Tree Farmers Vermont Why am I a Tree Farmer?

Mark and Catie Raishart

Mark and Katie Raishart are the owners of Foxglove Farm in Leicester, VT. Foxglove Farm is a small farm and homestead that combines a working forest with agritourism. Featuring a log cabin which serves as an Air B&B, eggs, maple syrup, handcrafted jewelry and knitted apparel, trails for recreation, and more, the farm welcomes visitors of all kinds each year.

The Raisharts’ property covers 68 acres, 64 of which are forested and actively managed, located at the junction of the Green Mountains and the Champlain Valley. From the highest points of the property Moosalamoo, Brandon Gap, and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks in New York can be seen. The property became Tree Farm certified in 2016 and Mark said this was a way to better manage the property. Mark said, “Through my work in teaching (Mark was a natural resources teacher at a local technical center), my personal interest in forest stewardship, and in-depth research of my property, I wanted to expand and solidify my commitment to sound and diverse management goals on our property. Enrolling in the Tree Farm program was a way to demonstrate this commitment to visitors to our property and help my family identify and own that commitment as well.”

The Tree Farm program’s four core values of Wood, Water, Wildlife, and Recreation represent the priorities of the Raisharts’ management on the property. The Raisharts deeply value wildlife habitat, ecosystem vitality and overall forest health as Mark said, “To me, the range of wildlife we see on our property is a direct indicator of the quality of the forest.” The land includes a wetlands complex on which they view as a great asset to wildlife and something to take care of. As an agritourism destination they seek to maintain the land for recreational purposes. Mark also shared, “We deeply value the concept of the working forest – one that provides resources to our family. Harvesting timber, firewood, and maple sap have been important ways for us to maintain a working relationship with our land to help support our lives here. Meeting these goals means active engagement: trail maintenance, habitat enhancement work, removal of poor-quality trees, invasive species control, mast tree release, and work in the sugarbush.”

For the Raisharts, being in the Tree Farm program is about affirming and demonstrating their commitment sound long-term land management. To Mark and Katie, this means demonstrating it to themselves, their children, and the visitors and customers that come to their farm. It is about more than hanging a sign, although they do like to display their Tree Farm sign! It is for these reasons that they encourage other landowners to join the program. “[Enrolling in Tree Farm] symbolizes a commitment to [a landowners] role in land stewardship, and it’s an opportunity to access a community of like-minded partners and professionals who work together to advance that commitment.”

This community of like-minded partners is one of the aspects of Tree Farm that they value most. Being in Tree Farm gives landowners access to a network of citizen landowner that share the common goal of working forest stewardship. The ability to share experiences, ideas, and
knowledge is very valuable to a landowner. “Owning forestland is a privilege and a responsibility, and active engagement in the responsible stewardship of that land is a common value within the Tree Farm program,” said Mark.

For any new Tree Farmers Mark gives the advice to learn as much as possible. “A forest is a dynamic and responsive ‘organism’ that is both resilient and incredibly vulnerable,” says Mark. “There is always something new to learn about the forest ecosystem and what the challenges and opportunities are as we work with it. Try to understand what the options are for management, and be careful about making assumptions before you have learned more.”

Looking ahead to the future is something the Raisharts think about often and sharing their passion for landscape with their children and the next generation is one of their biggest priorities. Mark feels this can be done in several ways. One way is through education and making learning fun. “Turn every adventure into a learning opportunity and be open and honest. Kids take in everything, especially when they’re physically engaged,” said Mark. Welcoming kids into workshops and trainings with aspects tailored to them is another suggestion of his. This will help them feel the like they are a part of the forest community too and that the forest is as much for them as it is for grown-ups. Mark also mentioned, “More than anything else, kids need to have positive and immersive experiences in the forest. SPEND TIME OUTSIDE DOING FUN STUFF. This will inspire a sense of ownership, responsibility and stewardship.”

Pioneer Vermont

You’re a Tree Farmer. Now What? Part 1

Once a property has met the qualifications for becoming a tree farm there are several things one can do next. Here are a few to get started.

