(Wagram Olive Orchard & Food Forest)
Different words come and go, but apparently, “agroforestry” is what they’re calling this game now. Or you could think of it as the ultimate "permaculture". (I’m not sure what all the earlier tribes called it as they more or less practiced it in this country for millennia.)
Undeterred by a few stray dogs barking around here, the Crew family is taking care of an established and growing collection of native Black Walnut trees along with the new olive groves, more than a dozen other types of fruit trees, a handful of other nut trees, berry bushes, etc. Phill Haines of Appin Bees tends some of his beehives here as well.
And there’s a little soccer field for the kids. Come on over. Just give us a heads-up first.
Brief history of this place
About a century ago, the majority of this land along Riverton Road in Wagram was a patchwork of plowed fields, mostly cultivated with cotton. Various small farm plots were divided by hedgerows and old ditches originally dug by Scottish settlers (probably with some unlucky helpers). In the northwestern few acres, a lumberyard and train depot sprawled out with a collection of warehouses and other buildings next to the railroad (which is now long abandoned).
During the second half of the 1900s, the train stopped running and other factors combined to send the economy of Wagram and all Scotland County into steep decline. This likely coincided with the exhaustion of soil on many farmlands after intensive use for many decades. (Layers of topsoil and humus are easily squandered, stripped of natural fertility, when land in here in "the sandhills" is subjected to repeated plowing.)
Soon, almost all the old cotton fields reverted to forest. Longtime locals like Frank Leviner could probably tell a lot more details about the ensuing decades. Life went on, and Wagram shrank and continued as a quiet little backwoods town on the river.
At some point around 2007, the old lumberyard acreage (now Wagram Olive Orchard) began to get cleared of trees, cleaned up of old buildings, mill machinery, etc. and tilled to cultivate annual crops again. By then, all the old houses on it were gone except for the one built in 1950 by the owner of the lumber mill.
Other than the upper five acres or so and a one-acre garden plot on the southeastern edge (near Crumptown Road), the rest of this space continued as woods until 2016, when it was stripped -- almost all clear-cut for timber money. Luckily, the soil here is relatively resilient even after such abuse.
By 2020, both of the cleared spots had been abandoned again, and the land had returned to a state of neglect. Nate and Amanda Crew bought the southern nine acres and immediately got to work. Over the following two years, they secured the rest, which they now call “Wagram Olive Orchard and Food Forest”. (The acronym “WOOFF” is a nod to the wild dogs, many of whom still run around here.)