As an investor, I got into tree farming backwards; I love forests and I wanted to own land, but I had to convince myself that tree farming could be a good investment. I made what I considered generous estimates and jumped in. No matter the rationale, it looks like tree farming really is a good investment. Mills opening in and near
Virginia, a possible housing revival, a thriving relatively new market in wood pellets, many of which are going to places like Germany to support their renewable fuel mandate programs, and things like Dominion Power’s decision to convert some coal fired plants to Virginia grown biomass is making me happy that we decided to get into forestry. But good investment potential is just the factor that enables me to be engaged in forestry; itself it is not the reason I do it. I think most forest “investors” are like this. I take great satisfaction and pleasure watching my trees grow and planning for the future, knowing that the future will be just a little better because I am helping conserve and improve the quality of the soils, the purity of the water, the beauty of the land and its capacity to support wildlife, all the while sustainably growing timber and forest products that our country needs. This is a long sentence because it encompasses a lot. This is why I do it. This is why we do it.
My sons often come with me to work on our land and meet forestry folks. The other day, my older son asked me, “Why are the people we meet always so happy?” As I thought about the question, I realized that he was right in his observation. People involved in forestry are an unusually happy bunch. Coming up with a definitive answer as to why might require research beyond my abilities but I have a few ideas. Mostly they related to the things I wrote above.
People are happy when they are doing things they love and when they know that what they are doing has value and meaning. It helps if what they are doing is sustainable both for them and the larger community. Good people want to do good things. Forestry includes all this.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the money I can make and I am delighted that a forestry investment pays off. Profit is the price of survival. I could not do forestry if it didn’t pay off; few of us could. But I don’t know anybody in forestry who does it only or even mostly for the money. People in forestry love forests and we love them in all their glorious complexity. We love to look at them, walk in them, plan for the future and remember the past. For me, and I believe for many others, the forest is a place of sweet contentment, where yesterday, today and tomorrow flow together. In times of stress, I find my mind wandering back to my woods. The problems of a day matter little compared with the perpetuity of the forest.
There is a corny saying, “If you are lucky enough to be in the woods, you are lucky enough.” But it is true. We should all work to continue the tradition of forestry through organizations like Tree Farm. We grow the trees and we grow happiness for ourselves and others at the same time.