Tree Farm Awards

2022 Tree Farmer of the Year Celebration

by Kathy Beland

What a way to welcome October to Vermont! Our 2022 Vermont Tree Farmer of the Year celebration was ushered in with a perfect weather day in the Northeast Kingdom, beautiful fall scenery, delicious food, and even better company. 

John, Barb, Ian, and Tara Irwin all were present to accept the award and were celebrated with about 25 of us in Granby this past weekend. I am not really sure of the head count, as some didn’t sign in, and I never counted! 

The Irwins provided a look at the history of the 910-acre property, looking back at 11 generations of their family. We heard the abbreviated version from John, looking at past harvesting practices and bringing the stewardship forward to 2022 and the future. Although we were able to see only a small portion of the property, it was obvious along our walk that great care and thought are always part of the forest management, and their family ties to the land are strong and ongoing. 

Matt Langlais, Essex County forester, had nominated the Irwins for this award, and he spoke a little about his nomination. Brendan Whittaker, long-time Essex County forester, also had a few minutes to share before our hike. After our walk and lunch in the tent, there were tours of the sugarhouse with Ian and Tara, and John showed off his sawmill. We even had a couple of small mammals photobomb his demonstration! 

The Irwins are cut from a special cloth of stewardship, and Vermont Tree Farm celebrates and congratulates them on this honor!

2020 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award

The Starr family began their long heritage in the town of Troy in 1944 when Jack Starr Sr’s father purchased what is now known as the Town Farm, which is still in the family’s holding 76 years later. Jack Sr. was an advocate for the Save-the-Family Farm Aid program. He traveled across the country speaking on behalf of this program, and he worked with state senators and well-known musicians in fundraising events. This dedication and sense of conservation to the land was passed on to his children who have acquired, as a family, 500+ acres of forest and agricultural land in North Troy, protecting nearly 1.5 miles of frontage along the Missisquoi River. Today, this acreage is owned by Ila Starr (wife of Jack Starr Sr., now deceased) and the siblings Jack Starr Jr., Virgil Starr, William Starr, Gary Starr, Betty Griggs, and the children of Jim Starr (who passed away in 2018) – Seth Starr, Leah Starr, and Anna Oshea. Jennifer Gaffney, Jim’s widow, also maintains ownership of an additional 84-acre lot in the town of Troy. Although the family has been members of the Vermont Tree Farm Program since only 2014, they have practiced and adhered to the principles of forest stewardship for decades prior, which makes this family an excellent candidate for the Vermont Tree Farmer(s) of the Year. This award does not focus on the management of just one parcel, but instead it recognizes and congratulates the entire family for the values and efforts that they bring to the land and the surrounding community. It also recognizes the effort made by an individual, Jim Starr, who loved to share and promote the beliefs of forest stewardship, conservation, and family/community ownership with everyone.

2019 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award

Each year Vermont recognizes a Tree Farmer for exemplary stewardship. What are the qualities that define exemplary stewardship? Look no further than our 2019 awardee Al Robertson who joins a very select group of Tree Farmers in the state and the nation. Al’s Tree Farm, known as Pfälzerwald, is 60 acres in Sheffield purchased in 1979 and under active management for the last 32 years. Al’s stewardship ethic was born from his many years in Germany while serving in the Air Force, hence the name. Pfälzerwald, or its slang PFALZ emblazoned on Al’s license plate, comes from the Palatinate Forest of southwestern Germany, designated as a nature park. It would be hard to find a more active Tree Farmer in Vermont. Al has been on the tree farm committee and VT Woodlands board for nearly two decades. He is a regular participant in the American Forest Foundation’s National Leadership Conference and makes bi-annual visits to Capitol Hill. He helped to organize an AFF forest tour in Germany, France, and Switzerland in 2016 and has welcomed foresters from these countries to his Tree Farm in Sheffield. He was an early member of AFF’s National Public Affairs Committee, is currently on the board of the National Woodland Owners Association, and a member of the State’s Private Lands Advisory Committee. If all that Al does today is remarkable, his meticulous planning for the future is also extraordinary. The Pfälzerwald Tree Farm is conserved through Vermont Land Trust to ensure that it remains intact in perpetuity. In addition, the Tree Farm will become the Robertson Memorial Town Forest, named for his parents, and managed by a board of directors. This resource that he has tended with such care and devotion will be a community asset for all to enjoy into the future.

2018 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award

Congratulations to Peter (shown above) and Julie Parker of Granville for being named 2018 Vermont Tree Farmers of the Year! Their forester Randy Wilcox gave an excellent presentation on the 560-acre parcel that he helps them manage.

2017 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award

Congratulations to Dave and Jenny Stoner of Stoner Family Tree Farm in Craftsbury/ Greensboro, VT. The Stoners purchased the 360-acre tree farm in 1983 while still living in England. During David’s presentation, he gave much credit to his community and the local resources that helped transform his firewood hobby into a managed forest that has captured the hearts of three generations of his family.

2016 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award

Emmy and Kevin Hall, center, with Foresters Paul Harwood (right) and Dave Paganelli (left).

Congratulations to Kevin and Emmy Hall of Braintree, VT for being named 2016 Vermont Tree Farmers of the Year! The Halls are shown here with their tree farm sign.

2016 50-year Tree Farmer

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