Linda SmockMay 19, 2022
In the late 1990’s, my dad made the decision to start transferring his properties to my brother and me in 15-acre tracks. My brother lived near him and had been assisting him for about 10 years, but I lived several hours away so I had a lot more to learn than my brother! We were not joint owners, but each given a portion of the land, so I needed to gather as much knowledge as I could as rapidly as I could.
For about five years, my dad and I talked frequently, and I visited often, as first my mother, then my dad, transferred out of life on earth to their heavenly home. One of the most important things that my dad told me was the importance of working with a forestry consultant and making sure I had one I could trust. I would give that same piece of advice to any new person working with forestry today.
Another piece of advice that my dad gave me was to have a plan. He suggested I work with the county forester and develop a management plan. I did and was able to share that with the forestry consultant, giving him direction and helping me with clear communication.
I learned a lot of lessons “the hard way.” My first experience with a forestry consultant had some disappointments. Looking back, that was because I had too little knowledge to make good decisions! I didn’t ask the right questions. I trusted him too much. He changed careers about the time we had completed a clear cut, so I had to search for a new consultant. I did a wise thing by going to the county forester and getting a list of local consultants and researching before I selected the one with whom I would work. I spent time walking through the property with the new one, using the plan developed by the county forester and adding things we both felt were important. I still didn’t know all the questions to ask but I knew a lot more than I had four years earlier when I selected the first one! I still work with him 18 years later.
I truly wish I had taken a forestry class such as Land and Ladies Academies 1 and 2 long before I did. After managing the property for over 20 years, I still learned a lot in both of these academies. It is now easier for me to communicate with the forester because I better understand the meaning of initials (DBH for example) and terms such as stumpage. I also have good examples of contracts, so I know what to look for in a contract instead of just trusting my forestry consultant.
Learning to be a landowner came at a busy time in my life, as a professional career person and as a writer. But I loved the land and was always challenged by the opportunity to learn and to develop good practices. My advice to new landowners is to listen, learn, and teach – pass on what you learn to the next generation so they are prepared to make wise decisions and carry forward good stewardship practices and develop new ones where needed.
I still don’t live near the property and I’m still a busy person, now with volunteer work and writing. Health issues have been added to the mix. But I love my semi-annual visits and typically touch base with my forestry consultant while I’m there. I walk the property and check the loblolly trees and the cypress that are in the lower swamp areas and the hardwoods that border them. I check the areas reserved for wildlife and make sure that hunting guidelines are being followed. Being a lady landowner is challenging, but oh, so rewarding!
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