Written By Peter Smallidge & Dean Faklis.

Posted on April 28th, 2016.

Tagged with The Big Decisions.

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Do you wonder if your trees are healthy? Are they getting bigger each year, or do they seem to stay the same size? Is there anything you can do to improve your woods? The Northeast Timber Growing Contest was designed to help woodland owners learn about and improve the productivity and health of northeastern woodlands.

Do you wonder if your trees are healthy? Are they getting bigger each year, or do they seem to stay the same size? Is there anything you can do to improve your woods? The Northeast Timber Growing Contest was designed to help woodland owners learn about and improve the productivity and health of northeastern woodlands. Ultimately, woodland owners learn how their trees grow, how to grow them faster, and what makes them healthy. This contest started in New York and is spreading to Pennsylvania.

Timber Growing Contest guidelines help landowners and forestry professionals work together in a “hands on” process. Participants measure trees, manage their woods, and watch changes that happen on their land. The competition is friendly, creates an educational experience, and is informed by research about tree growth. The result is that landowners spend more time with their families in the woods and learn more about how to help trees be healthy and productive.

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As a result of participating, owners will:

  • Be better informed about how trees grow and motivated to improve the productivity and quality of their woodlands.
  • Have a focal point to connect across generations of family members who will participate in the contest and learn together.
  • Be able to connect with other woodland owners, learn from their peers, and help new owners understand their woodlands.
  • Learn how to use traditional and novel forest measuring tools and technologies to improve the forest.
  • Connect with a network of like-minded woodland owners within the state and across the Northeast.
  • Have fun! Challenges are a way to focus the mind to achieve a desirable outcome, and friendly competition brings it all together. Being in your woods with your family is rewarding. Increasing the volume and quality of timber in your woodlands increases the value of your asset. Your woodland is part of your legacy, and you'll want to leave your heirs with healthy and productive timberland.

How it Works

Woodlot owners from anywhere in the Northeast select trees in their woods, tag those trees, and track changes in their growth from one year to the next through simple measurements. Owners can work with a forester to learn how to thin their woods to improve tree growth and improve the chances of winning.

The effort to participate is minimal. Owners will spend about three hours to get things set up, and only an hour or two for annual measurements and paperwork. Everything you need to get started is available at the MyWoodlot Activity “Compete in the Northeast Timber Growing Contest.

The contest works like this. Using a tape measure, simple tree measurements are recorded annually. Seedling counts may also be taken for those interested in measuring forest regeneration. There is no minimum acreage other than the acreage needed to install measurement plots. There are categories for hardwoods and conifers. Those who want to participate but don’t own wooded land, such as 4-H or school groups, may join a team with an eligible landowner. There is assistance at every step, and we all try to help each other produce great results. There is no cost to enter the contest, though owners may need some inexpensive supplies.

Participants in the timber contest have found the experience invigorating and exciting. On the contest’s Activity page, you can read stories about other contestants and see recent years’ results. Reading the stories in particular will let you learn about other participants and what they have gained.

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One exciting development is the way the contest has bridged across generations within families. One grandfather sparked an interest in his 11 year old grandson who now leads a team that includes Dad and Grandpa. Also, an 18-year old who is considering forestry school is working with his father and grandfather and their forester to measure plots. This intergenerational learning and bonding connects the future owners to their land and a forest stewardship ethic.

But what do the winners win? The prize of winning is the glory of knowledge and numerous forms of “bragging rights.” The contest has many winners over time consistent with the rules and has no end date; it is expected to continue in perpetuity. Most importantly, all participants will “win” the fun and enjoyment of being with their families and friends in the outdoors doing something special for their woodlands. And increasing the quality and size of your timber will flow to the bottom line when your plans call for a timber harvest.

Please visit the Northeast Timber Growing Contest activity page for more details including spreadsheets that do all the math automatically. Initial measurements are needed by May 15, so get the team together, grab the clipboard, and head into the woods! It only takes 4 hours. If you have any questions, please send an email to Dean Faklis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He'll help get you started.

About the Authors:
Peter Smallidge is the NYS Extension Forester, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Department of Natural Resources.
Dean Faklis is a tree farmer in Springwater, NY.


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