The first thing someone can do is display their Tree Farm sign and talk to others about being a tree farmer. Tree Farm signs should be displayed in a visible place, preferably on a post. Many place them on barns, but we do discourage signs nailed to trees. The Tree Farm sign gives a brief introduction to passersby on what the program does and what you are doing with your property. It is visible symbol of pride in stewardship and sustainable woodland management.

Displaying the sign may lead to discussions with others about the Tree Farm program. You can talk to others about your own tree farm or the program in general. Talk about why you joined, what tenants of the program you seek to promote on your farm, and what goals you have for your land. If asked about the program at large talk about how the mission of the Tree Farm program is to promote thoughtful stewardship of Vermont’s privately-owned forests. The program offers educational opportunities on woodland management, and advocacy & representation on forest issues.

Sign up to receive forest related literature. American Forest Foundation’s Woodlands magazine is a great resource to stay up to date on what is happening in the world of woodlands. On a local level, joining Vermont Woodlands Association (VWA) is a great way to support Tree Farm. Along with VWA’s advocacy for private landowners, they provide educational opportunities on forestry, both practical and political. VWA supports programs like Walk in the Woods, Women Owning Woodlands, and Woods, Wildlife and Warblers. Along with your VWA membership, you receive an annual subscription to Northern Woodlands magazine. Focusing on northeastern forests seeks to “advance a culture of forest stewardship in the Northeast and to increase understanding of and appreciation for the natural wonders, economic productivity, and ecological integrity of the region’s forests.”

Another step is to join the American Forest Foundation’s new virtual community called The Family Forest. The Family Forest is an online space dedicated to those who own and/or care about family forest land so that they can connected and share with one another. The space is
open to landowners, foresters, educators, and more. Through connection, education, and encouragement landowners of all kind can reach their management goals. To join this community check out their website here:
Tune in next month for more steps to take.


A Tree Farmer’s Story of Fisher Nest Boxes: Conservation at Work

By Kimberly Royar, Furbearer Project Leader, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and Brian O’Gorman, Tree Farmer

Many wildlife species rely on standing dead or dying trees for food, nesting, and cover. Natural den trees, especially those with cavities that may be in the vicinity of water, are valuable for everything from waterfowl, woodpeckers, and owls to bats, squirrels, marten, porcupine, raccoon, and fisher. Landowners can improve habitat for many wildlife species by retaining standing dead and dying trees in their woodlot. If possible, woodlot owners should manage for at least six living cavity trees or snags per acre with one greater than 18” in diameter and three larger than 16” in diameter. The priority is for hardwood trees over softwood to extend the
viability of the tree.

On lands where natural standing dead trees are limited, manmade nest boxes can be erected to subsidize the number of live den trees. Artificial ‘nest’ boxes have been constructed and erected to enhance habitat for many wildlife species, from bluebirds to bats, and have been used in
Minnesota for fisher to compensate for the lack of large diameter cavity trees (>20” DBH (diameter at breast height)). The University of Minnesota completed a pilot study in 2019 that found that only 2% of 10,000 trees surveyed were large enough for fisher to use. The study
documented use of the specially designed fisher nest boxes by barred owls, flying squirrels and other rodents, raccoons, and fishers.

In Vermont, a landowner and Tree Farmer in Bennington County, Brian O’Gorman, is experimenting with nest boxes for fishers (Pekania pennanti). Although today fishers are abundant throughout Vermont, they were extirpated in the 1800s due to extensive land clearing and unregulated harvest. They were reintroduced in the 1950s and 1960s by the Forest, Parks, and Recreation Department to control porcupine populations and continue to play an important role as a forest predator. They primarily reside in coniferous or mixed hardwood forests and exhibit a particular preference for areas with diverse structure, such as that found in an uneven-aged forest containing snags and multiple fallen trees (Noonan, 2006). These areas not only provide ample denning opportunities but also, more importantly, offer higher concentrations and varieties of prey. Fishers use multiple large trees with cavities as den sites (Powell, 1982). Research in Maine found that females used one to five natal dens between March and June. Ninety-four percent of the trees were hardwoods, 52% of which were aspen (Paragi et al., 1996). In British Columbia, maternal fisher den boxes have proven to enhance the fisher population in areas dedicated to industrial forestry.

