by Ron Sheay

The American Tree Farm System was established in 1941, primarily to help ensure a steady supply of wood needed for the country’s anticipated war effort. The first Tree Farm nationally was dedicated in 1941 in Montesano, Washington to demonstrate ‘sustainable forest management’ to local landowners. Thus the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) had its beginning.

Over time, ATFS has continually improved to respond to societal, economic, and scientific changes and also to inform the continuing dialogue on sustainable forest management and private land ownership. ATFS recognizes and validates family forest owners for their work and commitment to sustainable stewardship of their land. The ATFS Certification system is internationally recognized, and the certified ATFS sign tells the community, and the world, that the subject property stands among the best woodland stewards in America.

photo courtesy American Forest Foundation

photo courtesy American Forest Foundation

On August 13, 1946, the Washington (Warren County) Water Company became New Jersey’s first Certified Tree Farm. Currently there are over 300 Certified Tree Farms in NJ totaling 51,692 acres. New Jersey Tree Farm Program (NJTFP) is administered by a volunteer committee, and with the NJ DEP State Forestry Service and the New Jersey Forestry Association as cosponsors. In 2001 it incorporated as the New Jersey Tree Farm Program, Inc. and became a non-profit organization under 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code.

The NJTFP is composed of Tree Farmers, consulting foresters, current and retired NJ Forest Service foresters, and the Rutgers Extension forester. Presently the NJTFP sets its policies in accordance with the standards, guidelines and performance measures for member certification as provided by the American Forest Foundation, the national sponsor of the American Tree Farm System. Certification and de-certification of Tree Farms and Pioneer Tree Farms, the Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year contest, Tree Farm Day, and the training of inspecting foresters are all under the auspices of the NJTFP.

Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award Started in 1971

The late Sam MacGregor, Chatham, NJ, was named New Jersey’s first Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year in 1971 for the management of his Chester, NJ woodlot. The late Clifford Frazee became the first Tree Farmer to be chosen twice, having been selected in 1978 and 1984. Lenape Farms, Inc. became the first property to be chosen three times having been selected in1976, 1990, and 2003.   The late professor John Kuser, Rutgers University, was also selected twice (1977 and 1994). The Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year for 2014 was Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, BSA. Currently nominations are being accepted for the 2015 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year.

Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

  • 1971   Samuel MacGregor (D)
  • 1972   None
  • 1973   William S. Braunworth
  • 1974   Frederic R. Gamble (D)
  • 1975   Harry S. Ferguson (D) (1976 Mid-Atlantic OTF)
Photo by Ashley Schreyer/New Jersey Herald World War II veterans Aldon Sayre, left, and Richard Moran talk about their service at Hudson Farm in Andover Township during Tree Farm Day 2014.

Photo by Ashley Schreyer/New Jersey Herald World War II veterans Aldon Sayre, left, and Richard Moran talk about their service at Hudson Farm in Andover Township during Tree Farm Day 2014.

  • 1976   Lenape Farms, Inc.
  • 1977   Dr. John Kuser (D)
  • 1978   Clifford Frazee (D)
  • 1979   Michael Kuser (D)
  • 1980   Lothar Sudekum (D)
  • 1981   Robert Housedorf
  • 1982   Jack Cimprich
  • 1983   James J. Casey  (D)
  • 1984   Clifford Frazee (D)
  • 1985   Frank R. Wallace
  • 1986   Raymond Servas
  • 1987   Allison Hosford-Knight
  • 1988   Helen Schautz
  • 1989   Margaret Martin (D)
  • 1990   Lenape Farms, Inc.
  • 1991   Arthur Zampella, MD (D)
  • 1992   Lawrence and Anne McCloskey
  • 1993   Chester Twp. – Tiger Brook Park
  • 1994   Dr. John Kuser (D)
  • 1995   Camp NYODA
  • 1996   Dave and Pat Finley
  • 1997   Carl Lampe
  • 1998   Wawa, Inc.
  • 1999   Fountain House of NJ, Inc.
  • 2000   Tracy and Barbara Cate
  • 2001   Gloria Klaus
  • 2002   Mr. and Mrs. James L. Johnson
  • 2003   Lenape Farms, Inc.
  • 2004   Christopher Brunkhorst
  • 2005   Lee Brothers
  • 2006   Haines & Haines, Inc.
  • 2007   Wilson Lake Memorial Park
  • 2008   Barth and Rosemary D’Ascoli
  • 2009   Ken and Patricia Bell (also, Lenape Farms Inc. was NE Regional Outstanding Tree Farm)
  • 2010   Glenn and Mary Brownstein
  • 2011   Keith Begraft
  • 2012   Kellogg Family Lands / Hudson Farm Club
  • 2013   Elmer Platz
  • 2014   Northern NJ Council, BSA (Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco)
  • (D) Deceased

