FARMINGTON – The Foster Career and Technical Education Center has entered into an agreement with the town of Chesterville to provide zero-cost forest management services to a large lot of town property.
The contract ensures that any money for stumpage will be remitted to the town, but it also provides significant learning opportunities for students. The forestry department has worked with many towns in Franklin county, but never on quite so large a scale.
“We’ve been doing it for quite a few years; we’ve had different projects: like in Strong, we were at the Lance Ball park—we did some work there—we did some work for Farmington on the Whittier road—there was a lot of erosion, so we were helping with erosion control putting in vegetation and trees,” Rodney Spiller of the forestry department said. “The good thing about it, when we do have a contract, the kids understand that in the field this is something they’re going to have to learn, so it does make it nice to be able to go over that with the kids.”
They typically take care of the 300 acres of school land to practice management skills and silviculture. This semester Spiller and his co-teacher, Brenda Medcoff, have worked with Chesterville to help with overgrowth on some of the roads, which is how this opportunity came about.
“They said we have a couple lots that haven’t been touched in a while and they’d like us to take a look at it. So we stopped by with one of the selectmen and we talked about perhaps having that as a place that we could teach the kids from stump to product,” Spiller said.
Part of the excitement about this project is not only teaching students about contracts and management, but also that the plot of land is large enough for the students to learn about, write and enact their own plans and further their experience with these practices. They’ll also be able to use and gain experience with much of the equipment that’s been acquired by the forestry department. Both teachers are excited.
“It’ll be kind-of cool because they’re going to be included to write the contract and walk the property to make sure they know the borderlines and species of trees, and what the priority will be in each section,” Spiller said.
“It’ll actually give us a chance to show them different techniques based on objectives,” Medcoff said. “Like, what are you going to take if your goal and objective is to encourage wildlife versus trying to get a certain type of stand to grow…there’s a lot of opportunity there that we don’t normally get.”
Because of the restrictions of the pandemic, the enrollment in the forestry department has been low and the topic itself has not been easy to teach in the classroom; Spiller stated that it’s hard to teach a student who has never touched a chainsaw how to use one from a distance and standards were difficult to meet as a result. But they’re hopeful that with the lifting of restrictions and the appeal of such a big learning opportunity, their numbers will come back up.
“They basically weren’t able to get a lot of certifications because they couldn’t get the hours in…it’s kind of hard to teach that way,” Medcoff said.
Both teachers are also hopeful that this will provide graduating students with more opportunities for direct employment.