Did you know that coordinating with neighbors can benefit a timber sale?
Updated: May 23, 2022
Meet Chuck Lewis, Co-owner of Daughters Ridge Tree Farm in Carroll County
Daughters Ridge Tree Farm has been in operation for 21 years under the helm of the Lewis family, and owners Chuck and Joan Lewis have called the property home for 38 years, faithful stewards to land that's been under a forest management plan for over six decades. As Carroll County forester, Donna Davis, puts it, "the farm is the perfect example of what self-motivated landowners with a passion for conservation can do with a little bit of imagination."
They acquired the Westminster parcel from Joan's father, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in animal husbandry and worked on farms in Baltimore and Carroll counties as a youth before acquiring his own. Lewis' father-in-law worked with the Maryland Forest Service to prepare a woodland evaluation all the way back in 1951, and a timber stand improvement plan was recommended and completed in 1956. "He was always a good steward of the land," says Lewis. He and his wife originally built a house on her parent's farm, and as time passed, they inherited 40 acres of that 140-acre farm. "Talk about the back 40, we literally have the back 40," he jokes. The name Daughters Ridge stems from Joan's legacy from her father and now onto the couple's two daughters.
Before retiring and committing to his passion of being a good woodland steward, Lewis led a varied and incredibly interesting career and life. He received a civil engineering degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York after being in and out of college for what Lewis quips was a 10-year bachelor's degree program. His professional life involved 10 years with the state of Maryland as project manager for its SuperFund program and then almost 30 years with the Department of Energy as a project manager dealing with nuclear waste sites. "Project management is in my blood," Lewis says.
After quite the career path, he retired in 2012 and focused fully on his "labor of love," the family's tree farm. "It really is a passion," he says. Lewis worked with the MD Forest Service to get a Forest Stewardship Plan prepared in 1998, which was then updated in 15 years as called for. Landowner objectives are paramount for property owners entering the Tree Farm program, and his property was no different. Their goals are sustainable forest management for woodland health, forestry products, soil and water conservation, and wildlife habitat enhancement. "Once the land was in the forest management plan, then the whole world opened up to me. It became the foundation for everything I did," adds Lewis.
There is always something happening at the Lewis Tree Farm, with a multitude of forest management activities in the last five years. A timber stand improvement and thinning in an 8.5-acre stand of yellow poplar produced 8,897 board feet of saw timber, 167 tons of pulpwood, and 16 tons of scrag. All the while, the land is in a continual cycle of renewal and regeneration with 3 acres of reforestation and re-enforcement planting among mixed oak stands and edge planting of trees and shrubs to create a home for wildlife. A 3-acre wildflower/warm-season grass pollinator meadow and a 3-year invasive plants control operation across 20 acres were all part of Lewis' restoration and stewardship practices on the land.
Considering the smaller size land he's been a steward of, Lewis has achieved an incredible range of management goals and is always looking for new ways to accomplish property-wide conservation goals. For example, he is the first forest landowner in Carroll County to gain cost-share assistance through the USDA NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program Forest Enhancement Bundle. This allowed for expansion of his conservation practices to include slash reduction, planting trees and shrubs to create a soft forest edge, seeding trails and log landings for wildlife habitat improvement, designating wildlife den trees, and TSI on a yellow poplar stand.
Lewis has also built and maintained a successful relationship with adjacent landowners. Cutting down trees is often misunderstood. By being proactive and communicating with his neighbors ahead of time, Mr. Lewis was able to ward off their concerns by educating them on sustainable forestry practices. "I anticipated that if I didn't spend time at my neighbor's kitchen table that when they heard I was going to do a forest thinning, they were going to be concerned," he says. Lewis adds that he was ultimately able to coordinate joint timber harvests with an adjacent neighbor twice, which helped generate a better volume and price.
"It's important to be working together in an era of parcelization to make logging worthwhile," he says. Lewis says he learned a lot during the harvest work, including that a small number of trees in a harvest of 400 really carry the value of the wood. "Forest is a crop on a lot longer rotation and takes a lot of planning. So if you have a good service forester as I do with Donna Davis and you have a question, just pick up the phone, and they'll help you," says Lewis.
He doesn't just see his 40 acres. Instead, he sees a contiguous 100 acres with his neighbors and tries to look at the forest on every scale. "Maryland has many forestry resources, so look holistically at what you want to do with your property. Don't unnecessarily limit your vision," he adds.
The way Lewis puts it, he's just "catching raindrops. They're all out there there, you just have to pick one." Mr. and Mrs. Lewis were recently chosen as Maryland Tree Farmer of the Year and will be honored in Annapolis during the 2022 General Assembly Session.
Chuck and Joan Lewis pictured on their Tree Farm with DNR Central Regional Forester, Rob Feldt.
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
What is a Tree Farm?
Tree Farm Committee
Landowner Frequently Asked Questions
How to apply for harvesting permits
Maryland's Forests- Great for the Environment and the Economy
Pictures taken during the Tree Farm Inspection at Daughters Ridge