The scream of chainsaws and the occasional shout of warning as a tree was felled could be heard from multiple locations around Reynolds Farm this weekend as members of Team Rubicon were in town to train.
Mike Reynolds, who is working to rebuild the farm in order to host fellow veterans in need, said 27 members of the disaster assistance group from across Georgia and surrounding states were busy training there Saturday and Sunday. He said Brandon Allen of Brandon Allen construction used a bulldozer to knock over pine trees in the area where a cow pasture will go in order to simulate tornado or hurricane damage, while Daryl Jackson of the Georgia Forestry Commission visited to point out trees that should be removed from wooded areas to better enable the forest to grow.
“What we did before they got here is we tried to give them a variety,” Reynolds said. “The instructors were able to use those as teaching tools. All the while, it’s allowing us to selectively trim the tree line back.”
Casey Miller, the Atlanta City Administrator for Team Rubicon, was overseeing the training exercise while Jordan Moss from North Carolina was leading the chainsaw training. Miller explained that Team Rubicon is an all-volunteer organization that goes into disaster areas to help remove trees or “muck out” storm damaged homes. The group, which has a presence in all 50 states and around the world, has recently been busy in the Caribbean and the midwest United States.
The folks training at Reynolds Farm this weekend were mostly lower-level sawyers who were being instructed on the proper techniques.
“This allows them to know how to cut, how to drop things, how to be safe,” said Miller. “At the same time, it helps Mike here out on the farm.”
Miller said Team Rubicon is mostly comprised of veterans, though military service is not a prerequisite for joining. He said the type of work the group does lends itself to those with that type of training, but they’ll train anyone who is serious about joining the team.
“We use our skills learned in the military to help our communities before, during and after disasters,” Miller said.
One of the volunteers was Hank Lunsford, a 78-year-old retired English teacher from Sarasota, Florida. He said he joined Team Rubicon after learning about the group while doing contract work for a church organization. He said he went into a home that had been damaged by Hurricane Rita and was impressed at how well it had been cleaned out by Team Rubicon.
“By the time I got to the third one, I was asking, ‘Who the heck is Team Rubicon?’” Lunsford said.
He joined the team shortly after, and during the past six months Lunsford has put in work in Texas, Florida and now Georgia.
“We always say step in, but I jumped in,” he said.
Team Rubicon has about 1,400 members in Georgia, including about 15 in the area, and about 110,000 across the U.S.
By Sunday morning the men and women at Reynolds Farm had already taken down about 40 trees to make room for a cow pasture in one location and a alpaca and goat pasture in another spot. Miller said the land presented a great opportunity for his team to train.
“You usually don’t have what is essentially a sawyer’s dream,” he said.
To learn more about Team Rubicon, visit their website at https://teamrubiconusa.org.
Reynolds said work on the farm has been moving along at a good pace. He recently put up a grant-funded hoop house to plant and grow cold weather vegetables and installed solar panels. On Sunday he drove visitors around on an all terrain vehicle to point out where each of the next additions will go.
“The farm hadn’t been worked in about 10 years, so you can imagine what that looked like,” he said.
Once complete, the farm will raise cows, pigs, bees, alpaca and goats, grow a variety of crops and hay, and include a riding arena and bunk house for veterans to stay in while they help work the the land.
“The idea is we can find something for everyone,” Reynolds said.
He said after The Calhoun Times published an article about the farm recently that he had 14 different veterans visit to express their interest in what Reynolds is doing.
For his part, he said, Reynolds just wants to help his fellow veterans. And farming can be therapeutic because it not only gives people something to do, but it also can be exciting when you are tending large animals or working with bees.
“Guys need to wake up and have something to do,” Reynolds said.