[Director’s Note: This is the inaugural blog highlighting the learning and volunteer efforts of the Natural Resources Stewards program, which now delivers its learn-and-practice class at Canterbury Shaker Village. Future blogs will highlight additional stewardship- related topics and other events at CSV.]

By Jennifer J. Montgomery, Natural Resources Steward

ou know that feeling you get in the spring when you throw open the windows and enjoy anew the wonderfully fresh air and bright sunshine? Your home hasn’t changed, but your pleasure in it has. UNH Cooperative Extension’s Natural Resources Stewards (NRS) volunteer program experienced that kind of amazing ‘refresh’ last fall when it moved its 12-­‐week stewardship class to Canterbury Shaker Village (CSV).

With classroom space flooded with natural light and an extraordinary natural environment right outside the classroom doors, CSV provided the Stewards and their instructors with a beautiful place to learn. The Stewards had acres upon acres to practice that learning—at a Village infused with the spirit and legacy of the Shakers’ own stewardship of their beloved land.

Part of the vibrant energy of Natural Resources Stewards studying at CSV lies in the opportunity to take classroom learning outside for several hours each class day. Stewards studied the types of trees in the CSV arboretum, planted apple trees in one of the Village orchards, studied and tested pond water at Turning Mill Pond, analyzed wildlife habitats present at CSV, planted a pollinator garden using hügelkultur techniques, observed forest management techniques at North Family Farm, and grappled with the challenges of tree health and management in the context of CSV’s historical preservation priorities.

And Canterbury Shaker Village benefitted, too, from NRS-­‐related projects. Stewards and their expert instructors assisted with gardening, pruning, and planting projects; rediscovered and picked Village cranberries for the café; and volunteered at CSV events. And NRS leaders helped CSV connect with the NH Arborists Association, whose members donated more than $10,000 worth of professional tree work during the Association’s annual October workday.

If you would like to learn more about and experience CSV’s natural environment, you too can have that opportunity this fall as the Stewards’ class will be held again at the Village starting in September. The 12-­‐week NRS course focuses on stewardship priorities like the care and identification of trees and forests; the importance of native species and the threats posed by invasive species; best practices in planting and habitat for pollinators and wildlife; and preserving and protecting rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Additionally, an overarching theme will be the benefits that permaculture practices provide to the land and all who share it.

The Natural Resources Stewards program—a partnership between UNH Cooperative Extension and the NH Division of Forests and Lands—has been training citizen volunteers in natural-­‐resources stewardship for more than 25 years. The program has graduated more than 500 Natural Resources Stewards, who as part of the program commit to volunteering for projects that promote and preserve precious natural resources across New Hampshire.

If this NRS program at CSV sounds exciting to you, please consider joining us! Stewards are people of all ages and backgrounds who are interested in learning about the natural environment. No experience is necessary. The 2020 NRS class will be held again at CSV on Fridays starting Sept. 4 for 12 weeks. Click here to learn more and apply to become a member of the 2020 Natural Resources Stewards class.