Sweet Home tree farmers named best in Oregon

The managers of the Fun Forest Tree Farm have been named Oregon’s Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year for 2009.

The Oregon Tree Farm System on Nov. 23 recognized Jim Cota, Robbie Melcher and Scott Melcher during a ceremony at the World Forestry Center in Portland.

“It’s pretty cool to be recognized,” Cota said. Fun Forest won at the county level and then won the northwest region, one of three, to move on to the state level. “Now we’re in the running for national regionals, the western United States.”

That winner should be announced in the early spring, Cota said. Winners of the national regionals move on to a national level.

Cota and the Melchers operate the 1,500-acre forest near Sweet Home. The partnership acquired the land in 1999, replanting many areas previously harvested and in need of tree regeneration.

The tree farm, growing a mix of mostly conifers in addition to wood production, provides recreation services such as camping, ATV trails and fishing sites.

The tree farm also places a focus on outreach and education to the central Linn County region, including working with Sweet Home High School on redeveloping a forestry program for students.

“It’s a fun place to be,” said Jim Cota. “I especially hope kids can come here and develop the same love for the land that I have.”

Cota said the tree farm also sought out the technical assistance of the Oregon Department of Forestry for establishing fire ponds to make water accessible in remote areas of the tree farm, thus lowering the potential for a catastrophic fire at Fun Forest.

Local chapters of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association select the County Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in Oregon. The Oregon winner is selected by a team of professional foresters from the public and private sectors.

The Oregon Department of Forestry, an active partner of the Oregon Tree Farm System, helps landowners manage their forestlands to ensure that family-owned tree farms achieve economic, environmental and social benefits.

More information on the Oregon Tree Farm System is available at http://www.otfs.org.

Additional information about the Oregon Department of Forestry is available at http://www.oregon.gov/ODF.