Local Farm Named Florida’s Outstanding Tree Farm Of the Year

October 7, 2019

The Russell Brothers Farm near McDavid has been named the 2019 Florida Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year.

The annual award recognizes private landowners that have done a remarkable job of sustainably managing forests on their property. Russell Brothers’ Farm exemplifies a legacy of family forest managed not only for wood that may one day be harvested but for water conservation, wildlife habitat and primarily to create a sense of place in honor of the Russell Family, according to the Florida Forest Service.

The farm was originally purchased by Jay and Clara Russell in 1946. Since Jay and Clara have passed on, the name on the deed has changed, but it remains family land that plays a central role in keeping the family together.

John Russell lives on the property, managing it for the family, and hosting a large family gathering each Thanksgiving. They enjoy hayrides together hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife and marvel at the growth of young longleaf pines.. Other times of year the Russell’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren hike down to Pine Barren Creek in the north part of the property to explore and play in the water.

The 109-acre property off Highway 164 has seen some changes over the years. Former row crop land is now a young but rapidly growing longleaf pine stand. A mature natural longleaf stand that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 has been replaced by younger pines with native grasses and wildflowers. A hay field separates the pine stands.

Pine Barren Creek has always cut across the northern boundary of the property and is surrounded by a variety of hardwoods many of which are more frequently seen in areas north of Florida.

John works hard to keep up the property, hoping it will still be enjoyed by Russells in another hundred years. He maintains three miles of trails and is continuing a battle against invasive privet.

He has become a certified prescribed burner in order keep up with the burning on the property. The two young longleaf stands were planted by John and his brother, Keith. These stands are burned on a two-year rotation to encourage a low and diverse ecosystem.

John is rewarded not only by a sense of accomplishment for what he is doing for the land and his family, but also with sightings of wildlife during quiet morning walks. Through his diligent and careful management, he has noted an increase in wildlife of all kinds.

“One family’s healthy forest is a community benefit and John does his part. Not only does he hope a younger generation of Russells are inspired to continue the legacy of caring for the land, but he tells stories of other children who have come to the property as family friends or in school groups, some who have never been in rural settings. He is pleased that these children leave in wonder at what they have seen and is happy the property can be used to spark their imaginations and educate them on the value of forest ecosystems, the Florida Forest Service said in announcing the award. “John has shown leadership in sustainability and legacy. The Russell Brothers Farm is a gem in the Oak Grove community where evidence of good forest management is readily seen.”


6 Responses to “Local Farm Named Florida’s Outstanding Tree Farm Of the Year”

  1. david lamb on October 9th, 2019 1:31 pm

    Todays society seems to do more to destroy trees than to preserve them . We need to replace every tree we cut down.

  2. Susan on October 8th, 2019 1:42 pm

    This was a very interesting article. Congratulations to the Russell family.

  3. Kelly Seay on October 7th, 2019 10:43 pm

    Impressive! Sounds like a good example for students to explore and learn from.

  4. Jackie Stewart Johnson on October 7th, 2019 8:49 am

    Congratulations to the Russell Family.

  5. Taree Huggers on October 7th, 2019 8:32 am

    Congratulations on a great job.

  6. Me... on October 7th, 2019 2:39 am

    What a great story!
    I’d love to spend some time out there!

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