The Kerstens: Giving Back and Looking Forward

Two people standing in front of a variety of native trees and shrubs.

Walking around Anthony and Cristina Kerstens’ three-hectare property in Erin, you would never realize how much the landscape has changed in the last two years. When they bought their home, large lawns dominated the property. Now, newly planted trees and shrubs dot the fields, providing habitat and resources for local wildlife.

Anthony would come home some days and couldn’t find me. I would be under the trees,” jokes Cristina. For the Kerstens, the more trees, the better. Cristina shares that her dad’s family has a tradition of planting a tree for every child born. This tradition captures both the idea of giving back and looking forward, central components of environmental stewardship that reflect our connection with nature.

Environmental Stewardship Projects

Anthony and Cristina embody these ideals through the many past and ongoing projects they’ve implemented to transform their rural property. A large grassy lawn isn’t of interest for them, “Why bother creating a golf course? When you cut the grass, you deprive yourself,” Anthony says looking out towards a mosaic of plants and stones in front of his home. In addition to planting trees, the Kerstens maintain a pollinator garden, providing habitat for native birds and insects. Like many others across the watershed, they also battle against invasive plants to protect native biodiversity. Less visible, a new septic system behind their home protects their groundwater from contamination, adding to the number of stewardship actions the Kerstens have undertaken.

Anthony points to their wetland and pond. “We’ve got frogs, toads and herons. We don’t know how many turtles we have.” The Kerstens are eager to prevent any negative impacts to this unique habitat, the wildlife it supports and to the groundwater they use as a drinking water source.

Two people standing in front of a building beside a variety of flowering plants and small shrubs.
The Kerstens standing in front of their home beside a garden.

Groundwater Protection Projects

A foul odour from the soil and thick green grass over the old septic tank during an excessively dry season signaled a problem. The Kerstens acted quickly to hire a licensed septic system contractor to investigate. A new tank was installed that is less prone to cracking or eroding, and the system was moved further away from their pond to minimize future risks to water quality.

For others looking to implement groundwater protection projects, Anthony stresses the importance of getting multiple quotes, getting references for your contractor and doing your research. Reflecting more broadly on the support provided by CVC through various projects, the Kerstens both agree the process has been “excellent,” pointing to the consideration taken when selecting the right trees to plant based on their property’s existing conditions as an example.

Looking Forward to the Future

What’s next for the Kerstens? Perhaps adding more edible landscaping to go with their apple trees, or maybe a well upgrade. For now, the Kerstens rest easy knowing they have taken a major step to help prevent contamination of the groundwater in their home and community.

Connect with a CVC stewardship coordinator to get started on your own groundwater protection project. Funding is available through CVC’s Landowner Action Fund. For more information on how to reduce the risk to your drinking water, check out Ontario’s best practices guide for source water protection.

By: Nicole Di Cintio, Specialist, Environmental Outreach and Communications

Comments (3)

  1. Congratulations to the Kerstens’ for having a vision of what their property could become and to be an example to others of good stewardship.
    This was just wonderful to read!

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