SUMMITVILLE - A forest of thousands of trees in southern Columbiana County is not one anyone from the Coldwell family could get lost in.
They have spent the last 30 years managing the now more than 600 acres of hardwood timber trees - work that has earned them the title of 2014 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Jared Coldwell and his brother Jed are both certified foresters for woodlands across Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and work alongside their father Dave managing the tree farm on Hull Road between Summitville and Salineville, which Dave began piecing together in the 1980s.
The Coldwell family was awarded 2014 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year by the Ohio Department of Education. The more than 600-acre farm is located in Summitville. Pictured are (back row, from left) Emily and Jed Coldwell, Dave Coldwell, holding Silas, Lisa Coldwell, Josh Coldwell. (Kneeling) Carly and Jared Coldwell and Cinda Coldwell, and the family dog, Lumpkins.
"Even before he owned a lot of the property he was helping the previous landowners market their timber and sell their timber," Jared Coldwell said.
While Jared Coldwell dedicates his full-time work to the lumber side, his father and brother are dedicated to keeping the trees safe from invasive species.
The work is similar to how farmers control row crops on a yearly basis, he explained.
While timber is not harvested every year, there is a rotation.
"Just like traditional agriculture, it's something you are just basically trying to give the trees the best growing environment possible, taking out a lot of undesirable understory species," he said.
The ODNR gives the Outstanding Tree Farmers title to those providing a renewal resource in a sustainable manner while maintaining a healthy forest that protects water, wildlife and recreational values.
The farm is certified by the American Tree Farm System as meeting its standards for woodland stewardship, according to an ODNR press release.
"Healthy and productive forests are essential to Ohio's economic and environmental well-being because, in addition to wood and timber production, they help to protect air, water and soil and they provide wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and aesthetics," Robert Boyles, state forester and chief of the department of division of forestry, said in the release.
Sustainability of the farm is something Dave and his wife Lisa taught their children over the years, and it has been a fun process.
"Obviously we have forests all around us, but it's just one of those things that a lot of people don't really know you can live a life actually managing a forest and it's really kind of fun. It's a blast, actually, to be able to basically preserve a green space, manage it, enjoy it," Jared Coldwell said.
Part of that management involves controlling grapevines, thinning to release crop trees, and selective tree harvesting and planting in open fields, and Coldwell said the family only recently introduced Yellow Poplar into the mix.
"The one species we did not have was Yellow Poplar. We have done a lot of Yellow Poplar planting on the property," he said.
Each year the family plants several thousand trees typical of the eastern hardwood region, he added.
According to the press release, the Coldwells have their own band sawmill and can not only produce regular lumber, but sell their own character wood as a specialty market, making use of low-grade or cull trees that normally would go to waste, and that is Jared's specialty.
Jared Coldwell takes the salvageable timber and fashions it into tables, chairs, furniture and other items that can be purchase through ohiowoodlands.com, a separate entity from the tree farm.
"I was able, with a lot of work, to develop a market with what is considered less valuable wood, which actually gives it quite a bit more value," he said.
The family is encouraging people to visit the farm to see what they do first-hand, and a public field day is scheduled for Sept. 20. The event will consist of demonstrations, and forestry and wildlife experts will be on hand to answer questions.
The Ohio Tree Farm Program was organized in 1946 to bring foresters and landowners together to apply the ATFS standards of sustainable management. The system encompasses 1,700 woodland owners across Ohio who are committed to caring for their land under a comprehensive plan developed by a professional forester, according to the release.