I didn’t even know that forestry was a thing until I was 18. . .
My great grandfather was a farmer in Alabama, but my middle class metro-Atlanta upbringing was a far cry from those agricultural roots. When I married my high school sweetheart and his parents sat me down to discuss wills and the way land would transfer through the generations, I knew I was in over my head. This cute boy that I was in love with had an interest in land that had been in the family for many generations, and they needed to plan for the next generation, too.
At the time, David (that cute boy) was in school to be an engineer. I was floating along in college without a direction, and when I started learning about the world of land ownership and forestry, I decided that someone in the younger generation should learn more so that we wouldn’t have to pay someone to manage the land when it was our turn. I looked into forestry schools in Georgia, and my new husband peeked over my shoulder. As I investigated prerequisite classes, David realized how uncomfortable he was with the prospect of sitting in an office for the rest of his engineering life. He changed his major and applied to Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and we moved to Athens. I stayed with my education major, but quizzed him for all his dendrology tests, helped him make flash cards, and was active with David in the Forestry Club. David worked in forest industry for the first 6 years of his career. . .
and I learned more about the dynamics of sorting wood for the correct product, caring for the land and its roads and water sources, timber markets, and the logistics of how all these things come together.
Things have changed pretty drastically over the past few years, and now David co-owns a consulting forestry business with his dad. We bought and built a house on some of that property that has been in my husband’s family for generations. My babies play in the creek that their great-great-grandfather walked through. Lord willing, they’ll bring their babies home to play in the same creek one day. The most important thing that I’ve learned over the past decade and a half is that that’s all possible because of the way the land has been managed. The roads have been cared for, the water has been protected, the trees have been planted and thinned and harvested and replanted, and the wildlife has been managed.
Nothing happens by chance.
This land has benefited my husband’s family and will continue to benefit mine because of meticulous oversight and hours of planning. The exciting part for me is that I now get to be involved in the management. We want the area right around our new house to look very natural, with younger trees interspersed within the older, and with wispy brown grasses growing beneath. But further out on the property, we want to manage for growth and production - tall, straight trees that the mills will fight over. We want deer and turkeys and birds. And there are different management practices for each of these. I am so grateful for all the years of listening and observing and asking questions, because they have led me to a place where I know what I want, and I can talk with the consultants (hi, honey) about the timber markets or disease prevention or water quality.
I don’t forfeit my seat at the table.
A good consultant listens to and helps implement his/her client’s goals, and a good landowner educates herself and shows up to the table.