Worksheet 4 Family Forest Story: “Tree Farming” in the U.S.

The term "tree farming" came about to help the public understand the purposeful management of growing of trees for the long term. The public understood the word farming to mean continual production of goods/crops year after year. Farming was also associated with the idea of good land stewardship, or caring for the land to keep it fertile and producing. By linking the term "farming" with trees, people understood that tree farmers grew crops of trees and needed to keep forested lands productive over time. Tree farming implies commitment to the land and was very different to ideas the public had in the 19th century.

While the term “tree farming” may be used by any forestland owner to describe their practice of growing timber, it is also a termed used by the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). The American Tree Farm System offers a certification program to forestland owners. A Certified Tree Farm is a privately owned forest dedicated to producing renewable and sustainable crops of forest products while maintaining a specific set of standards. The nation's first official ATFS certified Tree Farm was dedicated on June 12, 1941 near Montesano, Washington when the Weyerhaeuser Company dedicated 120,000 acres of company land as the Clemons Tree Farm. And a few years later the American Tree Farm System began increasing their membership by helping forestland owners create management plans for their land. Today about 73,000 certified forests with about 29 million acres of land in 46 states are enrolled in the voluntary certification program offered by the American

Tree Farm System.

Outreach and education are central to private forestland programs today. American Tree Farm System programs work to promote the growing of renewable forest resources on private lands and to increase public understanding of all the benefits of maintaining healthy and productive forests. State forestry agencies provide a variety of assistance to private forest owners, as well. They assist private forest owners to develop and implement forest management plans to deal with insect and disease outbreaks. They also help private forest owners sign up for various financial assistance programs offered by the government. The Association of Consulting Foresters helps educate and assist forestland owners in good forest stewardship.  Stewardship is the wise management and responsible use of forest resources. In addition, the Association of Consulting Foresters helps forestland owners understand the latest legislative issues that impact private forestry, such as taxation, private property rights, and the regulations associated with the Wetlands, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. State Forestry Associations exist in numerous states throughout the country. These organizations work to promote good forest stewardship, as well.

The Greden Farm

One example of a private forest is the Ponderosa, the Greden Tree Farm in Altura, Minnesota owned by Larry Greden and his family. Larry's great grandfather, Frank, originally settled on the property in Read's Landing in 1860. In 1866, Frank moved his family to the current 1,000-acre property. Family legend has it that Frank was fearless. He was the only person to move dead bodies when diphtheria hit the community. And his daughter-in-law fed the outlaw, Jesse James. Peter (Frank's son) was known as a horse trader who almost lost the farm a few times. During the Great Depression, Leonard (Frank's grandson) cut branches to feed leaves to the cows and used wood from the land for fuel.

The Greden's Tree Farm is also a dairy farm, Greden's Ponderosa Dairy, with 600 head of cattle, and approximately 40 percent of the farm is woodland. Now, four generations of Greden's live on the farm that produces dairy products, timber, Christmas trees, and materials for a log cabin business. The Greden family takes full advantage of the recreation available right outside their back door – making the farm a place of pleasure, as well as work.

Larry makes forest management a priority on his property. In 1970, he planted thousands of trees and believes everything he does on the land must improve it for future generations. The family manages the Tree Farm for red oak, white pine, white and blue spruce and black walnut. The Gredens plan to return 100 acres of land back to prairie grass and prairie flowers.

American Tree Farm System Standards for Tree Farm Certification

The American Tree Farm System has a set of standards that any private forestland owner must meet in order for their land to become a Certified Tree Farm. The certification process is voluntary and the landowner must have a minimum of 10 acres of forestland to be considered for Tree Farm Certification. A Certified Tree Farm must maintain standards set by the American Forest Foundation and can become decertified if it fails to continue to meet the standards. These standards have been revised several times since 1941 when the program officially began. The most recent set of standards were implemented on July 1, 2004. Forestland owners wishing to enter the American Tree Farm System have to meet the revised set of Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification (Standards).

Image 1: Tree farm owners in West Virginia around 1970. Sign posted on fence beside them reads "TREE FARM - Member, American Tree Farm System," signaling that they own a certified tree farm.

The 9 Standards for Tree Farm Certification for 2004-2008:

Standard 1: Ensuring Sustainable Forests – the forestland owner must promote the growing of renewable forest resources on private lands while protecting environmental benefits and increasing public understanding of all benefits of productive forestry. An accredited Tree Farm Inspector must inspect the land to see that it meets sustainability standards.

Standard 2: Compliance With Laws - Forest management of the private land must obey all relevant federal, state and local regulations and ordinances.

Standard 3: Commitment to Practicing Sustainable Forestry – Private forest owners must demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by developing and implementing a long-term forest management plan.

Standard 4: Reforestation - Forest owners must replant desirable species of trees, compatible with the ecosystems of the region, on harvested areas and unused areas where tree-growing is the intended land use.

Standard 5: Air, Water and Soil Protection - Forest owners must follow State Forestry Best Management Practices and comply with all relevant forest practices act(s) and ordinances in their state. The forestry practices on the land should maintain or enhance the environment, including air, water, soil, and site quality.

Standard 6: Fish, Wildlife and Biodiversity - Forest management activities should contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and maintain or enhance habitat for native fish, wildlife, and plant species on the land to be certified.

Standard 7: Forest Aesthetics - Forest management practices should minimize negative visual impacts of forest activities. Landowners must manage their forest with this concern in mind.

Standard 8: Protect Special Sites - Special sites are managed in a way that recognizes their unique characteristics. Forest management practices must recognize historical, biological, archaeological, cultural, and geological sites of special interest.

Standard 9: Wood Fiber Harvest and Other Operations - Wood fiber harvests and other forest operations are conducted in accordance with the management plan and with sensitivity to other forest values (e.g., water quality, regeneration, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, special sites, etc.).