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JMU students to roll up sleeves to celebrate Arbor Day by volunteering on Friday

Crystal Graham
two people using spade to plant a tree
(© Charlie’s – stock.adobe.com)

A James Madison University professor and research students plan to roll up their sleeves on Friday hosting a tree and shrub planning event in celebration of Arbor Day.

Mikaela Schmitt-Harsh, an interdisciplinary liberal studies professor, runs an Edible Forest Garden on the hillside near King Hall on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg.

Schmitt-Harsh will lead a student volunteer day between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Students are invited to learn about the garden and pitch in to plant shrubs, herbs and trees.

Arbor Day celebrates and promotes the planting, care and appreciation of trees. It serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of trees in the environment, both ecologically and culturally, said Schmitt-Harsh.

The Edible Forest Garden was established in 2021 and is about half an acre in size. There is a large variety of plants in the garden, including fruit trees such as apples, figs, Asian pears and persimmons.

The garden also has a diverse assemblage of perennial herbaceous plants such as lemon thyme, lemon balm, spearmint, chocolate mint and rosemary.

Anyone who visits the forest garden may harvest crops.

“We haven’t yet experienced surplus years whereby ‘extra’ produce is available. In such a case we intend to donate produce to the JMU campus pantry, during the fall and spring semesters, or to community food banks, during the summer months,” said Schmitt-Harsh.

The site is used by students for class and independent research projects that focus on biodiversity-, agriculture- and forestry-related topics.

More information about the Edible Forest Garden can be found at https://sites.lib.jmu.edu/foodforest/.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.