By Yashar Vasef, Executive Director, Friends of Trees
The first planting event of the season always sets the stage for me and opens me up to all the connections that can happen when you bring people together. My first event this year drove that home and more. Friends of Trees helped put on a land tending event at Portland Community College – Rock Creek in partnership with Indigenous community groups and other local partners.
Together, we worked to restore what had been a cow pasture on campus at PCC back to an oak wetland. Working with Wisdom of the Elders, the Five Oaks Museum, and Kimimela Consulting gave us the chance to learn about the history of the land and call back to what the original stewards of the lands would have planted. We planted evergreen huckleberry, beaked hazelnut, and of course, Oregon white oak. Once these plants get established, Indigenous communities will be able to forage this land.
More than planting, the day was all about connection.
I met one of our crew leaders, Emily, who has been volunteering with Friends of Trees since she was young. She spoke to me about how much she’s loved getting to see the plants and trees she’s planted grow over time. The event felt truly intergenerational, from one of our long-time crew leaders to a student who saw the land tending event on the school calendar and told me that she couldn’t have been happier to come join.
It was the first planting event for our PGE Project Zero intern Jose. Meng Vue, the Green Space specialist who led this awesome event, talked to me about how Jose is passionate about nature and youth education and that he’s brought such a positive energy to our team. His hard work hasn’t just helped us grow plants, it’s helped our team and our projects flourish too. It was awesome to see him learn the ins and outs of hosting a community event.
I got to spend quality time with Adrienne Moat, the Workforce Development Manager at Wisdom of the Elders and a board member at Friends of Trees, whose support and guidance is so valuable. One of the PCC professors I met told me how important it was for BIPOC people to get together and plant side by side. I felt that too, especially as I connected with several people there over our immigrant backgrounds. These are the sort of deeper conversations made possible by having community planting events like this, and it’s something that I really cherish.