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Daniel Belanger

​In 2009, my property had an abandoned cow pasture that had proved too small to farm because of a creek that runs crookedly around and through the edge of a field. I decided to plant 360 Carolinian deciduous trees to help fill these initial pieces of land. In 2013, we converted another 1.3 acres by planting 600 deciduous trees that connected with the original land. In 2016, I added another 0.6 acres further down the creek to produce an ecological restoration project of 3.3 acres. 

My school and my farm are located in the community of Pain Court. Pain Court is a small French village located 10 minutes north-west of Chatham, Ontario. As a school and as a community, Pain Court has been committed to tree planting over the past 25 years. For example, a park was developed adjacent to the high school that now includes over a thousand trees. As for my project specifically, one of its great benefits is its location. This conservation initiative is located on the Pain Court Line that carries the majority of traffic between Tilbury and Wallaceburg. Thousands of people a day will drive by and perhaps be inspired to plant native trees.

In addition, I use my role as a high school English teacher to promote the local ecology. I assign a yearly project in which all of my students are paired with a native tree. The students learn the names of their trees in French, English, Latin and Ojibwe. Students conduct a little research on their tree and attempt to discover a leaf in the wild. I hope that these projects create an appreciation for natural history.

Over the past 11 years, my farm has planted 1000 native trees and scrubs in a conservation effort that is unlike anything else found in northern Chatham-Kent. The project has created a collection of diverse deciduous Carolinian specimens by gathering trees listed in Gerry Waldron's book, Trees of the Carolinian Forest. The collection now includes native varieties such as Paw Paw, Sassafras, Buttonbush, Tulip Tree, Ohio Buckeye, Chinquapin Oak and Kentucky Coffee Tree.

Throughout the years, I have enjoyed working with my teaching colleague, Roger Daniel, the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, the Sydenham Field Naturalists and Carolinian Canada. Craig Willett from the now defunct Wheatley Woods nursery was essential in helping me gather my diverse variety of native trees and shrubs. I would also like to thank my wife. She has been very patient with me, while I spent a lot of time, energy and money on a fairly unique hobby.