LandownerEd Keyser was surprised to be named Missouri’s 2012 Tree Farmer of the Year. Although he has worked tirelessly managing his tree farm just a few miles west of Kirksville, Mo., he did not consider his small farm worthy of such attention. But his passion for both working in his woods and educating other woodland owners about the many benefits of forest management caught the attention of the Missouri Tree Farm Committee.

WoodsKeyser purchased his 89-acre woodland in 1969 and immediately began managing the property for recreation and revenue. Deer and turkey populations have flourished as a result of his forest stand improvement practice of removing undesirable tree species. Like weeding a garden gives crops room to grow, thinning a forest gives the remaining trees room to grow. This growth allows tree canopies to expand and, in the case of Keyser’s oak and hickory trees, produce more acorns and nuts for wildlife. As an added benefit, bigger tree crowns also mean larger tree trunks, which when harvested mean bigger logs.

After 33 years of managing his woods, Keyser decided the time had come for a timber sale. “I recognized faster growth on my oaks as a result of thinning my woods,” Keyser said, “and in 2002, I conducted my first timber sale.” Sealed bids were taken on 600 marked trees, and Keyser thought the high bidder’s price was a direct result of his active management.

Keyser’s most recent challenge has been the invasion of autumn olive. He has spent several years cutting and treating this unwanted invasive shrub and believes he has reached the point where he can inspect his woods annually and remove any newcomers.

Through maintaining his woodland, Keyser has provided not only improved food and cover for wildlife but also excellent deer and turkey hunting opportunities for himself and his family.