Updated: Jan 26, 2019
The first time you get land, whether you just bought it or its just been inherited to you after several generations, it can feel overwhelming. Now what?!? It's very similar to becoming a first time parent - all of a sudden you have this new responsibility, you're not really sure if what you're doing is right and you spend the first couple years just trying to keep them alive
. . . or maybe that's just me. . .
Either way, like becoming a parent, there is no necessarily right or wrong way to manage your land. There is a lot of trial and error until you really figure out your style, or what you want and your long-term goals.
-- But like I said, the first couple years it's a whirlwind of learning, figuring things out, and most importantly not killing anything (or anyone). --
And like being a new parent, when you're new to the land game, there is no harm in asking for help. There is a multitude of resources at your disposal - although understandably it can feel overwhelming and intimidating - especially when it looks like everyone else has "got it figured out". Here's the secret... everyone is doing something slightly different and don't necessarily "have it figured out". Just because your neighbor Joe does this and your cousin Joanne does that, does not mean you have to follow their steps. Just like your kids -- are YOUR kids -- your land is YOUR land. It's perfectly okay to do things very differently or slightly different. (All that being said if their model fits your goals and situation there is nothing wrong with copying what you like and modeling your practices after someone whose been successful.)
Remember when you were preparing to have your first baby, you probably got all the books, took everyone's advice, and prepared as MUCH as possible. Maybe you even felt very comfortable and confident with that preparation... Then the baby arrived . . . Some of what you learned was helpful and a lot you ended up throwing completely out the window because it turned out to just not be a fit for you and your baby's needs or situation. You tried feeding every 3 hours on the clock - and guess what you have a chunk of a baby who eats every 2 (again..maybe that's just me...). You tried the strict bedtime routine - eat at 7:00 on the dot, then bath for 10 minutes, then night time bottle and rocking to sleep -- because, hey, EVERYONE says babies do BEST with a structured routine, right? And your baby still cried for 1.5 hours and woke up 3x a night. You tried limiting "screen time" and after 3 days gave up and turned on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for 9 hours a day.
Eventually. . . despite all the articles and advice. . . you start to figure things out that work best for YOU.
Everyone will be telling you what you "should" do and what you "should" want, but that may not be what's best for your OR what your land is even capable of. For instance: everyone says you just need to grow pines for periodic and retirement income. They tell you all about THEIR tree farm, THEIR pine straw and how fast growing THEIR trees are and can start final harvest at age 22.
What they may have forgotten to mention is they live a mile from their property, have a great upland hill perfect and ideal for growing loblolly pines, live within 30 miles of 4 different mills (which help increase their stumpage prices due to market competition), and also purchased the best genetics available for their seedlings.
Meanwhile you live 3 hours from your new land, truthfully you kind of enjoy it as a more of a "get away" from your hectic work life, oh and have more bottomland and riverfront property than uplands. Now I whole-heartedly agree you should manage your land in some form or fashion to keep your woods healthy -- and I agree you should try to receive some income at the very least to help you with property taxes -- but how you manage can be done in a multitude of ways.
So as you start this new adventure (or maybe you're just starting to be more involved) with land management remember that you have the power to say what is best for your circumstance; don't be hesitant to ask questions and reach out; and never forget to enjoy the ride.