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 hearty 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.

After my grandparents passed away my mother who was an only child inherited the family property, they 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 myself 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 me 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:

Tree Farm Practices

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/1000), 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 decided it was time to thin the 46-acre planted tract and clear cut the remaining 74 acres. The problem you run into is pulpwood and saw log prices have been depressed for years but I received $9.00 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, I have thinned my 46-acre tract and the logger is about to complete clearcutting my 74-acre tract. 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 and compare to the 2nd Gen planted on the 46 acres for cost comparisons. You must continually assess, manage, and improve your land.

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.


If you have 10 acres or more of forestland purchased, inherited, or gifted consider converting it to a Tree Farm. Why? Well there are many opportunities you could consider with your land, but Tree Farming does not require as much of your time and attention as other crops but can be rewarding in many ways. It can provide a nice income stream especially depending on the kind of trees planted. You could be recognized for your efforts managing your land for timber, soil and water conservation, wildlife habitat, stream side management zones, recreation, and aesthetics with The American Tree Farm System and proudly post the green and white diamond shaped sign on your property. Landowners come from various backgrounds, but all share the commitment to improve their forestland through responsible forest management and conservation techniques.

The American Tree Farm System Sign

Why become a Family Forest Owner and join the ATFS System?

The American Tree Farm System® is a network of 73,000 Tree Farmers sustainably managing 19 million acres of certified forestland.

These landowners play an important role in helping stem the loss of America's woodlands. You can identify their land by the widely recognizable green and white diamond-shaped Tree Farm signs.

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) provides family forest owners with tools and resources to help them care for their woods and ensure they are delivering wood, wildlife, clean water and recreational opportunities – all of which are highlighted on the famous green and white sign.

While the American Forest Foundation (AFF) administers the program at the national level, it is implemented on the ground by individual State Tree Farm Committees. State Committees are comprised of private and family forest owners, state forestry agency partners, forest products companies, consulting foresters and others. These State Committees provide a wide range of support for woodland owners – a community of fellow landowners to help mentor, opportunities to get involved in addressing critical forest issues, a way to advocate on behalf of forestry and much more. Each state’s program is unique, working to meet the needs of their local landowners and the needs of the communities and the companies that operate there.

But what unites all these forest landowners across the country is their commitment to sustainability by following the ATFS Standards of Sustainability, a set of guidelines designed to help woodland owners be effective stewards of the land. The Standards are based on international sustainability metrics and North American guidelines for sustainable forest management and serve as the basis for the third-party certification portion of the program.

To become a member of ATFS and have your forestland certified, you must:

  • Own at least 10 acres of forestland
  • Have and be actively using a written forest management plan
  • Adhere to the ATFS 2015-2020 Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification for Private Forestlands

What’s Next?

If you are interested in joining ATFS contact the American Tree Farm System website and find your state program. Your state program will give you information to contact your District Forestry Commission Forester, County Forester, and Consultants. Express your concern of joining the Tree Farm System and they will assist in writing your Management Plan for your forest. This is Free and no cost to the landowner.

Contact and sign up for programs through your local Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service Agency. Get to know these resource Technical professionals who will provide Technical plans to manage your land based on your objectives Timber, Soil and Water Conservation, Wildlife etc. These professionals will tell you how best to use your land to meet industry objectives and standards of sustainability. Such as, based on your soil type what tree is best specified to plant, what practices are needed for Forest Health, Forest Protection, General Recommendations, Property Boundaries, Soil and Water Conservation, Water Management, Threatened and Endangered Species, Historic, Cultural, and Archeological Sites, Wildlife Management, Cost Share Assistance, and Forest Stewardship Recognition.

Then What?

Begin following your management plan. Consult with your District and County Foresters, and/or Consultant for a list of contractors to cut and log timber, mark timber to be cut, marking boundary lines, cutting fire lanes, chemically treating for herbaceous weed control and tree fertilization etc. You the landowner can complete any of these practices you want it’s how much you want to be involved in physically managing your land or hiring it done. After completing your initial management plan practices, it is a waiting game generally 8 to 10 years before a thinning or clearing is done and you start over again but reap the rewards of an income stream. Part of this income should be used for purchasing seedlings, planting, spraying, or Consulting help. Then assess your land and make and implement improvements for the next rotation.  

Now What?

You enjoy the benefits of becoming an American Tree Farm System Tree Farmer and proudly post the Green and White Tree Farm sign on your property and unite with other Tree farmers in your state. Be proud that your land is actively managed, and you are one of 73,000 Tree Farmers who have committed to the standards of sustainability to help woodland owners be effective stewards of their land. Then get involved in your state and attend association meetings, landowner meetings, workshops, or become an advocate but get involved. You enjoy the benefits of becoming an American Tree Farm System Tree Farmer and proudly post the Green and White Tree Farm sign on your property and unite with other Tree farmers in your state. Be proud that your land is actively managed, and you are one of 73,000 Tree Farmers who have committed to the standards of sustainability to help woodland owners be effective stewards of their land. Then get involved in your state and attend association meetings, landowner meetings, workshops, or become an advocate but get involved.