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November 16, 2018

The gift of a forest for his children

As a child, Mark Janssen loved playing in the forest near his home in Foldens. Now, he wants to recreate that joy for generations to come by planting his own bush lot.

Nestled between Foldens Line and Sweaburg Road is a 3.2-acre lot for the nearly 2,000 seedlings Janssen has been caring for since they were first planted in 2016 as a joint project with Oxford County Clean Water Program and Forests Ontario 50 Million Trees Program. 

Mark Janssen photo

“When I started looking after them, it gave me a whole new respect for trees,” said Janssen, adding, “It’s a real commitment to raise a forest.”

When the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority machine planted the seedlings in 2016, they were just little sticks with bare roots. The planting consisted of a diverse mix of conifers and native hardwoods.

Unfortunately, many trees didn’t survive, so Janssen and his family spent three days hand planting hundreds of new trees. Today, they are tiny thriving trees of varying heights.

“When I retire the trees should be big enough for me to walk through here, but it’s more for the kids,” said Janssen, who will pass the land down to his own children. He wants to ensure his grandchildren will always have easy access to nature just as he did as a child.

When Janssen took over the old family farm about nine years ago, it was his goal to turn what had been a hayfield for 50 years into more tree coverage for Oxford County – an idea his dad had also entertained about 30 years ago when the tree program was initially offered.

Each summer since planting, Janssen weeds and cuts the grass between the rows and also around each tree. Trimming takes about 4.5 hours each time but is essential to ensure the planting succeeds.

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