Kane's Scenic River Farm
Ashley Swainbank, her brother, and her two parents Tom and Nancy Kane manage ~1000 acres of land and milk ~1000 cows. In Ashley's words, "everyone does their part." Their farm borders a beautiful, winding stretch of the Missisquoi River, which is a tributary to Lake Champlain and a draw for swimming and fishing in the summer. In 2008 the MRBA helped plant trees along a bank of the Missisquoi that had been a problem on the farm for years and in 2010 we revisited the site to plant more trees. This spring we stopped by to check on the trees and hear from Ashley and her parents.
Ashley's family had been aware that the 15-25 foot bank was eroding for years. The steep bank is along the Missisquoi River and is made up of sandy soil. In 2008 it had only pasture above it, and continued to cut closer and closer to Route 105 as it eroded year by year. Ashley's parents remember that they were originally approached about a tree planting by CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program), which uses both federal and state resources to meet state environmental objectives and to protect environmentally sensitive land.
The MRBA planted twice on the same site- in May of 2008 and again in 2010. 300 trees were planted in 2008, and 200 in 20010. Though the family doesn't remember why the MRBA came back to plant again in 2010, they think it was to make the original planting thicker. That first year the trees did better than Nancy and Tom thought they would, As Tom remembered, the trees "were under ice jams for months” but still grew.
Since the original planting some trees have fallen into the river as the bank has eroded. Tom Kane believes that the planting definitely slowed the erosion, though he's also concerned that the river is ultimately headed in that direction. For now, as Ashley said, the planting looks good, and "the bushes and brush are thick in the summer." Ashley's family has been swimming and fishing the river for years and Ashley rides her horse along a section of the bank that the family has allowed to naturally regenerate. Ashley also has two young daughters, who she is raising on the farm. Thinking to the future, she envisions a healthy river for them- "I would like for my girls to be able to play in it."
A little ways down the Missisquoi River, the family has allowed additional buffer of brush and trees to naturally grow in. The entire area used to be pasture for cows but, being a large farm operation with many acres, they don't have to actively farm it. Ashley remembers it as pasture, when it was "chewed up into nothing." Now it is, as her father puts it, "what it should be" - a buffer zone for the river, preventing runoff from farmland and Route 105 while preventing erosion.
The site in 2008
The site in 2019
This story was produced with the generous support of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission
This project was funded by an agreement LC00A00394 awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC manages LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP Steering Committee.
Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection agency under agreement LC00A00394 to NEIWPCC, it has not undergone the Agency’s publications review process and therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, the LCBP Steering Committee, or EPA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.