An interdisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students representing three colleges — Natural Resources and Environment, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Architecture — has won the Casey Trees Master Plan Design Competition. Fifty teams from across the country were invited to submit proposals for a master plan for the Casey Tree Farm. After narrowing the field to 14 teams, four teams were chosen to present their designs in the final round. The jury unanimously selected Virginia Tech’s proposal.

Casey Trees is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization committed to restoring, enhancing, and protecting the tree canopy of the nation’s capital. The organization maintains the Casey Tree Farm, 730 acres of forest and farmland that includes a nursery housing more than 10,000 trees, located along the Shenandoah River in Clarke County, Va.

The Virginia Tech team blended expertise, new technology, and practical knowledge with innovative approaches to design. Their proposal placed a heavy emphasis on research, production technology, and whole farm management, and included sustainable methods of nursery tree production, sustainable approaches to food production, and the renovation of historic architecture on the property.

“This project is a perfect example of blending the university’s mission to use research-based knowledge and technology to address real-world challenges for our stakeholders in the commonwealth,” explained team member Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry. He credits the team’s success to their ability to think critically and creatively, and believes the multidisciplinary background of the team created synergy and challenged members to think outside of their disciplinary paradigms.

Other team members from the college include John Munsell, associate professor and forest management Extension specialist, and forestry master’s student Taylor Chakurda of Pittsburgh, Pa.

The team chose a light-hearted and innovative approach to their presentation by looking back at the success of the Casey Tree Farm over the years from the perspective of 50 years in the future, even including a “where are they now” look at the students on the team.

Both the members of the Virginia Tech team and Casey Trees look at this not only as a valuable experience, but also as the beginning of an ongoing relationship rather than the end of a competition. “I hope this competition opens doors for the students as they move into their careers,” said Mark Buscaino, executive director of Casey Trees. “I also hope this opens doors for future collaborations between Virginia Tech and Casey Trees. As time progresses and our tree production operations mature, we will look to engage [the] design team ideas that enhance Casey Tree Farm and help us connect people to trees.”