George & Joan Freeman

Pennsylvania National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

1998,Clarion, 662

The Freemans Take It All

Washington DC, November 30, 1998- Clarion County, Pennsylvania, is a sleepy little trect of countryside-halved by the Allegheny River, rippled with slowly rolling hills and dotted with hamlets bearing names like Turkey City, Turnip Hole, and Sligo. For years, this picturesque county has prided itself as the home of America Golf Hall of Fame and the site of many championship golf courses. But now, Clarion County can celebrate another championship property- George and Joan Freeman’s Tree Farm.

The American Tree Farm System has named George and Joan Freeman of Pennsylvania the 1998 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. The award was presented to them Saturday, November 14, 1998 at the annual Tree Farmer convention held in Savannah, Georgia. Their love for their woodland, 30 years of superior management, and their willingness to share the accomplishments on their Tree Farm with others now brings them national honor.

“A Tree Farm is living proof that a well-managed forest is a better forest,” said Bob Simpson, national director of the American Tree Farm System. “George and Joan represent the best of the best. They were selected from a field of nearly 66,000 properties. Their Tree Farm is a shining example of wise forest stewardship, and an open classroom for people to come see firsthand the benefits of sustainable forestry,” he said.

“I’ve always felt that very little is accomplished in life without planning, good management, and hard work,” said George Freeman. “Joan and I are partners in forestry, and we work hard together to improve the land that’s entrusted to us by future generations. We owe our achievements and this prestigious Tree Farm award to many dedicated people who have led us through the challenges of good forestry,” he said.

The Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year contest recognizes landowners for the exceptional job they are doing of enhancing the forest on their property. Winners are also chosen based on their efforts to promote the practice of sustainable forestry to other landowners and the public, and their education of future generations about long-term stewardship of our natural resources.

George and Joan Freeman own a 662-acre Tree Farm near the town of Knox in Clarion County, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. George acquired his first 60 acres of forest land in 1957. Over the next 30 years, he and his wife added nine more parcels. The moderately hilly terrain was once farmland and forest that had been abused and neglected. Today, 95 percent of their land is wooded. The Freemans constantly seek expert advice on sustainable forestry practices with their objective of a high-quality veneer forest. Their land has been certified as a Tree Farm for 24 years. The Freeman Farm was also one of the first parcels to be enrolled in the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program in the early 1990s.

In the past 25 years the Freeman’s have invested nearly 7,000 hours into improving tree stands. They have planted 51,000 trees and have had five commercial harvests since 1960. Demonstration sites show cutting practices, crop tree management, grapevine control, tree planting, and wildlife management. In collaboration with Penn State, the Freemans offered their Tree Farm as a Forest Stewardship Demonstration Area, one of eight across the state. Six two-acre demonstration plots display side-by-side comparisons of various types of thinning and regeneration harvest.

Each year, the Freeman’s host dozens of tours on their property for school children, international forestry students, representatives of county, state, and national government, and other landowners. In 1997, more than 400 people attended a field day on their farm to celebrate the 50th anniversary of tree farming in Pennsylvania. In addition, the Freemans annually welcome mentally and physically challenged youth on their property in cooperation with Clarion University, its student teaching program, and an Americorps group called SMILES.

The couple also hosts nature groups, Boy Scouts, and other organizations interested in the forest environment. Some 12 of hiking and ATV trails weave through the Freeman Tree Farm, and two spring-fed ponds harbor bass, perch, bluegills, and walleye fingerlings, as well as provided waterfowl nesting and breeding grounds.

Beyond his property boundary, George participates in a variety of forest organizations to educate the public and serve the forestry community. In addiction to being one of the original members of the VIP-COVERTS Forest Stewardships Volunteer organization, he is a director of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, treasurer of the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee, and chairman of both the Pennsylvania State Forest Stewardship Committee and the Clarion County Forest Stewardship Committee (which he helped establish). He was also appointed to a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Forestry Task Force.

Besides their honors from the American Tree Farm System, George and Joan have received numerous other awards for their efforts in private forest management, education, and conservation. These include the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Directors’ Maurice K. Goddard Award for Outstanding Forest Management in 1981, and the Northeastern Loggers Association’s Outstanding Management of Resources Award in 1998. Dr. James Fazio, professor of forestry at the University of Idaho, featured the Freemans Tree Farm in a chapter of his book, “The Woodland Steward.” In addition, the Freeman Tree Farm was one of the six case studies on sustainable forestry worldwide profiled this year by the MacArthur Foundation.

Today, there are over 66,000 certified Tree Farms in the United States. The Freeman’s were named Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Tree Farmers in 1980, 1990, and again in 1998, only this time they went on to become the 1998 Northeast Region Outstanding Tree Farmers of the year, one of four regional winners. Finally, George and Joan went all the way to the top, winning the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year title.

To achieve certification and become a member of the American Tree Farm System, landowners must have at least 10 contagious acres of forest land, and actively follow a written forest management plan. The plan addresses how the landowners will provide for wildlife, recreation, water and soil conservation, while producing renewable forestry products (the mandatory inclusion of forestry products production into the management plan is the primary difference between a Tree Farm plan and a Forest Steward plan.-Ed.) After their land is certified by one of the 8,000 professionals foresters who volunteer their time to the Tree Farm Program landowners earn the right to display the green and white diamond-shaped Tree Farm sign. Every five years thereafter, Tree Farms are re-inspected to ensure that landowners continue to meet the Tree Farm System’s rigorous standards are guidelines for certification. Pennsylvania has 1,400 certified Tree Farms comprising nearly 475,000 acres.

Founded in 1941, the American Tree Farm System is the oldest and largest certifier of sustainable forest in the United States. The Tree Farm System is a program of the American Forest Foundation, a non-profit organization that develops, funds, and administers programs that encourage the long-term stewardship of our natural resources.

To George and Joan
from your colleagues and friends
across the state-
our heartiest congratulations
on an honor well deserved!

(for more information about the Freeman family and their award-winning Tree Farm, See “Facilitators of Good Forestry” in the January/February 1999 issue of the Tree Farmer magazine.)