Jim & Libby Walizer, Tree Farmers of the Year 2001

Centre County, 248 acres

The Walizer Tree Farms consists of the wooded portions of three farms in Nittany Valley (near Bellefonte in Centre County). The farms have been in the Walizer family for three generations, and sons Dennis and Mike are active in all aspects of the business and plan to continue ownership into the future.

As stewards of the land, the Walizers seek professional advice and discuss their options as a family before proceeding with timber management activities. In 1985, the opted for a seed tree harvest on Dad's lot with the assistance of consulting forester Jim Cowen. Sixteen years later, the next forest is well on its way with a dense growth of 20 to 30 feet high saplings.

In 1992, the family considered a timber harvest on Dennis' lot. Service Forester Jim Stiehler (now the Bureau of Forestry's Stewardship Coordinator) conducted a stand analysis and indicated that grapevines and ferns were likely to interfere with regeneration unless steps were taken to control them. The high deer population in the area was also a threat to the future forest. The Walizers cut and treated the grapevine on 40 acres and waited 5 years to be sure the roots were dead. Only then did they contact Jim Cowen to arrange for a shelterwood harvest. They had the fern sprayed before the harvest and installed a nine-strand electric fence to hold back the deer and allow the numerous stump sprouts and seedlings to grow.

The Walizers are committed to educating fellow landowners and students about sound farm and forest management techniques. Each year they host several educational programs for students, neighbors, and forest landowners. Jim and Libby are charter members and past board members of the Woodland Owners of Center County, and Jim is a Forest Stewardship VIP.

Jim has become active on the Centre County Extension Board and is becoming known as a good source of forestry information among fellow farmers in his community. He also worked with his township supervisors to implement a system for providing landowners with information about forest regeneration before they harvest.