O’Gorman manages a 300+ acre Tree Farm that, like many Vermont properties, was once a pasture for Delano sheep. After reforestation, it had been heavily logged by the previous owners. Since purchasing the property in southern Bennington County, O’Gorman enrolled in the Use Value Appraisal program (UVA or “Current Use”) and has been managing it according to a forest management plan. He has worked with his VT forester and a logger primarily for sugar maple production but also to improve and diversify the property for wildlife by planting butternut seedlings and red oak acorns, protecting and enhancing mast and old growth areas, and erecting artificial fisher nest boxes. O’Gorman built three boxes for fisher with the assistance of Vermont Trappers Association member, Al Zander, according to plans from British Columbia, Canada (Brinoni, 2015). O’Gorman and Zander distributed and erected two of the boxes into areas on his property, and the other onto Zander’s, with promising habitat and obvious fisher tracks and sign (Zielinski et al., 1995) with the help of a local Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association (VASA) club. He has outfitted each with a camera set-up, baits, and lures so he can
monitor the comings and goings of the species using the boxes. So far, there is no evidence of use of the boxes by fisher, but O’Gorman will continue his efforts in hopes of improving habitat on his property for fisher and other wildlife species.

Kim Royar is a wildlife biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Brian O’Gorman is a Tree Farmer and a member of the VT Trappers Association, and he encourages sportsmen to spend $15 and purchase a Vermont Habitat Stamp.

Literature Cited
Brinoni, Michael AScT. Fisher Den Box Drawings prepared for Davis Environmental. Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program. Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. 2015. 3 pages.

Noonan, Bob. 2006. Fisher Trapper’s Guide. Onalaska, WI. CPC Printing and Promotions. 95 p

Paragi, Thomas F., S. M. Arthur, and W.B. Krohn. Importance of Tree Cavities as Natal Dens for Fishers. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry, Volume 13, Issue 2, June 1996, Pages 79–83.

Powell, Roger. 1982. Fisher: Life History, Ecology, and Behavior. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 237 p.

Zielinski, William J.; Kucera, Thomas E., technical editors. 1995. American marten, fisher, lynx, and wolverine: survey methods for their detection. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-157. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 163 p.

Maternal fisher den box in Bennington County. Note the reinforced den opening to
prevent predation by red squirrels and cannibalism of fisher kits by male fisher. Leaning pole adapted from trapping methods to aid in access. This is approximately 10 feet in height in a sugar maple.
Jack Pines Pirates OHV Club and Vermont Trappers Association putting up a den

Crews erect 48-foot Christmas tree at Vermont Capitol

Many Vermonters may have seen that the VT Capitol Christmas tree was cut in Wallingford from the Cadwallader Family’s property, for the second time. This property has been a Certified Tree Farm for over 50 years, managing the forestland sustainably with wood, water, wildlife and recreation as part of their management goals. Thirty years ago, they planted black walnut seedlings, in a hard to navigate hay field, with balsam fir as companions to help the walnuts grow straight and hopefully without branches. The deer took care of many of those balsam trees, but left a few. This year, Leonard Cadwallader finally gleaned some walnuts from his orchard. Congratulations to the Cadwallader family for having a tree chosen for Vermonters two years in a row!

A large Balsam Fir tree was erected Friday in front of the Vermont State House, continuing an annual tradition in the capital.

The 48-foot-tall Balsam Fir was donated by Cadwallader Farm in Wallingford and driven by a trucking group from East Montpelier. Transportation officials assisted in the process, escorting the oversized tree to its temporary home.

In the past, the tree has been lit with white string lights ahead of the holiday. No similar plans for a lighting have been publicly announced this fall.

Read More


Vermont Tree Farm Program Congratulates the 2020 Vermont Tree Farmer(s) of the Year The Starrs: It’s a Family Affair!

Left to Right: Willie Nelson, Jack Starr Sr., and Senator
Bernie Sanders together at a Save-the-Family Farm Aid

by Ryan Kilborn
Ila Starr (husband Jack Sr. deceased) and her children Jack Jr, Virgil,
William, Gary, Betty, Jim (deceased 2018) & widow Jennifer Gaffney, their children Seth Starr, Leah Starr, and Anna Oshea.

