This year, the Georgia Tree Farm Program (GATF) celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the many accomplishments of the Georgia program by hosting a Field Day on May 12 at the Gully Branch Tree Farm of Earl and Wanda Barrs in Bleckley County.
The event welcomed 12 speakers, 12 sponsorship representatives, 13 workers and 62 landowners. Attendees were provided with news from the Georgia Forestry Association, the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and heard a commendation from the Governor regarding the anniversary milestone.
“The Georgia Tree Farm Program is important to landowners, especially those active in the management of their properties,” said Frank Green, Program Administrator for GATF. “It recognizes them for being good stewards of the resources to maintain or supply a steady source of sustainable wood, clean water, wildlife and recreation.”
The field tour consisted of several stops focused on timber management, water quality and wildlife, with a specific focus on the control of feral hogs, and featured stops concentrating on recreation and education.
Earl and Wanda Barrs volunteered to host the field day this year at their own tree farm, Gully Branch, with the hopes of providing technical guidance, networking and a passion for educating and advocating sustainable forests.
“Not only was it great to host, it was really meaningful to have other professionals and other tree farm owners to discuss issues and challenges with,” said Wanda.
The field day provided landowners and attendees with opportunities to engage with others and encouraged landowners to be proud of their hard work.
“What we wanted landowners to take away, was the knowledge that they have a responsibility to communicate and engage with others about how they manage their tree farm and ecosystem services,” said Wanda Barrs of Gully Branch. “Most tree farmers don’t think that their tree farm is special because they do what they do because they know it is the right thing.”
For the last 75 years, the AFTS has been noted as the greatest voluntary forest conservation movement in the country’s history and the same can be said for the state of Georgia. With more than 1200 dedicated tree farmers and 130 volunteers, over 1 million acres of certified forest is managed sustainably through the investments of time, energy and hard work.
While forests still face many challenges that threaten their overall health, the Georgia Tree Farm Program and events like the field day encourage landowners to continue working hard to manage forests sustainably and advocating for best management practices. “No one can advocate better,” said Wanda, “than the people that own the land.”