OREGON – Lant Huntley is a busy man.
Between running Huntley Horticulture Service, which takes him as far north as northern Minnesota and as far south as Springfield, and researching trees and removing invasive species as part of his Huntley Woods Tree Research Facility just outside Oregon, he rarely seems to have a day off.
And despite his busy schedule, he’s launched a free program of seminars he has dubbed “Tuesdays With an Arborist.” The seminars are held the second Tuesday of every month, April through October.
They’re Huntley’s way of giving back to those who have given him so much.
“He’s trying to educate the public,” said Carolyn Leake, who has been with Huntley Woods since the private tree research facility was built in 2007.
Huntley Woods, which consists of 40 acres of mixed hardwoods, also plans to open a nature trail by next spring. It will be named after Huntley’s former Sunday school teacher, lifelong friend and mentor, Eugene Canfield.
In fact, Huntley attributes the very existence of his facility to Canfield.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you give back what the Rock River Valley community has given you?’” Huntley remembers.
“I reluctantly did it,” he said, “but then I realized that what he had given me was a real gift; it was all about giving back. That’s what he gave to me, through the seed that he planted.”
Huntley wants to share his knowledge and experience with the entire Sauk Valley community, including, and especially, its younger members.
“What really concerns me about young people today – not all, because I do know a lot of young people who do care – but there’s a lot that do not,” Huntley said. “They’re so busy in the technological world that has absorbed so much time, and it’s deviated from the natural world. A lot of our sessions here, we have very few people under the age of 30.”
He admits his first reaction “was one of frustration and just rejecting the idea that they would not participate in the world of the outdoors and learning about it.”
“But I know a lot of those people – they’re good people – they were just brought up in a different time, and maybe it’s not their failure, maybe it’s ours, to engender an interest in the outdoors.”
Despite that, Huntley is not a quitter.
“No matter whose failure it is, I’m going to continue to try to bring those people in.”
In fact, he is open to the idea of a Tuesday session geared toward a younger audience.
“If we were to do something like that, it’s like any other dimension in learning,” he said. “We’d better be dynamic, and we’d better be able to relate to them, and take them not just into our world, but we’d better join into their world a little bit if we want them to participate in their world, the outdoors.”