VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

WINTER 2023 23 I grew up in the City of Roanoke during the 1980s. If anyone had asked me, “What is a Tree Farm?” my response would have been, “Where we go to get our Christmas tree!” It was an annual tradition every year. Shortly after Thanksgiving my family would borrow a pickup truck and head out into the country to a Christmas tree farm to pick out and cut down our very own tree. Sometimes the tree was so tall that the angel at the top would have to bend over against the ceiling; sometimes the tree was so fat that we would have to rearrange the furniture around it. The concept of a Tree Farm being something more than a Christmas tree farm never entered my mind. At that time, I’d never heard of any kind of industry called forestry. Even though I spent my youth growing up in the neighborhoods of the city, I spent my weekends and summers exploring the wonders of the Appalachian Trail. McAfee’s Knob was my family’s preferred playground—many birthdays and holidays, sunrises and sunsets, were spent on that mountain. I felt most at home outside. So much so that in the early 1990s, when I read in the Roanoke Times about Virginia Tech’s newly formed College of Forestry and Wildlife, I transferred. I still had no idea what forest management was, but I instinctively knew that it meant there were jobs that did not require me to stay indoors all the time. Fast forward thirty years, and today, I am enmeshed in the forestry industry. My family lives on a vast Tree Farm, seven generations in the making. We actively manage several thousand acres of timberland. We also own a logging company and are partners in a timber procurement company and a hardwood sawmill. The relationships my husband and I made during our time in the College of Forestry and Wildlife allow us to call on the State Forester, the Deputy State Forester, industry leaders and sawmill owners as more than colleagues, but as mentors and friends. When I was asked about my reasons for being involved in the Virginia Tree Farm Foundation (VTFF), I had to take a pause. I was too involved in the forestry industry to remember why the Foundation is so important. I am the fortunate landowner. I married into this life as a collegeeducated forest manager to a college-educated industrial forester. At the age of 23, I knew how to manage my forestland, and I knew who to call to implement my plans. Many landowners are more like me before I went to Virginia Making Lifetime Connections Through Forest Land Ownership By Laurie Wright, Virginia Tree Farm Foundation Director Laurie and Vance Wright hosted a field trip on their Tree Farm in 2022 as part of the Virginia Tree Farm Foundation’s landowner educational program.