Cataloochee group raises more than $10,000 for chestnut restoration projects

A local group has raised more than $10,000 to support local, state and national efforts to bring back that mighty giant, the American chestnut tree.

The Cataloochee Branch of The American Chestnut Foundation sponsored its first annual Chestnut Saturday and fundraising dinner in September. More than 500 people joined in the festivities which were held at Cataloochee Ranch, which boasts an outstanding chestnut breeding orchard.

Chestnut Saturday was scheduled just prior to the Branch’s fundraising dinner. The day-long event featured crafts and vendors, live bluegrass and dancing, chestnut orchard tours, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, horseshoes, kids’ games and wildlife biologist Rob Gudger’s captive wolves. The Branch’s dinner featured entertainment and a live auction and the event was almost sold-out.

“Cataloochee Ranch is ideal for growing chestnuts,” said TACF board member Dr. Paul Sisco. “The high-elevation site is good because chestnuts are susceptible to another introduced pathogen, Phytopthora, which causes root rot; however, Phytopthora can’t survive freezing.”

Now in its fourth growing season, Cataloochee’s orchard will be tested in a couple of years for resistance to the blight, and the survivors will be backcrossed again. The trees growing there will be ready for introduction to the wild in 2015, Sisco reports.

“Despite two inches of rain that day [of the event], we were extremely pleased with the turnout,” says Judy Coker, owner of Cataloochee Ranch. “We’ve already started planning next year’s event which will be held the first Saturday after Labor Day. We were very fortunate to have partnered with the Haywood County Council of Garden Clubs and we worked with three outstanding groups, Mountain View Garden Club, Richland Garden Club and the Waynesville Council of Garden Clubs.”

Linda Boyd, President of the Waynesville Council of Garden Clubs said that while Council members were meeting at Cataloochee Ranch to plan a program, they learned about the ranch’s involvement with TACF. The Council decided quickly to help promote the rebirth of the American chestnut tree by participating in the Chestnut Day and gala fundraisers.

For information about the return of the American chestnut, visit  To join the Cataloochee Restoration Branch of The American Chestnut Foundation call 828.926.1401.

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