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.

Much of this land base is forested but also contains the family farm house, agricultural land, and family camp where multiple generations come together each year for family reunions. Many families would have bent to the temptation of selling river frontage lots in the highly pressured development area that is shadowed by the Jay Peak Resort, but the Starr family’s strong sense of conservation, love of recreation and wildlife, and strong connection to the shores of the Missisquoi River have kept this land base intact. Their family values include passing this land ethic onto the next generation and keeping the land in family ownership. A means of doing this has been through enrolling the land into Vermont’s Current Use program and managing the property over the years for timber, while at the same time promoting wildlife habitat, water quality, and allowing the land to be used by others for hunting, hiking, fishing, and camping.

The property owned by Jim and Jennifer also was part of an NRCS
contract where EQIP funds were used to maintain and create song bird/grouse habitat with a brontosaurus machine. Jim Starr was one of the leading individuals that helped orchestrate the purchase of the North Troy Village Forest, a 116-acre property with 1.5 miles of river frontage on the Missisquoi River and a large, rare natural community of silver maple-ostrich fern flood plain. Once the village purchased the land, they were able to conserve the tract through the Vermont Housing Conservation Board to protect the land and river from future development while creating open space for the public to recreate on.

The last timbersale occurred in 2016 on the parcel of land owned by all
the siblings. The goal of this sale was to improve conditions for acceptable growing stock, release established regeneration, create aspen browse for wildlife, release apple trees, repair and maintain old stream crossings with skidder bridge panels, and create new trails for recreation. This harvest was administered by a forester, and wood was marketed to local sawmills in
Canada and northern VT.

Ephemeral and intermittent streams that form on the property and feed directly into the Missisquoi River were buffered and properly crossed with skidder bridge panels and pole crossings. Many of the historic crossings were in poor condition with washed-out culverts, causing erosion from high water events. Skidder bridge panels were purchased by the family and installed during the sale and then kept in place for long-term benefits to water quality and recreation. Maintaining forested buffers along the Missisquoi River is a long-term goal of the family ownership.

This river is one of the state’s largest rivers and a primary watershed for Lake Champlain. Opportunities for development along this river are high and in demand, especially with Jay Peak in the backdrop, yet the Starr family has kept the land intact and free of fragmentation.

The Starr family has been able to maintain and increase their land
ownership at a time when land is only becoming more expensive, highly taxed, and feuds between siblings and family members are common due to a changing world that disconnects many people from the land. To date, the family has been able to overcome the pressures of development that could easily provide them with more cash flow than growing trees, and they have embraced the importance of land management while balancing their family’s goals and objectives related to recreation, wildlife habitat, and water quality. They maintain an important sense of place that their family can reliably return to each year for enjoyment.

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.

Tree Farmers Vermont

“Slow the Spread” Efforts Ongoing in Vermont Despite End to Federal Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine

On January 14th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) ended the Federal Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) quarantine to place more emphasis on management and biological controls to combat the pest. In Vermont, while we continue to find new areas of infestation, our forests support overwhelmingly healthy populations of ash to protect as long as possible. Bearing that in mind, we urge Vermonters to continue to follow the “Slow the Spread” recommendations, which can be found on VTinvasives.orgInformation regarding the Federal deregulation of EAB

  • Compliance Agreements to Move Ash Wood: Compliance agreements will no longer be needed to move ash wood unless the receiving state quarantine requires them. As of now, in our area, Maine is the only state that has a state EAB quarantine. A compliance agreement is required to move any regulated ash material from any out-of-state location into non-quarantined portions of the State of Maine. These agreements will be handled by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM). Learn more about Maine’s quarantine. If you need an agreement or have questions, contact Judy Rosovsky at 802-279-2212.
  • Firewood Kiln Certification: Kiln certifications will continue to be handled by the VAAFM. Certification is required every two years. If you need a kiln certification or have questions, contact Judy Rosovsky at 802-279-2212.
  • Ash Wood Exports: The removal of the Federal EAB quarantine in the United States will only impact domestic activities. USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine will continue to issue Phytosanitary Certificates for plants and plant products to meet an importing country’s phytosanitary requirements. Contact the Vermont Export Certification Specialist (ECS) or ECS from the state of export for more information. 

