27 May Sonnenbergs named Regional Tree Farmers of the Year
The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) has named Minnesotans Robert and Ingrid Sonnenberg of New York Mills as the 2010 North Central Regional Tree Farmers of the Year. Winners of the other regional awards were Trevor Evans of Derby, Vermont; Salem, Dianne, and Patrick Saloom of Brewton, Alabama; and partners Jim Cota and Robbie and Scott Melcher of Sweet Home, Oregon.
This annual award recognizes outstanding sustainable forest management on family-owned woodlands. Every year the four regional winners are in contention to win the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award, which is given at the National Tree Farmer Convention. The National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the year will be announced at the 2010 convention on July 15, 2010 in Burlington, Vermont.
Robert and Ingrid Sonnenberg, the North Central region winners, own a 227-acre Tree Farm located in New York Mills, Minnesota. Robert grew up on the Tree Farm he now currently owns and has managed for the past 50 years. In 1996, Sonnenberg sought professional forestry help to manage the less productive forestlands. A Forest Stewardship plan was created and the Sonnenbergs have been managing the land ever since. In 2002, their woodlot was recognized as a certified Tree Farm.
Since 1998, Sonnenberg has planted more than 80,000 trees on 100 acres of his woodlot. Sonnenberg is currently working with the University of Minnesota on hybrid aspen clones. He has restored a 45-acre wetland and with that given the numerous geese, ducks and pheasants a new nesting ground. Along with other wildlife efforts the Sonnenbergs oversee all of the work done in their Tree Farm.
Trevor Evans, the Northeast region winner, owns 789 acres of woodland in Derby, Vermont. For 10 years beginning in 1980, Evans, purchased small pieces of the land from his father-in-law to provide him with an income stream during his final years. When his father-in-law passed in 1994, Evans was faced with decisions about the future of the land so he invested in forestry. Through his father-in-laws teachings and his own research, Evans has become the tree farmer he is today.
Evan’s Tree Farm fittingly called, “The Tree Farm,” has within the last 15 years planted 6,000 trees and developed areas for wildlife habitat with a goal of returning areas of the land to what is called a 4-stage forest, where a natural progression of open space, shrubs, young trees, and mature trees exist together.
Evans has shown that he is dedicated to making his land stand as a working example of the best forest management that can be practiced, a working model that integrates wildlife habitat work with silviculture, and recreational trails that provide aesthetically pleasing walks.
FunForest, the Western region winner, is jointly owned by Jim Cota and Robbie and Scott Melcher in Sweet Home, Oregon. The three came together when Jim Cota went to work for Mike Melcher, who owned Melcher logging in 1980. Through his good work ethic, Cota earned respect as one of the best top hillside cable loggers in the industry. Cota thus became a very important part of Melcher’s company. It was during this time that Melcher’s sons, Scott and Robbie, graduated college and began their careers in contract logging. In the early 1990′s, Melcher and Cota partnered to form Timber Harvesting Inc, (THI) and with Scott and Robbie they formed Four M Fiber.
In 1999, after nearly 20 years of working together and building a successful and productive forestry contracting company, there came and opportunity to purchase a 320 acre parcel of timberland. Although this was a large and expensively challenging purchase, they decided to take the risk. It was from this purchase that the now 1,281 acre Tree Farm known as Fun Forest began.
Cota and the Merchers have purchased 12 parcels of poorly stocked forestland and marginal farm land to convert them into highly productive forestland using their effective forestry knowledge and capabilities. They are leaders in developing techniques to do low impact logging and to utilize biomass material and outstanding contributors to the Sweet Home Community.
Saloom Properties, the Southern region winner, is owned by Salem, Dianne, and Patrick Saloom of Brewton, Alabama. Salem, his wife Dianne, and Patrick all run Saloom Properties together. Salem started Saloom Properties in 1983 when he bought 158 acres of forest property in Conecuh County. His goal was to improve the land’s timber as well as wildlife, while creating a family refuge. For the next 27 years, the Salooms would buy surrounding parcels of forestland which today totals 1,762 acres of Saloom Properties.
Today, Saloom Properties has many different practices. Field trips are common to the woodlands Farm to explore the forest. The Salooms host many family and community gatherings. Fishing, hunting, camping, horseback riding hiking, etc., are activities that can occur daily in the Salooms forest. For the past five years, the Salooms have been involved in the Forest in the Classroom/Classroom in the Forest Program in which they visit fifth grade classes and speak to students about forestry and other environmental topics.