2015 Pennsylvania Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

Posted: January 14, 2016

The 2015 Pennsylvania Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year are Harold and Gay Thistle from Waynesburg, Greene County, in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Thistles purchased their 98-acre Tree Farm in June of 1999. There were about 30 wooded acres; the rest was pastureland used for hay. The Thistles have planted over 3400 seedlings including black walnut, white ash, northern red oak, American chestnut, Chinese chestnut, white spruce, Douglas fir, and butternut. All seedlings were planted with deer protection (deer populations have ranged from manageable to very high). Some of the deer protection was successful, some not.

The Thistles are founding members of the SW PA Woodland Owners Association (SWPWO), which began in 2000. Harold served two terms as President and Gay also served two terms as President, two terms as Secretary, and ten years as the newsletter editor. At this time, Harold and Gay serve on the Board as a Past President. They became a Stewardship Farm in 2001 and joined the American Tree Farm System in 2012. In 2011 they were recognized by the Greene County Conservation District and with the Outstanding Forest Conservationists award. The Thistles also belong to the American Chestnut Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Forestry Association, National Woodland Owners Association, and American Forest Foundation.

The management work on the property mostly happens on weekends and evenings since both still work. Accessible hardwood plantations are mowed annually. They prune trees to promote clear butt logs and cull out diseased trees. To protect their trees, they invest time straightening stakes and tubes, and replacing damaged and outgrown protectors. Controlling invasive plants, which they control by mowing, is their most time consuming work. Mile-a-minute vine is treated biologically with weevils as part of a research project with West Virginia University and the U.S. Forest Service. To document their success, they have three tree planting plots comprised of black walnut, white oak, and red oak they measure periodically. This year they enrolled in an NRCS program to remove invasive plants and plant more trees. In addition to the management work, the Thistles have done a tremendous amount of outreach in a short period of time, having organized and hosted numerous educational tours of their property

The PA Tree Farm Committee congratulates the Thistles on their excellent work and looks forward to their field day on May 14, 2016.