Growing up in South Arkansas I always enjoyed visiting my grandparents. We would get up early in the morning eat a hearty breakfast and work outside and in the garden. We would come inside by noon eat a healthy lunch and Fishing in the evening. As we trekked down in the bottom land, we would cross Family Forest land that had a natural stand of Pine Trees and Hardwoods. My Grandfather would tell me how it provided them an income stream for a comfortable retirement. He told me he always wanted to manage the forest but wanted to leave it for generations to provide them extra income to live life more comfortably. I never forgot what he said and years later it made Money Sense. Invest in your land Tree Farming.
After my grandparents passed away, my mother who was an only child, inherited the family property. My mother and father sold off 240 acres and cut timber on 120 acres and then in 1997 passed on the 120 acres to myself, brother and sister. My brother and I bought my sister out, and years later I bought my brother out and now own the 120-acre Family Forest. In the year 2000 we had a serious ice storm and a lot of the young pine trees were damaged. Wondering what to do next, I remembered what my grandfather always wanted was to manage the land. So, my Tree Farming experience started.
I contacted my District Forester, I was in District 4 in South Arkansas, a Forestry Consultant and we assessed the property what best to do next. Their recommendation was to cut the remaining Timber, clear the property and reinvest the proceeds. They also recommended I sign up through the Arkansas Forestry Commission Stewardship Program and they would create a management plan with Technical advice to manage my property. This at no cost to the landowner. I cut the remaining Timber about $27,648 and reinvested about $19,167 back into 46 acres that was damaged. After harvesting the remaining Timber, I hired a contractor to shear, and rake, the 46 acres to prepare it for planting. They left the remaining tops and debris in wind rows to be burned. We were unable to burn due it being in the winter wet season. The remaining 74 acres was left to grow as is. After my management plan was completed in 2001, I began to follow it per the Technical expertise of Forestry experts. The Forestry Stewardship Management Plan was written by the Arkansas Forestry Commission District Forester with assistance from Consulting Forester, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The Management Plan specified I clear and replant the damaged 46 acres and leave the remaining 74 as is but recommended I spray by helicopter an Herbaceous spray to control understory competition and release of Pine production. Then hand plant 29,250 1st or 2nd generation improved Loblolly Pine at 7 x 10 foot spacing (622 trees per acre). Planting to be done in the months December through March. Here’s my journey and costs:
As you can see from the chart above, I received $27,648 from the harvest and clear cut of the 46-acre ice storm damaged acres. Paid consultant $2,211 8% commission, ordered 29,250 2nd Generation improved Loblolly Pine seedlings $1,404 (.048 cents/1,000), hired contractor to single pass site prep by Helicopter 15 GPA, 36 oz chopper, 4 oz Oust Extra, 8 oz Sunset for competition control and pine release, completed heavy mechanical site prep $8,100 $105/ac Shear, 85/ac Rake, and hired contractor to hand plant 29,250 2nd Gen Pine seedlings $1,932. My total costs were $19,167 but it made Money Sense.
The $8,100 spent was costly but as I look back today, it was well worth the money since the 46-acre tract is in shape to be efficiently managed for years to come. It enabled me to have a high 90+ % survival rate as reported by my County Forester after the 1st year of growth and maximized the maximum number of Loblolly Pine trees to grow on the tract. My management plan recommended I sign up with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for potential cost share practices. I recommend you do this because I received a 50 % cost share reimbursement of $2,760 for the Single Pass Site Prep competition control and pine release. When you sign up with NRCS they will rank you based on completed qualified practices with other landowners and Federal money available as an incentive for landowners to be good stewards.
Based on the soil sample of my management plan the soil has good potential for Loblolly Pine (Site Index 96). I plan to predominately plant Loblolly Pine on the 120-acre Tree Farm.
After completing planting 29,250 seedlings on the 46-acre tract in January 2004 and spraying for competition control and pine release the survival rate was high 90+ %. I then went away and let it grow only doing a yearly walk of the land to monitor growth. After completing the practices in my management plan, I was audited and received Forest Stewardship Certification and a sign to post on my Property.
