Jesko and I recently visited Hidden Valley Farm, a 240 acre conservation tree farm located east of Charles City. It was a great opportunity to see an alternative to soybean and corn farming in our area. We got a very nice tour by owner Ann Schnekloth, who showed us the many different areas of the farm where different species of trees are being grown and harvested. We learned that there is a lot of work that goes into growing trees! Ensuring that a “good” tree gets enough room to grow is the most important. Different areas of their farm have different ages of trees. There are mature forests and forests that are labeled under different conservation programs with slightly different requirements. In summary, the owners don’t just sit back and watch their walnut, cherry and oaks grow. There is actually a lot of thinning of trees that needs to happen to make sure the fittest and best survive to grow straight and tall.
Below is a young oak tree, almost 10 years old. They will have to go in and thin this forest in the next year or two. They use much of their wood to warm their home in the winter months.
It is quite unbelievable that all of this used to be a corn field. Imagine! The soil here is quite sandy, so not ideal conditions for corn or soybeans, but very ideal for trees!
They also have honeybees!
Below is a picture of a 30 year old forest of mostly black walnut and oak trees.
And a mature forest closer to the Cedar River, where trees are ready to be harvested.