Submitted: The Two Sides Team September 8, 2015
Alan Walter, the 2015 Ohio Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year, has learned a lot about sustainable practices since purchasing his property in the early 1990s.
This article by Matt Reese appeared on Ohio's Country Journal website on August 31, 2015.
Alan Walter refers to himself as a “tree hugger” when he first purchased his hilly, heavily wooded property in Harrison County.
“I bought this 150-acre farm in 1990 because I was looking for a place to mushroom hunt. I had always liked nature and liked being in the woods, but at that point I really had no idea what I was going to do with the property. At that stage in my life I was a member of Greenpeace and more of a tree hugger type of person who wanted to preserve the trees and keep them from being cut down,” Walter said. “I was a computer engineer and I worked in Canton for 30 years doing a variety of software projects. I had no outdoor experience other than some hiking and mushroom hunting with my dad when I was growing up. Since I bought this farm, it has really been a shift in my attitude as far as understanding what is happening on the land.”
As a new farm owner, Walter quickly set to work learning what he could about how to best care for his Sycamore Hill Tree Farm. He found the learning curve as steep as his newly purchased hillsides.
“I just started calling anyone I thought I could get good advice from — OSU Extension, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Many of those groups sent someone to the farm and pointed me in the right direction. The most helpful was the ODNR Division of Forestry Service Forester Randy Clum,” Walter said. “I had a really severe grapevine infestation at that time. The vines can make the trees unmarketable for lumber because they distort the trees’ shapes and rob sunlight causing the trees to die prematurely. The woods had been very heavily logged in the early 1970s and that had opened up a window for the grapevines to overtake the woods. I spent close to 10 years just getting grapevines under control.”