Dad made the decision over the weekend that coming tonight to accept this award was just too much for his 95 year old bones. Without a doubt his greatest joy was the day when the Marketing Board representatives came to inspect his woodlot. Dad had the opportunity to return to his beloved woods with this group who wanted to see it, talk about it, and for Dad it meant he could share what is his pride and joy, for his woodlot is not just about acreage for Dad it is about family.

While the fields and forests have been owned by deed by the Emersons since 1866 ownership is not the same thing as stewardship. If Dad were here this evening he would simply say he did what was right, honourable, and respectful of Mother Nature - an enduring legacy and inheritance from his ancestors.

It is somehow appropriate that Dad is not here tonight because in accepting this award on his behalf the responsibility of inheriting this legacy of a
lifetime achievement award begs the question for me and my sister the fifth generation of owners: What will our legacy be?

Seasons change and life changes. For my sister and I we too want to continue this tradition of stewardship of honouring the land. While I am sure the Emersons who lived on the farm in the 19th and 20th century had their challenges and heartaches they were a part of daily life on the farm. We are not.

Our greatest fear is selling the farm and our woodlot stripped bare having been so beautifully managed for 146 years. We know this can be true for even driving here today one views the clear cut taking place in the old Graham woodlot, the Seymour Johnson woodlot and one in Tryon. There is nothing left but a few tendrils of branches. Nothing. Nothing to reseed, nothing being replanted, nothing to indicate that there is care or concern for future generations.

It reminds me that people are concerned about bullying in our schools, the workplace and life. For me, mowing every tree down is akin to taking a semi-automatic gun and shooting into a crowd of innocent people. I know this for Dad’s woodlot has been like a family to him. Even today he knows the forest and which trees will soon be mature, which ones he left to age as he has - to a long full life. The only time trees were taken out in any quantities was during the spruce budworm infestation.

The forest naturally has a mixture of trees that work in symbiotic relationship with each other. A community, if you will, that although each tree is very different they support each other - a scientist could tell you the particulars of what nutrients are
provided one for the other, shelter so the youngest can survive, and the collection of birds, animals, and plants that create a community within each forest.
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When Mother Nature’s creative force is combined with stewardship management the forest, even with selective cutting, remains whole, provides space for other trees to grow to reach maturity, thinned to allow movement of air and even those trees thinned have purpose, and most of all it supports the circle of life that exists within our woodlots.

When Dad deeded the property to his daughters 18 years ago I enrolled in the Forest Management Course offered by YSC Marketing Board. Three things from that course that stayed in my memory are these:

The first, a selection of trees all about the same size were brought into the classroom to observe and comment upon their age. Visually, each and every one looked like a young sapling that had a long-life ahead of it. As you can guess some were decades old sheltered by other trees stunting its growth.
The lesson here is that sometimes things are not always as they seem.

In this context I have to harken back to my Economics 101 I studied in high school. I ask myself why with the ads in the Telegraph for the need for wood during the fall and winter which indicates demand, why then are the prices for wood so low. Then one must factor in supply. I know on our woodlot we have supply. I am sure others do too.

This past year we select cut only the wood that would be worthless if left to fall to the ground so we harvested those trees that were near the end of their harvesting life span. We did not want the trees to die, we wanted to pay a fair wage to our wood cutter and still have some profit in the farm account to be able to pay the property taxes and insurance.

I am reminded that in figuring the cost of operating a restaurant one must work on the one-third principle - 1/3rd for food product, 1/3 for wages, and 1/3 for profit. It seems to me in the current economic climate in the wood industry that if we use this same principle that there is no profit, there is little if any payment for the wood itself and wages - well, just how long does it take to cut a cord of wood? If one totted up the hours and divided it by the price would the cutter be making minimum wage?

I know how hard Dad worked to maintain his woodlot and he raised a family on its earnings. In checking his account books one entry from December 12, 1968 was 5.04 cords of pulpwood @$21.50/cord or $108.36. Using an on-line inflation calculator that computes to its recent year of 2010 dollars for a value of $671.43. At today’s prices at $66/cord that same amount would sell for $332.64. $332.64 is half of what that same cordage is calculated to be in 2010 dollars. Why?

If we use Dad’s woodlot and this information from 1968 then a replacement pulpwood tree from that cutting which takes 80 years to grow would not even be ready for harvest until 2048. Eighty years - for Dad that equates to the number of years he has been actively involved in his woodlot.

It appears that there are basically three forestry sectors which supplies the market place - private woodlot owners organized within marketing boards; commercial logging operators; and I suspect our greatest competition for market share - Crown Lands which belong to the people of New Brunswick including those of us with our own woodlots.

I have relied on Dad to assist with the woodlot management. For the last few years it has been simply this - cut to keep the woodlot healthy and do not harvest wood that we cannot receive a fair price. This makes sense to me.

Before knowing of this award I had already planned to come this evening for it takes an informed woodlot owner to be a good manager. I strive to understand the current market place and how it relates to our sustainable woodlot management. I have come this evening to learn from those who are directly involved in the broad spectrum of the current wood industry issues.

In the meantime, I heed Dad’s sound advice. After all, it has earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award for Woodlot Management. And at this time Dad and I recognize our trusted friend and wood cutter, Barry Gregory, whose common sense and appreciation for Mother Nature aligns with our thinking.

The second lesson from the course was there are times when clear cutting may be necessary for the overall long-term life of a stand of trees within a forest perhaps to protect other trees from disease, etc. Trees, like people, have times when protecting life means amputation. While it may not be what we want to do, in order to save the rest of the forest, one sacrifices a stand of trees.

The third lesson really meant a lot to me for it is never under estimate the power of fire. A rock solid red pine cone only opens when heated with fire - a forest fire. Mother Nature always has an ace up her sleeve for solving problems. And I would follow this by saying - never underestimate the power of a group of like-minded people who resolve to ensure that the fields and forests of rural New Brunswick are there for future generations.

The over three hundred acres of this farm was my playground. I read perched inside the crook of a birch tree during the summer hidden amongst its branches, took walks in the forest just to smell the richness of its earthy, boggy scent, went with Dad to cut our Christmas tree, and enjoyed the woods through all the seasons for is there any quieter, more peaceful place than deep in the woods. ..... 3

Four years ago on June 23rd. Dad bought a mule to provide himself transportation on the farm. The day it arrived we went across the road, down the wood road until the canopy of trees sheltered us - the sun was shining through the trees creating lighted spaces within the woods, that haunting sound of a breeze whispering through the swaying of the trees, the smell of the earth, a brook babbling nearby... then.... Dad turned off the motor, inhaled deeply, ... looked at me ....and all I could say when I looked into his eyes was .... it is hard to imagine that heaven will be better than this.

A Lifetime Achievement Award for Woodlot Management is about honouring self, each other and our precious gift from Mother Nature of fields and forests. Thank you for recognizing Dad’s contribution to our healthy woodlot.

May we continue to honour our Father, and his woodlot management legacy.

Written and presented by Ardeth Emerson Holmes at the AGM of YSC Marketing Board, Fredericton on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

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