On my little piece of heaven—my 225-acre farm—I have found paradise. It’s just the right size for me and my family to play on, to watch deer and turkey, ride a four-wheeler, camp out on a starry night. It’s where I go to think, to ride my tractor for an hour or two, away from the “noise” of the ever-present iPhone, iPad or laptop. It’s my retreat.
For those of you who share in this experience—or want to—advice is something I sought out often as I planned my “cabin in the woods.” On any tract—no matter its size— planning for your land’s maximum value, its highest and best use—is more than important. It’s essential in order to preserve its value.
There are a wide variety of objectives one should consider when it comes to managing your land. First and foremost, consult with someone—or a firm—with solid credentials. A forestry consulting company, or a wildlife specialist or biologist, can you help you understand the professional services that are most likely to help you reach your objectives. And let’s be honest…there is a lot to consider. Because if you are like me and my family, I want my little farm to be a home away from home, a place to play, and I want to create a beautiful habitat that attracts wildlife. And, my wife tells me, it needs to all be aesthetically pleasing. Knowing what to spend your money on is important.
If you’ve purchased a tract for investment purposes, and intend to manage the timber for cash flow, understanding environmentally and scientifically sound practices is just the start. Typically, a forest management service will also help you understand timber supply and demand; valuation and sales; fiber supply agreements and more. I would recommend working with a firm that offers its services unbundled—in other words, choose a company that offers a wide array of services that you can pick and choose from. You may need someone to help you create a written forest management plan and manage your harvest scheduling and timber sales. You may also need them to serve as your timber tax consultant. But you may have your own bookkeeper and you may choose to work with a biologist or other forest consultant on prescribed burns. The options are numerous.
Finally, whether you own 50, 500 or 5,000 acres, and whether you seek advice from a professional or a long-time land owner, trust your gut. The land you own is its own ecosystem—you are not only managing the dirt, but the air, the water flowing through the property, the wildlife on the property and the people who come to enjoy it. Understand your own objectives first, then seek out the best advice you can.
Brian Wilson has served as a Relationship Manager at Farm Credit for 15 years. He specializes in financing acreage, hobby farms, and agribusinesses. Brian is a graduate of the Georgia South-western State University.