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Regional Forest Field Day Held at McRae Farm

By Fay Garner, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, Auburn, AL

 

McRae tour wedding site on pond.


Attendees learned from experts in timber and pond management.

The Alabama Natural Resources Council and the Alabama Tree Farm Committee held the Central Region Forestry Field Day at Dr. Findley McRae's property in Eutaw, Alabama.  The McRae Farm was last year’s recipient of the Helene Mosley Memorial TREASURE Forest Award.

The cool brisk morning drew out a lot of folks who would not normally brave the hot, humid days of Indian summer.  The dew lay heavy on the fresh cut grass, wetting the shoes of the 267 people that registered for the event. 

The early attendees had time to meander around the staging area and explore an old-looking new barn with a second floor that was built for dancing and entertaining.  The two porches of the barn held agency displays and rocking chairs that invited people to sit and ponder the event and anticipate the sites of the coming tour.

Coffee and donuts were provided in the large pavilion built by the landowners to entertain guests for church functions, weddings, and family events.  Dr. McRae welcomed the group to the farm and gave a brief description of the property and how the family manages the land.  

The tour began with participants loading several trailers that rotated through three stations featuring multi-use areas in the forest, the vineyard, and the pond.

The first stop for the group was the High Ropes Course that the McRae’s constructed to train people in teambuilding. Jason Dalton informed the group that the successful completion of each of the eight stations depended on each participant’s ability to work together and follow instruction.  The course is designed to focus on teamwork, encouraging and increasing leadership, and building trust and commitment among the members of the team as participants expand their comfort zones and recognize fears that may block personal achievement.  A team of people of varied ages and experience physically demonstrated the course. It was told that no one had ever been able to complete the team building course alone. It was a lot of fun watching the group slowly maneuver the course and call out encouragement to their teammates.

One station wound along the manicured tree-lined forest roads to hear experts talk about the proper methods used in conducting a prescribed burn.  A skid steer mulching machine was used to demonstrate an area that had been “mulched” versus an area that had not received the treatment.

Another stop was at the large vineyards.  Experts talked about how important bee colonies were to pollinating fruit and gave some information on the dangers of Africanized bees. The farm’s vineyard expert talked about the types of muscadines grown at the farm and the types of wine that can be made from the harvest.  The attendees were invited to sample the fruits on the vine before loading the trailers for the next stop.

The tour trailers went over the pond dam where the group viewed horses grazing in pastures and around the back of the McRae’s homestead to an outdoor wedding site at the Cross Pond station.  The area featured a large wooden cross and a vine arch.  The attendees sat on polished benches made from cedar trees at the peaceful and beautiful site.  The group listened to experts talk about what to consider when selling timber.  The pond was seined to show the different species of fish in the pond and pond management was discussed. 

The last stop of the day was back at the pavilion where everyone enjoyed a lunch of chicken wraps and succulent shrimp donated by a local grower who raised them in salt water ponds.

Following lunch, several awards were given out.  The 2010 State Helene Mosley Memorial TREASURE Forest Award was presented to Howard and Elizabeth Barton of Coosa County for outstanding achievement in multiple use management of forest land.  The Barton Farm will host next year’s Regional Forestry Tour.

Tuscaloosa County’s state 4-H forestry and wildlife judging team winners and their coach, Wayne Ford, were recognized. Ford, the extension system agent for Tuscaloosa County, received special recognition for coaching local teams for 13 national championships.  Ford also received a porcelain eagle and a framed poem for coaching the 2010 Tuscaloosa County Wildlife Judging Team through to the state championship.  It was said that Ford is very dedicated, and through his experience he provides leadership and education that young people need to exceed.

The Walker County Forestry Planning Committee received the 2010 award for forest management programs.

The McRae Farm is a showplace and is planned and planted to be friendly for wildlife, the environment, and people. The McRae family does a great job of working with many groups, young and old, and takes pleasure in sharing their good fortune with others. 

Terry Williamson, NRCS District Conservationist in Greene County, said the tour was deemed a success and that the committee received many positive comments.  He thanked the McRae’s for being gracious hosts and allowing the attendees to learn from their good forestry and stewardship management.

 

Dr. McRae

Dr. McRae welcomed the group to the farm.

High ropes course.

High Ropes Course that the McRae’s constructed to train people in teambuilding.

Wayne Ford receives recognition.

    Wayne Ford, received recognition for coaching local teams for 13 national championships.

Sam Wiggins presented award.

Sam Wiggins of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System received an award for coaching the state champion 4-H Forestry Judging Team.

Tuscaloosa County’s state 4-H forestry and wildlife judging team

Tuscaloosa County’s state 4-H forestry and wildlife judging team winners

Walker County Forestry Planning Committee received award

The Walker County Forestry Planning Committee received the 2010 award for forest management programs.