Jim and Jan Kessler

Pennsylvania Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

2016, Susquehanna, 43 

The 2016 Tree Farmer of the year is Jim and Jan Kessler, of Hallstead PA, Susquehanna County. The 43 acre property, 32 acres of woods and 12 acres of open land, was purchased in 1977. The family home was built by Jim and a neighbor school teacher during the summer of 1978. Much wood from the farm was used in the home’s construction. Firewood from the Tree Farm is the sole heat source for the house as well.

Christmas trees were planted in the open fields beginning in 1979. 1,000 – 2.000 seedlings were planted per year until completed. They began selling trees in 1985. Each of the 4 kids had their “patch” of trees to plant and care for as they became old enough. They make maple syrup and built birdhouses for the Conservation District’s annual seedling sale. Now it is the grandkids who help with the farm activities. Timber and lumber are sold as the opportunity arises.

Other activities on the Tree Farm include 5 miles of trails, including neighboring properties. These are used for horseback riding, snowmobiles, hiking, and lots of cross country skiing. The Kessler’s enjoy hunting, picnicking, and nature walks. Each of the kids knows that “we don’t leave any ugly trees in our woods! And, we always want to protect the trees while having fun.” In addition, deer fences and repellents are used to protect trees from deer.

The Kessler’s Tree Farm has hosted numerous activities including; Christmas tree growing classes, Master Gardener I & D classes, public school programs, and Susquehanna County Forest Landowner Association programs. They are involved with the Susquehanna County Conservation District, Woodbourne Wildlife Sanctuary, Friends of Salt Springs Park, Montrose Rotary club, the local church, PSU Extention Board, and the county Environthon.

The Kessler’s have always taught their kids, “Money always grows on trees. You just need to learn how to get it out!”