News Dewberry To Compete For 2008 Southeastern Farmer of Year

Dewberry To Compete For 2008 Southeastern Farmer of Year

Dewberry To Compete For 2008 Southeastern Farmer of Year
October 1, 2008 |

Lamar Dewberry, whose certified Treasure Forest and Tree Farm was named Alabama’s 2008 Farm of Distinction last April, heads off to Moultrie, Ga., this month to represent the state in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year competition at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo.Dewberry, president of the Clay County Farmers Federation and the first full-time tree farmer to be named as a state winner of the award, now joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as a finalist. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at the annual farm show.Using little more than a teacher’s salary, Dewberry and his wife, Felicia, have amassed 730 acres of productive timberland, a renewable and sustainable resource that is now paying good income to support his second career as a farmer. He worked as a high school agriculture teacher for 23 years, long enough to get his start as a tree farmer.Retired from teaching since 2003, Dewberry started full-time tree farming that same year. His Dewberry Land timber holdings now include 55 acres of longleaf pine planted two years ago, 120 acres of loblolly with first thinning completed, 209 acres of loblolly pine not yet thinned, 194 acres of hardwood trees, 31 acres growing mixed pine-hardwood stands, 68 acres of leased pasture land and 21 acres of wildlife openings planted to food plots.His loblolly pines yield about 1.87 tons of wood per acre per year from the first thinning, and his mature loblolly sawtimber yields 4.35 tons of wood per acre per year when it is harvested.When Dewberry first started farming, he raised a small herd of Simmental cattle. However, managing the cattle took too much time from his teaching career. So he sold his beef herd and planted pine trees on the first tract of land he and Felicia bought. They paid $300 per acre for their first 35 acres in 1983. Over time, they continued to buy land for trees as it became available.As his first stand of pines reached the thinning stage, Dewberry borrowed a short, wood truck from his grandfather, and he and Felicia cut and hauled their own pulpwood. They used money from the pulpwood sales to make land payments on their property.Cutting and hauling pulpwood was a family affair, with Felicia chaining up the logs while Lamar hauled them to the truck. Felicia still has a scar where a log rolled off the truck and hit the front of her leg. “It was hard work, but it was fun,” she recalls. “Our kids were young then, and they enjoyed the time they spent outdoors with us.”Shrewd timber investors occasionally buy land and pay off the land with proceeds from the first timber cutting.”We have done that during the 1990s when timber prices were high,” said Lamar. “My education helped me do that because I knew what the timber was worth. As I walked through that land, I saw footprints from someone else looking to buy the same land. I quickly made a down payment and took out a loan on the 140 acres. Even though that was a lot of debt for us, the land had a good stand of sawtimber, and when we cut that timber, we had enough to pay off our loan. We then replanted that stand, and we started thinning some of that replanted stand earlier this year.”Lamar has received a number of awards for his excellence in tree farming. Some of these include the Wild Turkey Woodland Award, State Tree Farmer of the Year, the Treasure Forest Helene Mosley Award, and he was named as a Southern regional finalist for a national tree farming award.He is also active in a number of tree farming and related organizations, including the State Tree Farm Committee, Alabama Treasure Forest Association, Alabama Forestry Association and the Forest Landowners Association.Felicia has been a licensed realtor since 1997, and the Dewberrys also own the real estate company she operates, Mountain Streams Realty.Lamar’s current goals are to increase his plantings of longleaf pine, a species known for its resistance to wildfire damage, benefits for wildlife and for producing top quality wood.When he plants new tree seedlings, he aims for at least 90 percent survival. His new pine plantings have attained 90-95 percent survival rates, despite drought conditions in recent years. He also tries to target the first thinning of new plantings before the trees reach 15 years of age
Lamar says the National Tree Farm System’s certification may become important in marketing wood as large lumber-selling retailers begin to buy wood only from certified suppliers. “We market timber two ways,” he said. “Sometimes, we used sealed bids that are sent from prospective buyers who pay in a lump sum for the timber on a given tract. We also sell on a pay-as-you-go basis, at set prices. With this method, we usually receive weekly payments during harvesting, and the buyer usually has a year to harvest and pay for the wood as set out in the contract. We have a logger we trust when we do this.”Dewberry applies herbicides during site preparation and during the release stage of pine growth to control competitive tree species. He also maintains firebreaks and uses prescribed burning to aid tree growth and benefit wildlife. In addition, he maintains strict control over tree harvesting and allows no harvesting within 50 feet of streams to protect water quality and to maintain wildlife habitat.”I admire Lamar and Felicia for what they’ve accomplished as tree farmers,” said David Farnsworth, the Alabama Farmers Federation area organization director who nominated the Dewberrys for the 2008 Alabama Farm of Distinction Award presented by the Alabama Farm-City Committee.”They’ve competed for national tree farming awards, and they share their resources in their educational efforts and in showcasing Clay County agriculture by the way they manage their timber holdings.”As the Alabama state winner, the Dewberrys received a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a John Deere Gator donated by SunSouth and TriGreen Equipment dealers in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative, a jacket and a $200 gift certificate from the Williamson-Dickie Company, a $500 gift certificate from Southern States and an engraved mahogany farm sign from the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Health.Lamar is now eligible for the $14,000 that will go to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, a custom made Canvasback gun safe from Misty Morn Safe Co., and another $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative. Also, Williamson-Dickie will provide another jacket, a $500 gift certificate and $500 in cash to the overall winner.Alabama has had one overall winner — Raymond Jones of Huntsville was the 1996 Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

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