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Russ and Barbara Ford Named 2011 Southern Region Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

Russ and Barbara Ford Named 2011 Southern Region Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

July 25, 2011

Washington, D.C. – The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) has named Russ and Barbara Ford as Southern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year sponsored by Stihl, Inc. The couple’s Ford’s River Farms boasts 1,101 acres of Certified Tree Farm near Columbia, Mississippi.

As one of four regional winners, Russ and Barbara are now contenders for the 2011 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year Award, which will be announced at the National Tree Farmer Convention August 11 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Simply said, the Fords have ‘made a difference’ in southern forestry. Russ and Barbara started the first local forestry organization in Mississippi, with Russ holding an active office in the organization for a number of years. Sharing information about invasive species control, practicing active wildlife management for both game and threatened species, and making a commitment to improving water quality has earned the couple a bookmark in the history of forestry in the State of Mississippi.

Tree farming has been Russ’s only job, his entire life. Russ’s father, Ernest Ford purchased the original acreage in 1940. At age 21, Russ decided to stay on the parental farm to take care of his parents and oversee the management of the Tree Farm. Through acquisition, and inheritance, Russ built the Ford River Tree Farm into the success story it is today.

Liz Sandler, ATFS Director, applauds Russ and Barbara Ford, stating that their commitment to woodland management is an example of ATFS growing stewardship from the roots. Their reputation as outstanding citizens with genuine care for, and commitment to, community, county, and state makes the couple a shining example of what resource management is all about.

“Every year, we at the American Tree Farm System commit ourselves to the recognition of family forest owners like the Fords. The Southern Region Tree Farmer of the Year Award celebrates Tree Farmers like Russ and Barbara who contribute to the good of all without fanfare and without expectation of recognition,” Sandler said.

Despite the fact that Russ has made tree farming his only job, he has not done so at the expense of the resources of the farm. Firebreaks, road construction and maintenance, pre-commercial thinning, pruning, mowing, prescribed burning, tree planting, herbicide applications and more are on schedule and performed nearly 100 percent of the time by Russ himself.  And the ‘special ones’ are not forgotten: numerous gopher tortoises are located on the Tree Farm and Russ actively manages for them, striving not to destroy their habitat.

The nearly 90,000 family landowner American Tree Farm System represents the largest group of private landowners in America. Family forest landowners manage and own 35 percent of America’s forests. These private forests provide more than 25 percent of our nation’s drinking water and 60 percent of at risk wildlife depend on private forests.

Pictured: Bob Simpson [ATFS], Barbara Ford, Roger Phelps [Stihl, Inc.]

The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS), a program of the American Forest Foundation, is a network of private woodland owners sustainably managing 26 million acres of forestland. It is the largest and oldest sustainable family woodland system in America, internationally recognized, meeting strict third-party certification standards. For 70 years, ATFS has enhanced the quality of America’s woodlands by giving forest owners the tools they need to keep their forests healthy and productive.

STIHL Inc. is the exclusive presenting sponsor of the ATFS Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Regional and National Awards, as well as the sole, handheld outdoor power equipment provider for the ATFS. STIHL Inc. manufactures the world’s largest selling brand of chain saws and produces a full line of powerful, lightweight, and versatile handheld outdoor power equipment for homeowners and professional users. STIHL products are sold through servicing power equipment retailers from coast to coast— not mass merchants. STIHL products sold through U.S. STIHL dealers are for distribution in the United States only. For more information or for the name of the closest STIHL retailer call toll free 1-800-GO STIHL (1-800-467-8445) or visit the STIHL Web site at

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