Bob and Jean Cooper Named National Tree Farmers of the Year

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) has named Bob and Jean Cooper as its 2008 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. The Coopers received the award during the 15th Annual National Tree Farmer Convention in Portland, Oregon. This annual award recognizes outstanding sustainable forest management on family owned forestland. The Coopers own Meadowbrook Farm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Every year, ATFS, a program of the American Forest Foundation, recognizes outstanding sustainable forest management for wood, water, wildlife, and recreation on privately owned forestland across the country with national, regional, and state awards.

The Coopers purchased their 118-acre farm 34 years ago. At the time, the property and its accompanying home were rundown and in severe disrepair. But over the years and with “sweat and money earned through timber harvests,” the Coopers restored the property and its home to a manageable state and made it their residence in 1985. Meadowbrook Farm has been enrolled in ATFS since 1985, and is home to several forestry projects including the first Green Ash planting project in North Carolina.

In 2001, the Coopers intensified their participation in ATFS and have been the backbone of the rebirth of the North Carolina Tree Farm Program. Dr. Cooper has served as chair of the program from 2003 through 2006, and North Carolina now has more than 800 certified Tree Farmers and 100 certified Tree Farm Inspectors.

“Landowners like the Coopers are priceless,” said Ron Meyers, a forester with the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources. “They are willing to experiment – eager to learn more about their forests and forestry. It really gives foresters like myself the ability to improve forest practices in our state. I cannot think of anyone more deserving than the Coopers of this recognition.”

The Coopers have also been instrumental in building bridges within the forestry community. Recently they hosted more than 125 people at their property for a Tree Farm Program workshop held in partnership with the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources Forest Stewardship.

“You have to have a passion for the land. If you don’t, you are not going to get very far. You need to sell people on the concept that not only are you growing trees for lumber, for fiber, for the many products, but probably equally important, maybe more important, is the water quality, the wildlife, and the recreation,” remarked Dr. Cooper.

The Coopers are passionate about their land and committed to standing up for the rights of all forest landowners. They have organized a coalition of landowners to convince local leaders to address a local creek’s pollution and its effect on the community.

“We at the American Forest Foundation are committed to the recognition of family forest owners like the Coopers each year,” said Bob Simpson, Senior Vice President-Forestry. “This recognition honors the hard work and dedication of these true champions of sustainable forestry and their tireless efforts to provide significant support to help ATFS accomplish its mission of getting more good forestry on more acres.”