Tree Farm: The Sign of Good Forestry

By Ken Day
Photo credit: American Tree Farm System, www.treefarmsystem.orgIn your travels, have you noticed the green and white “Tree Farm” signs posted along the highways and byways in Indiana and the nation? Since 1941 the American Tree Farm System has educated and recognized the commitment of private family forest land owners to sustainable forest management.
Indiana Tree Farm has two primary objectives—education and recognition. Learning opportunities for landowners are provided through landowner clinics and field days. Clinics have been held in major cities throughout the state since 1970. Recent clinics have been held at: Brown County State Park, Clifty Falls State Park, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Spring Mill State Park, and Warm Springs. 
Some examples of topics covered at these clinics include best management practices, considerations for selling timber, forest health, forest road and trail layout and maintenance, forest taxation, invasive insects and plants, investing in forest lands, regenerating your woodlands, timber stand improvement, valuing forest lands, wildlife habitat improvement, and working with your forester.
Recognizing excellence is an important part of the Indiana Tree Farm program. The Indiana Tree Farmer of the Year, Indiana Logger of the Year, and Outdoor Laboratory of the Year demonstrate the highest standards of forest stewardship. The 2015 Tree Farmer of the Year was John and Stephanie Sutton of Worthington and the 2015 Logger of the Year was Scott Pingleton of Poland, Indiana. Landowners who have been in the program for more than 50 years are recognized at the landowner clinics.
Participants in the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) are committed to following the sustainable forest management practices and techniques. To be eligible participants must 1) own at least 10 acres of forest land, 2) implement a written forest management plan, 3) follow American Forest Foundation standards, and 4) have their land inspected every five years by an ATFS certified forester.
To become a Tree Farmer, you need to complete and return a short application form (see below for more information). The State Tree Farm Committee will review your request and connect you with a forester who will inspect your forest property. If your property qualifies, the inspecting forester will recommend Tree Farm certification. You will be issued a certificate and a Tree Farm sign to post on your property. When you become a Tree Farmer, you have joined the oldest and largest forest conservation and advocacy program in the United States. 
The Indiana Tree Farm Committee consists of 29 members. These members are active or retired representatives of Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Forest Service as well as consulting foresters or Tree Farmers.
For more information please visit For more information about the Indiana program contact Robert Burke, Chairman, 2896 Centennial Road, Martinsville, IN 26151 or at
Ken Day is a retired forester and former Woodland Steward Institute board member. Prior to his retirement, he most recently served as Forest Supervisor for the USDA Forest Service, Hoosier National Forest.