    First Tree Farm Day—1975

    The first Tree Farm Day was held in Titusville at the Washington Crossing State Nursery in 1975 where approximately 50 Tree Farmers, foresters and friends gathered to review the nursery operation where one million seedlings were being grown. Part of the day was spent on the late Mike Kuser’s Tree Farm in Titusville inspecting a recent clear-cut regeneration harvest to establish the next forest. It is interesting to note that Tree Farm Day was held at the Kuser property 15 years later and we had the opportunity to see the excellent young forest that had regenerated at the clear-cut site. Tree Farm Day has proven to be a highlight of the NJ Tree Farm Program with between 100 and 150 in attendance annually. In 2015, our 40th Tree Farm Day was held at YMCA Camp Linwood-MacDonald in Branchville, NJ, and drew120 foresters and Tree Farmers. Tree Farm Day is held annually on the first Friday in June.

    Tree Farm at Lenape Farms (now Lenape Farms Wildlife Management Area). Photo by Charlie Newlon

    Tree Farm at Lenape Farms (now Lenape Farms Wildlife Management Area). Photo by Charlie Newlon

    Inspecting Foresters

    The backbone of the Tree Farm Program is the cadre of professional foresters that volunteer their time as Tree Farm inspectors. Since 1984 they have made the field inspections, nominations and re-inspections for the NJTFP. Previous to that time, service foresters of the NJ Forest Service carried out these tasks. To assist the inspecting foresters, besides periodically sending them information concerning the program, workshops are held in North and South Jersey by the NJTFC. Currently, all inspecting foresters must attend a six-hour inspectors training workshop to continue as qualified inspectors. Once a forester has completed this training, he/she can continue to nominate or re-nominate landowners for Tree Farm status.

    Historical Tidbits

    • As of 2015, the “oldest” Tree Farm in NJ, certified in 1966, is owned by C. G. Mortimer of Montague.
    • The late movie and stage screen actress Celeste Holm was a Tree Farmer, having graduated as NJ’s first Pioneer Tree Farm.
    • Former Governor Christine Whitman has a Tree Farm in Oldwick.
    • There is one sawmill owner that has a 250-acre Tree Farm.
    • Our largest Tree Farm (8,700 acres) is owned by Haines & Haines, Inc. of Chatsworth.
    • June 6, 2014 marked our 39th Tree Farm Day, which was held at Hudson Farms in Sussex County. The invasion of Normandy occurred exactly 70 years previous on June 6, 1944. Besides all the forestry activities on Tree Farm Day, three veterans of WWII were honored and all were woodland owners managing their woodlands. They were Dick Moran of Hardwick, Aldon Sayre (owner of a certified Tree Farm) of Branchville, and Emil Merusi of Montague. It was a very moving and inspiring event with presentation of the flag by a color guard, raising of the American flag, singing of ‘God Bless America’ and ‘America the Beautiful’ by Tree Farmers and foresters, and a cannon salute.

    For 70 years, members of NJSAF have been integral in establishing, operating, and growing the NJ Tree Farm Program. So here’s to 70 years of Tree Farm in New Jersey – “The Sign of Good Forestry.”