ResourcesWe have updated the following Vermont EAB resources on to reflect the federal deregulation of EAB:

The federal deregulation of EAB does not influence state regulations. Transporting wood visibly infested with EAB and importing untreated firewood from outside Vermont is not allowed. Following “Slow the Spread” recommendations is required if wood is visibly infested. Slowing the spread of EAB in Vermont will mean many more years of enjoying ash trees for their beauty, ecological, and commercial attributes. We thank you for your ongoing commitment to this effort.


More on the Capitol Christmas Tree

WCAX: Capitol Christmas Tree set up in Montpelier

YouTube: Cadwallader Tree Farm and cutting the Capitol Christmas tree

Tree Farmers Vermont

Woods Whys with Commissioner Mike Snyder 12/4/2020

When you find a great book, do you wish you could chat with the author? Now you can. Every first Thursday of the month* at 7:30 pm, Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder will join us for a reading and discussion of one or more of the collected essays in Woods Whys. Whatever your level of experience, from novice to seasoned professional, you’ll find Michael to be not only an exceptionally knowledgeable forester but also an engaging storyteller. Each essay aims to teach people more about trees, forests, and forest management — and, by doing so, to help them become more connected to the woods around them. Bring your own questions for an interactive reading celebrating the magic of forests. Make this your once-a-month virtual evening entertainment for the whole family. Click here to view a recording of the Zoom conference held Thursday December 3.

*Occasional scheduling changes may be required.

Tree Farmers Vermont

Entering the Vermont Tree Farm Program

Simply put, entering the Tree Farm program requires a minimum acreage (10 acres of forest generally not including a house site of 2 acres), a forest management plan that meets the ATFS standards, and an ATFS active forester who may sign off on the quality of the plan and physical compliance in the forest with the plan. While Vermont has an abundance of trained ATFS foresters, the plan writer need not be the ATFS forester, only that the plan be signed off by an ATFS forester. Many of the FPR county foresters are ATFS foresters and may, time permitting, be the signatory person on the ATFS verification paperwork — commonly called the “021 Form” — if the plan meets the ATFS standards.

There is another category available to a landowner with the minimum acreage to enter the program: it’s called the Pioneer Program. This category is used in two different manners: first, to bring a new landowner into the program, and second, to “hold” previously certified Tree Farms until they are eligible for full certification again.

For forest landowners coming into the program who:

  • Don’t have a management plan, or
  • Have a plan that doesn’t meet the ATFS standard, or
  • Have a plan that has not been reviewed and signed off on by a ATFS trained forester,

and, in all of the above cases, plan to bring the plan into full compliance, the Pioneer program is a great option! A Tree Farmer can be held as a Pioneer until the management plan earns the signature of an ATFS forester, assuming it is within 5 years of the initial effort to enter the Pioneer program as signed off on by an ATFS forester on the “Pioneer” ATFS Form 021.

For those Tree Farmers who had been fully certified in the past but now have:

  • Plans that have fallen out of compliance with, or been updated to the latest ATFS standards, or
  • Executed management activities in their forest that do not follow the certified management plan approved for their Tree Farm and have not been approved by an ATFS forester, or
  • Not had an ATFS Form 021 form executed on their Tree Farm in two cycles of the maximum time between Form 021s (10 years),

and, in all the above cases, can rectify the deficiency within 5 years, the Pioneer program is also a great option! A Pioneer may be returned to fully certified status if the deficient reason is rectified within 5 years of being “held” in the Pioneer status. However, properties “held” in the Pioneer status that have not corrected the reason for placement in that status after 5 years are subject to removal from the program altogether.


Capitol Christmas Tree set up in Montpelier

The Capitol Christmas Tree this year comes from a property in Wallingford.

Len Cadwallader co-owns the Brookvale property with his wife, Mary Ann Cadwallader. The tree farm has been in the family since Len Cadwallader’s grandparents purchased it in the 1930s.

Read the full article here.

Did you miss the tree coming into the capital? Watch it here!