Protecting Planet Inspires Locals to Join Snipes Farm’s 2022 Earth Day Celebration
Connecting area residents to nature is a key mission of the Snipes Farm and Education Center in Lower Bucks County
April 22, 2022
“Into the Woods!”
With that proclamation, Melanie Douty-Snipes led her group of volunteers into the dark green shade of the Nature Trail at the Snipes Farm and Education Center in Morrisville.
The day was April 23. The occasion was the 7th-generation farm’s celebration of Earth Day 2022.
Sixty people arrived to participate in the farm’s COVID-delayed 50th celebration of the original Earth Day in 1970. They joined an estimated 1 billion people in 193 countries celebrating long-standing efforts to save the planet.
The goal of Earth Day proponents is basically this: we must protect clear air to breath and clean water to drink. We must also protect all the life-giving powers of our ecologically complex blue-green planet, including the sustainability of the very soil under our feet.
“I tell people about this, and they say: ‘I’d love to do something like that,’” said Kathryn Shaw, who had joined the other volunteers with her husband and son. “We love the farm, and we feed the animals. It’s a wonderful place. My son is so happy here, and we love to help out, too.”
Jonathan Snipes, executive director of the Snipes Farm and Education Center, could hardly contain his excitement as the crowd of volunteers burgeoned into a widening circle behind the Big Red Barn to begin the Earth Day activities.
“Wow, this is the biggest group of Earth Day volunteers we’ve ever had,” Jonathan said, throwing his hands into the air, popping up on his toes and letting out a whoop.
He welcomed the individuals and groups who had come, among them members of the Morrisville Presbyterian Church and a local affiliate of Waste Management.
The volunteers were able to choose from one of six activities: weeding the Children’s Garden, planting young trees, clearing the Nature Trail, preserving outdoor wooden benches, mulching already planted trees
…and planting kale.
“That’s for people who really want to get down and dirty in the dirt,” said Jonathan, with a playful smile.
Snipes Farm and Education Center is a nonprofit organic farm with a powerful mission: “To model and teach sustainable farming, while building community and reconnecting people to the land.” It is a USDA certified organic farm, a rarity even in heavily agricultural Bucks County.
At Snipes’ annual Earth Day event, the Snipes family, staff and volunteers share their love of the earth and the life-giving beauty of the natural world.
All of this takes place in an unlikely location. The farm sits on 150 acres in Morrisville, PA, just across the Delaware River from Trenton. Bounded by high-speed roadways, it’s an emerald gem in an otherwise intensely urban setting.
On this Earth Day, Jonathan, Melanie Douty-Snipes (Snipes Camp Director) and Susan Snipes (Snipes property manager) led the circle of volunteers in a rousing rendition of This Pretty Planet following Jonathan’s welcome.
Then it was “into the woods” for Melanie and her group of volunteers, a group of 20 participating in a We Conserve PA woodlands trail workshop for families. They learned about watersheds, the topography and soils of the farm, and sustainability efforts.
They also had a hands-on task: to clear the Nature Trail of debris and ready it for spring visitors.
The Nature Trail
The Snipes Nature Trail snakes through a rare Coastal Plain Woodland that has not been cleared for 100 years. It is home to unique native plants and is a refuge for the Wood Thrush and Great Horned Owl. Two bubbling creeks run through it.
Surrounding the Nature Trail are 150 acres of farm fields and woodlands that have been permanently preserved through the Pennsylvania Nature Lands Trust. The trail is a central focus of a nature curriculum for the approximately 3,000 children and teenagers who annually attend the Center’s seasonal programs.
A pedestrian walkway over Jordan Creek gives access to the trail. The creek’s banks have been stabilized to prevent erosion, and a bioretention basin has been built to protect the waterway and wetlands from harmful runoff.
As Melanie led her group along the Nature Trail, she pointed out various plants along its edge, including an ancient Interrupted Fern, the oldest species of fern in eastern North America. Ferns are earth’s oldest living plants. They were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Under Melanie’s instruction, the volunteers carefully raked leaves, small branches and other small debris off the trail, placing larger branches along its edge to mark the path. When their work was done, she led them back to the start of the trail, then took a sharp right down to Jordans Creek.
The creek made a cheerful bubbling sound as clear water coursed around a dry gravel bed where the group gathered for a final Earth Day ceremony.
Circle of Gratitude
They stood in a circle. Each person spoke in turn about what made them grateful, especially for nature and its many gifts, from the sun, rain and clouds to wild bird calls and the sound of the sparkling brook at their feet.
As each person spoke, a young girl in the center of the circle unraveled a ball of yarn, connecting the previous speaker to the next one, until the everyone had spoken, and the entire group was connected by a spider’s web of blue wool thread.
The last to speak was Jamie Stough, there with his wife and two small boys. He spoke passionately about the need to protect the earth from climate change and human destruction of the natural world.
Said Stough: “I am grateful there are people who understand how dire the situation is and that we have a lot of work to do, and we need to change a lot of things very, very quickly.”