Tree Farmers Vermont Why am I a Tree Farmer?

Gerry Hawkes

Gerry Hawkes is a retired forester from Vermont. His property sits on 60 acres, 40 of which are wooded. In the past he managed about 30,000 acres of land for private clients in Vermont as well as serving as a consultant on USAID, World Bank, and United Nations projects in Africa and Asia. He is also an inventor making products that limit air pollution.

Gerry first bought his property in 1969 at the age of 19. Some of Gerry’s ancestors owned the property and had cleared it for sheep pasture. Around 1900 the land was back to being forested. The property was badly overstocked with a maple overstory. Deer grazing also hindered hardwood growth. So, Gerry set about improving his land thinning the maple overstory and removing poor trees to allow good trees to grow. Eventually the conditions of his forest improved and hardwood regeneration took place. He has now been practicing intensive management for over 50 years which he credits with the improved condition of the land. He abides by a policy of not cutting trees unless they are poor quality or crowding other trees allowing for good forest genetics. Gerry joined tree farm in the 1970s.

What does being a tree farmer mean to you?
Being a tree farmer means being able to share with other tree farmers. For a long time I was not actively involved, although I was always enrolled in the program and doing Tree Farm activities. However more recently Tree Farm has been a good way for me to share the work of I’ve done in my forest and inspire others to try some of these practices in theirs. It has been a way for me to show that intensive management pays.

What do you value about the Tree Farm program?
Outreach. I value the ability to give tours and show the things that have been done on my property in the hopes of providing inspiration, encouragement, or help to others in managing their forests.

Why should a landowner become a Tree Farmer?
Networking can be one of the most valuable benefits of joining Tree Farm. Being in Tree Farm provides landowners the opportunity to connect with others managing their forests and the opportunity to learn more about managing their forests well.

What advice do you have for a landowner who is new to Tree Farm?
Take some tours of other people’s Tree Farms and learn from their successes and mistakes. You can save yourself a lot of agony in managing your own forest by learning from the experiences of others.

What are some suggestions you have for getting the next generation involved in Tree Farm?
Instruction in forestry while in school is a good way. This gets younger people learning about the forests and sometimes students’ interest or involvement gets parents more involved too. People are now thinking about carbon sequestration and showing how forests help in this could be another avenue. Tree can show that forests are a great resource that we can take care of better.

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