A Walk in the Woods at Abend Hafen Tree Farm
In April, ESLC staff visited Abend Hafen Tree Farm in Dorchester County for a guided tour alongside the first cohort of the Delmarva Woodland Stewards program. One of ESLC’s oldest easements, the property was donated in 1992 by landowner Rick Abend, who was early to recognize the value that an easement would provide—alleviating financial pressures from developers while ensuring the existence of their forest for future generations.
Rick has spent the last 51 years actively tending their land, educating themselves, and educating and inspiring their visitors. He and his wife Kathy have completed numerous courses in conservation, ecology, woodland stewardship, and advanced wildlife management. Since 1989 they have restored diverse wildlife habitats and replanted their property with bald cypress, native flowers and grasses, and tens of thousands of loblolly pine.
In between school field trips, seminars, workshops, and hundreds of farm tours, the Abends have served in the Maryland Forests Association, the Friends of Blackwater, and the Maryland Tree Farm Committee. Named Dorchester County Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year and Maryland State Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year, the Abends have also repeatedly distributed redbud seedlings to Maryland legislators in Annapolis, reminding our representatives that they are representing not just the people of our state, but our soil, and water, and trees. Truly, the Abends’ contributions to land conservation and woodland stewardship are a tangible expression of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s mission to conserve, steward, and advocate for the unique rural landscape of the Eastern Shore.
The Abends hosted the Delmarva Woodland Stewardship event in April in order to demonstrate the productivity, wildlife habitat, recreation, and water quality benefits that active forest management can provide. Under the setting of a peaceful morning walk in the woods, the Abends shared every trick and tool that they have utilized over the years to support the health of their forest. As the group bobbed and weaved through wood, meadow, and wetland, conversation turned to wood duck nests, coyote sightings, wildlife snags, tickseed sunflowers, pines lost to heavy snow, and the log Rick and his granddaughter recently rolled into the pond exclusively to entertain a bale of 25 sun-loving turtles. A descendant of the Wye Oak, also located on the farm, grows taller and fuller every spring. Over the years, Rick and Kathy have enjoyed documenting the farm’s wood ducks, woodpeckers, Delmarva fox squirrels, herons, caterpillars, bats, and abundant wildlife.
Agricultural easements with more than 25 acres of woods require some form of forest stewardship plan. With the help of various guest speakers, this tour explained the benefits of such planning and demystified the abundant state, federal, and nonprofit resources available to landowners interested in taking a more active role in managing their working lands for both economic and ecological reasons.
Rick and Kathy have gone far and above the forest protections required by the easement on their property. The Abends have developed a dynamic and creative relationship with their land, falling in love with the quail, blueberries, and ferns that sift into the dappled sunlight when a stand of pines is thinned. They have mastered wildlife photography while simultaneously managing fusiform rust through observation of oak trees. When selectively timbering a crowded stand of pine trees, the Abends have chosen to first offer the thinned trees to local watermen for pound nets, rather than selling them wholesale.
The Delmarva Woodland Stewards program hopes to see more landowners like the Abends managing forests to their fullest potential throughout our region. If you are a landowner interested in learning about the dynamic management practices unique to the forests of the Delmarva Peninsula and if you’d like to connect with like-minded peers and service providers, please reach out to Matt Hurd at the Maryland Forest Service: firstname.lastname@example.org