George & Joan Freeman

Pennsylvania NE Region Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

1998,Clarion, 662

In the summer issue of the Forest Stewardship Quarterly we announced that Tree Farmer, Forest Steward, and VIPCOVERTS Stewardship Volunteer George Freeman and his wife, Joan, of Knox, Pa, were named one of three finalists in the annual Northeast Regional Tree Farmer of the Year contest. On August 6, Tree Farm Director Bob Simpson made an on-site visit to the expansive Freeman Farm in Clarion County, and soon thereafter, George and Joan learned that they had earned the regional title.

As regional winners, the Freemans will be flown to Savannah, Georgia, for the National Tree Farm convention from November 12 to 15, when the national Tree Farmer of the Year will be named. The Freemans are in the running with other regional winners from Oregon, Ohio, and Georgia.

Freeman’s land has been in the Tree Farm program since 1974, and he was one of Pennsylvania’s first Forest Stewards as well as one of the first persons to complete what is now known as the VIPCOVERT Stewardship Volunteer Training.

“I started with 93 acres in 1957, in a partnership,” Freeman recalls, “but my partner was interested in strip mining, and I was more interested in tree farming and conservation, so that ended.” Freeman bought another 74 acres in 1960 and now owns 662 contiguous acres in Clarion County. By 1972, he had his first written management plan completed.

“When I first started out,” Freeman says, “my plan was based on timber stand improvement for a five-year period, but as I acquired more land, my objectives changed.” Freeman now reviews his management plan and has his consulting forester cruise the property annually. He is interested in growing high-quality red and white oak and cherry, as well as continuously improving the quality of his land for the future. One day the land will pass to his three sons, but for now, the Freeman Tree Farm and Stewardship Forest serves as an outdoor laboratory for many visitors.

“I like to use the farm for educational purposes–one on one or with groups,” Freeman says. I hope I can help other people understand the problems I encountered in the years I’ve owned the farm.” He helps people, understand that and more. Freeman is well-known for providing educational opportunities and activities for young people in the Clarion area, and welcomes other folks, singly or in large groups, for educational sessions at Freeman Farm. Visitors can examine the results of carefully planned and executed timber harvests (he has had six), learn all about the various ways to harvest timber at Penn State’s silvicultural demonstration plots, and get a look at the relatively new technique of crop tree management.

Last October, the Freemans hosted well over 400 persons who came to the farm for the Tree Farm Program’s 50th anniversary celebration. This year, 80 forest landowners from Mercer County came to Freeman Farm to see what can be done with good planning and management.

Freeman believes that if landowners are members of either the industry-sponsored Tree Farm Program or the government- sponsored Forest Stewardship Program, they might as well join the other, too. “Tree Farm and Stewardship dovetail one into the other,” he says. “It’s all like a close-knit family; one compliments the other.”

Those who know George and Joan Freeman compliment them. They have long been leaders in sound, productive forest management and have shared their time, energy, knowledge, and land with so many people. We wish you well in Georgia!