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Trees on Tap: Tree Fest 2023 uses beer purchases to plant trees

Member of Swamp Head Brewery plants a longleaf pine seedling in January 2019 at Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida. Since 2015, 584,379 trees have been planted because of the Tree Fest. (Photo courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery)
Member of Swamp Head Brewery plants a longleaf pine seedling in January 2019 at Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida. Since 2015, 584,379 trees have been planted because of the Tree Fest. (Photo courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery)

Beers equal trees. That equation may not be taught in school but it is the Pythagorean Theorem for Elaine Jacobson’s upcoming event.

“If you drink a beer, you are doing good,” Jacobson said.

Solar Impact, Inc. is putting on its eighth annual “Tree Fest” event on April 22 from noon to 11 p.m. at Swamp Head Brewery. The free admission festival will feature family-friendly activities, food trucks, live music and beer. The money raised from the event will support Alachua Conservation Trust in planting trees throughout 2023.

Jacobson, co-founder of Solar Impact, Inc. and member of the event’s organization team, said each beer that is purchased at Tree Fest 2023 will lead to four trees being planted and every festival shirt bought will convert to 20 trees. A percentage of the food truck sales will also be donated toward ACT and every dollar donated will equal four more trees in the ground.

She said before the creation of the festival in 2015, her company was already a big supporter of Alachua Conservation Trust. Since 2014, Solar Impact, Inc. has supported ACT by planting 500 trees for every residential solar installation and 1,000 trees for every commercial solar installation.

However, she said she wanted to make an even larger impact on the tree ecosystem.

When working with Swamp Head to make it the first solar-powered brewery in Florida, Solar Impact, Inc. realized it had a commonality with the brewing company. Jacobson said both she and Swamp Head supported ACT on their own at the time and came up with the idea to create an annual fundraiser for the organization together.

Although the trees will not be planted at the event, ACT executive director Tom Kay said the funds of the event more than help get the plants in the ground.

“We had a lot of needs for trees and didn't really have a funding source for it,” Kay said. “So this event helps us recognize the importance of Earth Day and the need to plant trees.”

ACT works to conserve land across Florida through several projects. The annual Tree Fest raises money for the organization to plant longleaf pine trees every year at the Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida.

Kay said the longleaf pine was a species that dominated the southeast and covered millions of acres. Now, the trees cover only a fraction of that land.

Every January, Swamp Head Brewery staff and Solar Impact, Inc. staff join ACT to place longleaf pine seedlings. Not only does Kay enjoy having the two businesses around to help plant, but he likes to see the history of each previous festival through the trees.

“It's a really cool experience because some of the first trees we planted back in 2015 and 2016 are getting tall now,” Kay said. “It's really amazing to see sort of the transformation of the landscape based off of this event and the people that come out to support it.”

Molly Eveleth, marketing manager at Swamp Head Brewery, said this year’s Tree Fest is slightly different than previous years because there will be more bands in attendance. The groups listed to perform are Aisle 14, Sauce Pocket and Quail Hollow.

“Every year gets a little bit better or a little bit bigger,” Eveleth said.

Community non-profit organizations will be in attendance tabling and educating guests about the environment from noon to 5 p.m.

One of the organizations that will be tabling is Florida Native Plant Society.

FNPS member Howard Jelks said FNPS and ACT have similar goals in trying to restore the native plant communities of North Central Florida, which is why he’s participated in the event every year since 2015.

Florida Native Plant Society focuses on increasing the appreciation of native plants and trying to get them back into circulation for the wildlife that need them.

He said his Tree Fest 2023 table will educate people on native plants, provide landscape guides and have coloring books for children to learn about the plants.

“The more we get out and tell people that it's good to plant native plants and the great pleasures that they're going to get from seeing the wildlife enjoy those native plants in their yards, it keeps this part of Florida more native than it would be otherwise,” Jelks said.

Eveleth said there will be a special drink for the festival available called the “Longleaf Lager.” There will also be local food vendors such as Stubbies Pop-Up Sausages, Tommyknockers Mobile Kitchen, Uppercrust, and Germains.

Tree Fest 2023 is more than just an opportunity to drink beer, but if people are looking to crack a cold one, she suggests coming out.

“If you're gonna be hanging out and having a beer, you might as well do it for the trees,” Eveleth said.

Miguel is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.