Alex Kew at the Karin Nursery

A Visit to Armenia with the Armenia Tree Project

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By Alex Kew

YEREVAN/WASHINGTON — Last month, I had the absolute pleasure of being invited to Armenia with the Armenia Tree Project for a tour of both the country and their tree operations. My family has been long involved with ATP and I interned at their Boston office over a few summers. I’ve always believed very strongly in the work they are doing, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see it all in action.

We arrived in the capital city of Yerevan in the middle of the night late Sunday night, and began our tour bright and early first thing Monday morning with our first tree nursery.

Left to Right: Christina Kew, Alex Kew, Julia Kew, at the Mirak Reforestation Nursery in Margahovit

Armenia Tree Project has four nurseries in operation, and on day one we headed out to the Karin Nursery. This is ATP’s first nursery, and for this tree-hugger it was a sight to behold. We saw the new greenhouse, filled to the brim with baby trees, germinated just a few weeks ago and growing for forestry plantings. Outside, there were rows and rows of fruit trees for community planting, and even ornamental trees shaped by ATP’s experienced arborists.

After touring the nursery we headed to a nearby Community Tree Planting site. Just like Casey Trees, ATP also has a “Community Tree Planting” program. Though it operates a bit differently, and with much younger trees, the underlying message is the same: re-tree community sites to create vibrant healthy green spaces for generations to come.

Alex Kew and the 7 Millionth tree

The site we visited was Saint Gevork Monastery, one of many ancient religious sites. The land around this monastery was planted by ATP over 20 years ago, and the impact is unbelievable. The whole space has transformed from dry cracked land to an oasis of fruit trees. The orchard at this monastery overflows each summer with so many native fruits that they give them away to the clergy, patrons of the church, and local school children, and still have too many left over!

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The next day we headed south to see ATP’s newest nursery — the Betty Howell Nursery in Chiva village. This is ATP’s newest operation and serves primarily as a forestry nursery. We joined for the dedication of this nursery, and the ATP staff laid out the most beautiful table of treats for us to enjoy while some of the local environmental education students presented. We then all got a chance to plant a tree, and I jumped at the opportunity. My mom and sister and I planted a small fir tree together, and it was so fun to talk shop with the workers and see firsthand how the planting is done in Armenia.

My favorite spot on the trip by far was our visit to the Mirak Nursery. My family has been involved with ATP for a while, and a number of years ago we had the opportunity to name one of the nurseries. We dedicated this site to my great-grandparents who were forced to flee the country during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. They were never able to return to their homeland, so to be able to honor their legacy in this way felt incredibly emotional to me.

This site is able to produce hundreds of thousands of trees every year, all for reforestation efforts across dry and desertifying land. To not only have the opportunity to return and walk upon the land from which my family came, but to know that we are able to bring new life back through reforestation, brings me such immense joy and hope for this land and its people.

After visiting the Mirak nursery, we were invited to ATP’s environmental education center in Margahovit Village, the Ohanian Center, for the planting of the 7 millionth tree! Everyone gathered in between downpours of rain to ceremonially plant a blue spruce in celebration. There were a few more trees laid out to plant as well and I got to flex my planting skills with my family.

Right to Left: Alex Kew, mother Julia Kew, sister Christina Kew, planting a tree with ATP Chief Propagator Tigran Palazyan

Over the course of the rest of the trip we got to experience even more culture, food, and cool tree stuff. We visited ATP’s fourth and final nursery, the Khachpar nursery — another site growing trees for both forestry and community planting. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the absolutely delicious food and stunning historical cultural sites we got to experience. All in all, this trip was a life changing experience — and I am honored to be able to see, firsthand, the immense impact of ATP’s work here in my homeland.

(Alex Kew wrote this story originally for Casey Trees, an organization in Washington, DC, for which she serves as a communications officer.)

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