Dr. John Bembry: Southeast Regional Tree Farmer of the Year
Near Hawkinsville, Georgia, from the banks of the Ocmulgee River and up Limestone Creek, is Bembry’s Mill, a family Tree Farm that its owner, veterinarian Dr. John Bembry, describes as “a family heirloom.” It is the place where Bembry grew up and learned to love the land and the place where several generations of Bembrys have lived since it was purchased in 1807 by his ancestor, who was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The responsibility of caring for land with such a history is not lost on Bembry.
The 2,100 acres of Bembry’s Mill have been certified by ATFS since 1985. Bembry got engaged in the Tree Farm program through the Georgia Forestry Commission in the early 1980s. “I knew I couldn’t manage the farm in agriculture and practice veterinary medicine, so I started exploring the possibility of forestry,” he says. “I hired a forester to do an inventory and learned about the ATFS from him. The four tenets of the ATFS— water, wildlife, wood, and recreation—were what I believed in. It all came together very naturally.”
Today, Bembry manages much of his woodland for the longleaf pine that once covered most of the southeastern coastal plain. “We’ve been working hard to re-establish longleaf on the farm, and it’s been very gratifying to see it come back,” Bembry says. The farm also is home to abundant wildlife, including a large population of wild turkey, white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and other species.
His sister, with whom he shares ownership of 1,500 acres, and his two sons, both of whom live in Atlanta, “ are very much engaged with the farm,” says Dr. Bembry, who has placed the two main sections of Bembry’s Mill in family limited partnerships for them and future generations.