Magazine article American Forests

The "Kid Pasture" That Became a Working Forest

Magazine article American Forests

The "Kid Pasture" That Became a Working Forest

Article excerpt

Will and Nancy Johnston wanted a family getaway place. After working all week in Washington, DC, and environs--Will as a cartographer for the CIA, Nancy in various roles for various other agencies--they wanted to get out of the city for weekends and holidays to experience nature with their three daughters and three sons.

In 1972 they bought a run-down mountain farm in Gore, Virginia, near the West Virginia line and set up Pinetop Tree Farm--a "kid pasture," they called it. They soon discovered that the old farm had a variety of trees in a variety of conditions. There were remnants of hardwood forests that had been high-graded (the best trees had been cut and trees in all manner of poor condition had been left). There were areas covered with short-lived Virginia pine starting to stagnate and die back. There were old fields filling with brush.

The Johnstons needed tools to care for their 125 acres and ways to make the land pay taxes and other ownership costs.

Asked about the most valuable toot on the farm today (22 years after its purchase and 15 years since his retirement), Will laughs and says "Nancy!" She laughs and says "Will!" It's obvious that they and their children are a team. Everyone in the family knows how to work this farm.

Besides family cooperation and involvement, here are some other necessary tools identified by the Johnstons:

Maps: Will, the cartographer, has mapped the farm over and over and uses the maps to record projects and plan ahead. Maps help guide customers to their place. Contour and soil maps helped Will choose the best location for a pond.

If you can't do your own maps, Will suggests going to the Soil Conservation offices in your county seat and getting aerial photos and maps of your land. Yes, you have been mapped from the air and on the ground.

Expert Advice: For their first tree-planting project, the Johnstons were advised by the local state service forester. With his guidance, they bought seedlings from the state nursery and borrowed planting bars from the Virginia forestry department. Now they mine for advice from such organizations as the Extension Service, Soil Conservation Service, Westvaco, and private consulting foresters.

Trimmers: Planning for retirement income, the Johnstons cleared brush from their old fields and planted Christmas trees. …

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