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Wehr Farm

Tree Farmer Believes in Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is a priority for Indiana forester and farmer Dan Wehr, owner of Whiskey Run Farms.

Located in Whiskey Run Township in Crawford County, Indiana, Dan’s green-certified tree farm consists of about 150 acres planted in mixed hardwood species, predominately white oak. With the help of his son-in-law, Steve Whalen, grandson, Noah Whalen, and brother, Stan, Dan selectively harvests his trees after about 15 years of growth.

“We don’t clear-cut our trees. We only harvest selected species based on tree spacing, the values of timber and the straightness of the tree. Our focus is on timber stand improvement,” he says.

Dan also marks his logging trails to minimize erosion and remain sustainable. A certified district forester also maps out any stream crossings and examines harvest plans, before and after harvest, all to control erosion.

To maintain his green certification, he must comply with various erosion control and harvest techniques and have a certified forester mark his timber.

“Once harvested, our trees are able to be used in many different products,” Dan says. “With our certified green distinction, our trees, including even the wood chips and sawdust, can be made into recyclable paper products.”

Dan is proud to be a member of the American Tree Farm System and the Indiana Farm and Woodland Owners Association. The American Tree Farm System named Dan, and his brother, Stan, Tree Farmers of the Year in 2010.

As such, he says, “It is important to us to make sure everything is done right. All of our management practices follow the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s best management practices, and comply with all rules and regulations developed by the Tree Farm and Woodland Owners Association.”

The statewide nonprofit organization states that it is “dedicated to conservation and sustainable management of woodlands in Indiana.” Cleaner water, wildlife habitat creation, soil health and carbon sequestration are among its goals.

“Tree farming is a little different than conventional farming, but it can still be adversely affected by weather conditions and invasive pest species, such as the Emerald ash borer, bush honeysuckle and Japanese stiltgrass,” Dan says.

Over the years, he says, extreme droughts and invasive species have hurt tree health. “Plants such as bush honeysuckle and Japanese stiltgrass prevent trees from regenerating and seedlings from growing after emergence.”

“Unfortunately, invasives have become untenable, and the forester of tomorrow will likely be carrying a backpack sprayer rather than a chain saw,” he adds.

As a longtime steward of forestland, Dan works to minimize the damage from invasives species and give his trees the best chance to thrive through careful management. Selective harvesting is a critical part of that stewardship.

One of the biggest misconceptions about forest management is that trees should not be cut down, he explains. “That’s totally wrong. If you want trees to grow, you have to keep them thinned out, you have to harvest trees.”

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