Healthy forest, healthy farm, healthy family (2019)
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 27 percent of the State of Delaware (356,000 acres) existed as forestland in 2017. Of these acres, about 22 percent are owned by local, state and federal agencies with the remaining 78 percent in private ownership. The Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service program provides technical assistance to large forest landowners, but this organization does not have the resources to address all issues and needs of those owning less than 10 acres of forestland. With development pressures, lack of forest product markets in the area and other management challenges around climate and pests, small forest parcels are particularly at risk of being lost.
Extension Agents and Specialists from both UD and Delaware State University collaborated with staff from the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s (DDA) Forest Service to plan the 2019 Woodland Workshop, held during Delaware Ag Week. The “Healthy Forest, Healthy Farm, Healthy Family” theme was geared toward small forest landowners and managers in Delaware and the region. Talks focused on chainsaw safety and firewood selection, tick-borne diseases, and personal and mental health resources that can help strengthen the overall vitality of an operation. The session concluded with a panel discussion about current and future forestry issues and needs in Delaware. Panel representatives included USDA, DDA, Delaware Center for Horticulture, Delaware’s Urban and Community Forestry Council, and forestry consultants.
The 2019 Woodland Workshop drew 38 participants, including forest landowners, forest managers, and public and private technical service providers. Following the event, participants were surveyed to measure knowledge gained and 15 responses were received (39 percent response rate).
Of those surveyed:
- 85% learned something new about chainsaw use and safety
- 62% will change how they operate a chainsaw to be safer and prevent accidents and injuries
- 75% learned something new about firewood
- 36% will change how they use and select firewood in the future
- 100% learned about tick-borne diseases
- 92% now know how to prevent or respond to a tick bite
- 85% learned how to strengthen health and farm vitality
- 77% will change how they manage personal and family health
Nine respondents indicated that they own wooded lands within Delaware or the region (ranging in size from four to more than 110 acres) for 10 to 60 years, only two of which were currently under a forest management plan. All responding found the panel discussion around forestry issues and needs valuable. The most prominent issues affecting Delaware forestry as listed by respondents include land conversion, alternative sources of income or niche enterprises from forests (ginseng, mushrooms, hunting), and forest health issues.