It did not rain all day, so my trip to the farms and the landowner dinner went well.
We got around forty people for the landowner dinner, a good turnout. Mike Santucci gave a much shortened version of his Generation NEXT program, tips on how to pass your forest land intact to the next generation. About 2/3 of Virginia is forest covered and that percentage has not changed very much in recent decades. But ownership is fragmenting. As forest units become smaller, they become less economically and ecologically viable. Generation NEXT does not tell you what to do, but it gives you tools to decide.
Sarah Kammer and Jen Gagnon gave presentations on why and how to be a certified tree farmer. This was more to thank existing tree farmers, who made up a majority of attendees, but also to get them to talk to friends about the program. We current have a little more than 1000 certified tree farmers in Virginia. There is a lot of room for growth. I have written about the value of sustainability on many occasions. Suffice it to say that sustainable forestry is a wonderful goal and tree farm can help sustain sustainability.
Adam Smith and Ed Zimmer from DoF recognized a Brunswick County Century Forest. A Century Forest, as the name implies, has been in the family for 100+ years and has been at least partly forest all that time. This one has been in the family of the recipient for 147 years (if I correctly recall). People like the recognition. It many ways it is an adjunct to genealogy. If everything goes according to plan, our Freeman place can be a Century Forest in only 90 years.
The governor and the Virginia state forester sign the Century Forest award. Mike Santucci jokes that having a Century Forest is big incentive to keep the forest intact. Who wants to be the one to drop the baton in the generational relay.
After the great pulled pork dinner provided by the Reedy Creek Hunt Club, I gave a short tour of our Freeman tree farm. I explained the recent thinning and talked about our plans to restore longleaf and the diverse ecosystem that goes with it.
Bobwhite quail were voicing their distinct call during the talk and on the walk there and back. I could not have planned for a better soundtrack. Bobwhite are one of the iconic birds of the longleaf pine ecosystem. They used to be common in Virginia but now are much less so. Their proliferation on our land helps me think that we are on the right track.
My first picture shows Adam Smith & Ed Zimmer with the Century Forest award. You can also see the really nice place that the Reedy Creek Hunt Club has. Kudos to Mike Raney & Scott Powell.
The other pictures are from the same day but not the same place. They are SMZ on our Diamond Grove place. With all the rain, I thought the creeks would be rising, but they were not. In fact, parts of ephemeral streams were empty. This is a big change in the last decade. When we got the place in 2005, the streams were never empty, even in dry times. I think it is because the trees around had been harvested. Rainwater ran off into the streams. As the forest cover came back, the needles intercepted some of the rain and when it dripped it dripped down slower. The ground is also now covered in leaves and needles that absorb & soften the raindrops. And then the tree roots grab onto the water as is sinks in. This is all to the good. The creek in the pictures is interesting because it always flows but not always above ground. There is a big rock, as you can see in one of the pictures, that evidently goes fairly far down. The water follows the creek sometimes over and always under the sand, When it hits the rock, it comes out as a “spring. Never have I seen the creek on the rock go dry.
I am very fond of this SMZ. I especially love those big beech trees.