McDavid Tree Farm, Escambia Forester Honored As Best In Florida

November 4, 2019

The Russell Brothers Farm in McDavid was recently recognized as the 2019 Florida Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year., and Escambia County’s forester was named the Tree Farm Inspector of the Year during an event in McDavid.

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 A mature natural longleaf stand that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 has been replaced by younger pines with native grasses and wildflowers.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.

Several of those generations, including John, his nephew Wade and Wade’s young children, were on-hand to mark the occasion. The event, featured during Working Forests Week, included a two-hour tour of the property showcasing the time, effort and outcomes of decades of work by the Russell family.

“Sixty-five percent of Florida’s forests are privately owned,” said State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service Jim Karels. “Partnerships with families like the Russell’s are key to protecting our state’s top agriculture commodity and ensuring our forests are available for future generations.”

The Florida Forest Service’s Cathy Hardin, County Forester for Escambia County, was recognized as the Florida Tree Farm Inspector of the Year. This is Hardin’s second recognition, receiving, receiving the award in 2014 for her work in Gadsden County near Tallahassee.

“I do this because I am passionate about the land and love to help care for God’s creation,” Hardin said. “My ability to get things done revolves around the landowners and our forest rangers. I appreciate them so much and the opportunities I’ve been given.”

The American Tree Farm System is a nationwide community of more than 90,000 individuals and families joined by their desire for sustainable management of forests. These landowners share a commitment to protect watersheds and wildlife habitat; to conserve soil and provide recreation for their neighbors; and, at the same time, to produce the wood that America needs for thousands of useful products. Florida has more than 1,100 certified Tree Farms, accounting for over 760,000 acres.

Pictured above: Wade Russell (left) and John Russell (center) were honored last week for their work on the Russell Brothers Farm as Florida’s Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year for 2019. Steve Lloyd of the Florida Tree Farm Committee also is pictured. Pictured below: Cathy Hardin, center, receives her plaque for being named the Outstanding Tree Farm Inspector of the Year for 2019 from Jim Karels (left) Florida State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service, and Steve Lloyd of the Florida Tree Farm Committee. Pictured bottom: Dozens of people took part in a tour of the 109 acre property. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

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