 2007, it remains an important location for many of TLC’s programs. Invasive plants are being removed from the property and native trees, like the White Pine, are specifically cultivated. While common in the Northeast and in the mountains, White Pines are rare in in this region. In the Piedmont, TLC’s White Pines Nature Preserve is one of the only White Pine-dominated tree stands, and the seeds from that preserve have now been planted at Irvin Farm.
Finishing our walk, we rested for a brief moment at the site’s picnic tables before heading over to Transplanting Traditions, a five-acre farm dedicated to providing food access and agricultural skills to the Triangle’s Burmese refugee population. The sun was higher now as we walked across the field to Transplanting Tradition’s large barn, and we were shedding our coats and jackets. Dozens of Eastern Bluebirds called and chased each other around the fields and within the gardens themselves, while American Goldfinches preened on fence-posts.
Seating ourselves on the benches under the barn’s roof, we listened to Kelly Owensby give a short speech about the history of the project before taking a tour of the gardens themselves. Inaddition to growing familiar American variety produce, the refugees also cultivate their own native fruits and vegetables, including Thai Pumpkins, White Gourd, Ridged Gourd, and Bitter Melon. Those who work at the farm practice sales skills when selling their products at the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, and through their Summer and Fall CSAs (read about a sample fall CSA box here).
Following the morning tour, our group gathered on the grass and at picnic tables to enjoy lunch while Matt and Kyle led a new group of eager members through the enchanting forest. Irvin Farm is an exceptional mix of education, local food, and special recreational opportunities (like this membership day), and is unique. The Members-Only event offered participants an excellent snapshot into the daily activities at the farm, as well as an overview of all TLC strives for across the Triangle. We look forward to seeing everyone at the next member event!
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