George & Brenda Kirik, Tree Farmers of the Year 2006

Erie County, 242 Acres

On September 22, 2006 the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Committee awarded George and Brenda Kirik recognition as the 2006 Pennsylvania Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. Their Tree Farm consists of 242 wooded acres located in southeastern Erie County. Erie County Service Forester Tom Erdman nominated the Kiriks for the award. Tom stated, "George has done more good forestry work than any other landowner I know, both on his own land and on other forested properties where he has convinced the landowners to practice good forestry."

With Tom's assistance, starting in 1991, the Kiriks developed management priorities for the property. It was discovered that much of the property was in need of timber stand improvement (TSI) work. The first priority was grapevine control. During 1991 and 1992, essentially all the grapevines on the property were cut, except for a number of small arbors left for wildlife food and cover. By the end of 2000, over 120 acres of non-commercial pole timber was thinned and many trees were also pruned for the first log (16ft). All the TSI work was marked and cut by George who spent literally thousands of hours improving his woodlot by removing grapevines and thinning and pruning trees.

George says, "God gave us this property, it's our responsibility to make the highest value out of it that we can. We're only caretakers of the land. Investing in a tree farm is like investing in the stock market. Are you going to sell the trees that are making you money? No, you sell the trees that aren't making you money."

The Kiriks are also teaching the younger generation about tree farming and proper land management. Twice a year, a forestry career class at Corry High School spends the day at the farm. In 2003, George completed the 40 hours of training provided by Penn State and the Bureau of Forestry to become a PA Forest Stewards volunteer. Since that time, George has begun reaching out to surrounding landowners, assisting them with their TSI work and advising them on the proper way to sell and manage timber. When selling mature timber from his own Tree Farm, George always contracts with consulting forester Mark Webb for appraisal and marketing services.