My District Forester forwarded my information to the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). I was 3rd party audited for completing my practices per the ATFS Standards of Sustainability and received ATFS Tree Farm Certification and sign in 2013.
I stayed in contact with my Forestry Consultant in January 2019 and after 15 years it was time to thin the 46-acre planted tract and clear cut the remaining 74 acres. Pulpwood and saw log prices have been depressed for years but you have to make business decisions and cut pulpwood and sawtimber or risk detrimental effects of overgrowth and lack of sunlight understory. I received $9.50 per ton for the pulpwood and $29.00 per ton for the saw logs. You hope that markets and prices will be there when time to cut but you still have to manage the land no matter the price. I am hoping for a better market in the years to come since I will have utility poles on the 46-acre tract at final cut which bring a premium price. It does payoff to be certified since it opens you up to more markets for certified wood and they usually pay a better price for your wood.
As of February 2019, my logger began thinning my 46-acre tract and completed clearcutting the remaining 74-acre tract July 2020 due to Covid-19 shutting mills down and also due to rains and wet weather. I generated a nice income stream and will replant the 74-acre tract. I plan to plant the 74-acre tract with 3rd Gen improved Loblolly Pine from the Arkansas Forestry Commission and compare to the 2nd Gen planted on the 46 acres for cost comparisons. You must continually assess, manage, and improve your land.
I contacted my District 4 Forester to update my Forest Management Plan. In April 2020 my updated management plan was completed. Here is the Management Plan recommendations:
70 acres total, 66 acres treated, 5 acres Stream Management Zone
|Activity Code||Activity||Component||Quantity||Unit||Date Planned|
|Order Loblolly Pine Seedlings (622 TPA)||41,052||Each||7/2020|
|490||Tree/Shrub Site Prep||Chemical Aerial||66||Acres||10/2020|
|612||Plant Pine, Bare Root||Machine Plant Genetically Improved Loblolly Pine 7’ x 10’ spacing (622 TPA)||41,052||Each||1/2021|
- Machine plant genetically improved Loblolly Pine 7’x10’ spacing.
- All figures are estimates on total tract size, the final numbers may vary on vendor invoices.
- Order improved loblolly pine seedling early July 2020. Here's my current journey and costs:
Of the Timber income $64,922, I reinvested $10,159 back into the 70 acres that was clear-cut. I Paid the Forestry Consultant (Brandon Chandler Neil Forestry Consultants Magnolia, AR) $6,492 10% commission. In May 2020 I ordered 41,000 3rd Gen Loblolly Pine seedlings from Arkansas Forestry Commission at a cost of $2,460. Then in October 2020, hired Nutrien Ag Solutions (Greg Hay Reforestation Advisor) to aerial spray site prep 20 oz/ac Imazpyr, 128 oz Glycophosphate, 2 oz Detail. 4 oz Metasulfuron Methyl, 20 oz Conquer, 13.67 oz Water H2O @ $3,799 for Herbaceous weed control and pine release. In March 2021 contractor Dick Cayce Timber LLC machine planted 41,000 3rd generation improved Loblolly Pine at 7 x 10 foot spacing (622 trees per acre) at a cost of $3,900.
On 6/19/2021, I cruised the 120-acre Tree Farm to assess the 41,000 3rd Gen pine seedlings planted in March 2021. They appear to be well established with lots of new growth and well on their way to become saw logs or poles. My future plan is to use this aggressive approach to site preparation and high quality genetics to pine seedling selection to reach pine poles outcomes and maximum cost per ton. Pine poles bring consistently $60 to $80 per ton and prices do not fluctuate like pulpwood and saw timber prices. I will continue to update my Tree Farming journey and keep readers abreast of ups and downs as I pursue the more stringent criteria of growing transmission poles. My next practice will be in 5 – 8 years when I will potentially have my first final cut of transmission poles on my 46-acre tract planted in 2004 and thinned in 2019. Enjoy the video of Martin Tree Farm below:
If you have 10 acres or more of Forest land do you have what it takes to create a Family Legacy Tree Farm and leave an income stream to your heirs.