Sustainability shines at ZenaFest

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Farm Club members
    Members of Willamette’s Farm Club use a press to make fresh apple cider.
  • Zena Forest Products tour
    Festival visitors tour the Zena Forest Products wood mill.

Willamette community receives a closer glimpse of student, faculty work at forest property.

A Willamette festival gave students who were unfamiliar with Zena Forest plenty of reasons to return.

Held Oct. 7 during Family Weekend, ZenaFest offered tours, wine tasting (for people aged 21 and older) and demonstrations — all on the university’s 305-acre property northwest of campus.

More than 200 people traveled to the forest, many for the first time.

“People generally know Zena Forest exists, but many have never been out there and don’t understand why we have it,” says Claire Pockell-Wilson ’20, communications coordinator for the university’s Sustainability Institute. “It’s such a great resource for our campus and community — there’s so much stuff going on.”

Faculty members, many of whom use the forest for their teaching or research, led walks through ecologically restored forest and prairie. The crowd also watched a demonstration of how drone-captured images can be used for ecological monitoring. Another tour led people through Zena Forest Products wood mill, where they learned the owner cuts wood for flooring by hand.

Fresh produce cultivated at Zena was also available for sampling. Members of the Farm Club, a student organization that maintains gardens and sell fruits and vegetables to Willamette students, handed out peppers and cherry tomatoes that tasted “like candy,” says Pockell-Wilson. Locally-sourced squash soup and bread was also served, along with samples of apple cider that club members pressed at the event.

True to Willamette’s sustainability ethic, dinnerware and food was composted at the zero-waste event, so that, despite the huge crowd, less than one pound of trash was generated.

The turnout was better than expected and, as Pockell-Wilson says, “events like ZenaFest let people know this property is accessible.”

The Sustainability Institute plans to hold the event again next fall.

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