Picture an ideal tree farm with beautiful trees, a stream, some good roads and wildlife. Such a farm exists in the rolling hills of East Feliciana Parish under the watchful ownership of Linda Carruth.
Carruth began planting trees on this farm in 1980, when her father gave her 10 acres of it. Initially, he questioned her plan.
“He thought trees should just be allowed to regenerate,” Carruth said. “I talked him into it, and he allowed me to plant those first pine seedlings.”
Carruth said her father was able to see those young trees before he died and agreed that she had made a wise decision.
When she started planting timber, Carruth’s one concern was the trees, but now she sees the bigger picture. “It’s not just planting trees. It’s taking care of all of it – the soil, the water, the air and the wildlife,” Carruth said.
Solitude Hill timber farm now spans 370 acres. There are 11 stands on the property, most of it pine with about 10 acres of hardwood.
Carruth is active in forestry associations. She is a member of the Forestry Landowners Association, Louisiana Forestry Association and Feliciana Forestry Association. The American Tree Farmer System certified her farm, and she has participated in two short courses, the Master Tree Farmer and Master Wildlifer programs.
The Master Tree Farmer program, offered through the Louisiana Forestry Association, is now called the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program and is administered across the nation. The Master Wildlifer program, also nationwide, was offered last year in Louisiana through the LSU AgCenter.
These programs and organizations emphasize using best management practices and being good stewards of the land. Carruth said that is now her top priority.
She doesn’t allow hunting on her property. She plants food plots such as rye grass, puts out corn for deer and has bluebird and duck boxes around her farm. She doesn’t burn in certain areas.
“Part of being a tree farmer is being a good neighbor and by having smoke go across the road and in my neighbor’s house is not good, so I choose to bush hog under the trees close to the road and around houses.”
In a corner of Carruth’s property, one can find a thriving population of damsel dragonflies. Carruth said their habitat is protected by a 50-foot stream-side management zone (SMZ).
She uses low-water crossings and has five of them on her property.
“This is less costly than a culvert application.”
At these low-water crossings, large rocks are packed with a dozer. This keeps the soil in place while allowing water to flow freely.
When loggers are on her property, she does not allow them to cross water beds except at the crossings and they must keep their equipment away from water sources.
Best management practices recommend 30-foot SMZs, but Carruth doesn’t allow logging within 50 feet of streams. She says the 50-foot SMZ reduces erosion, keeps the water cleaner and provides habit for the dragonflies, birds and even deer.
“I’ve seen the deer nest in the tall grasses.”
Twenty-five years later, Carruth is happy with her decision to plant timber.
“I believe God has given me a gift – a gift of being a tree farmer,” she said.
Writer: Tobie Blanchard
(This article was published in the spring 2006 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)