by Briana Binkerd-Dale

Brad and Linda Jones live on 129 acres in the Town of Italy, NY in Yates County. Linda was born on Long Island and grew up in the Albany area. After obtaining degrees from SUNY Brockport and American University, she worked for 30 years in human resources at Eastman Kodak, followed by six years at Constellation Brands as Director of Training and Development. After spending two years as a crop owner at Wegmans Organic Farm she is now a licensed real estate salesperson with Nothnagle Realtors in Naples and Canandaigua. Brad was born and raised in the Rochester area and has science degrees from the University of Toronto with an MBA from RIT. He worked at Kodak for 29 years followed by stints at Alstom North America and the Al Sigl Center in executive positions. Brad has also taught at the Finger Lakes Community College and served on the town board and planning board. He currently continues to offer consulting services to local clients on issues of organizational competitiveness, while shifting more of his time and energy to the property (and then there is golf). Linda and Brad have three children and seven grandchildren, along with two Labradors, Micha and Tobi.

Brad’s father purchased the first parcel of 107 acres in 1958 and added two others in the early 1960s. At that time the property had no utility services and staying there was indeed spartan; “Our first project in 1958 was to build a new outhouse so that Mom would agree to visit,” Brad laughed. In 1986, following his father’s passing, Brad and his three siblings built a small log cabin, complete with electricity and plumbing, which was finished in 1989. Brad’s parents had begun to deed the property to their four children in the 1970s: each of them had quarter shares of the 175 acres. After the death of his older brother in 1997, Brad and Linda purchased his share from Brad’s sister-in-law. About the same time they also purchased the younger brother’s share and deeded over 45 acres to his sister for her homestead. In 2004, Linda and Brad faced a tough question: they were no longer able to maintain the 129 acres and the “retirement home” they had built on the Genesee River — which one to sell? They finally decided to move to the family farm and embarked on a 12 month project to expand the original log home to accommodate their ever growing family. They have no desire to ever move again.

The property is generally flat, except for a deep ravine on the southern property line (Conklin Gorge), with three streams and three ponds. The elevation is just under 1,800 feet above sea level, and all of the view sheds are unspoiled. It is located at the end of a dirt road, with Brad’s sister’s parcel bordering it on the north side. To the south and west it borders state property (the Hi Tor Multiple Use Area) with thousands of acres of recreational land and many miles of the Finger Lakes Trail. Their forest consists of 20 acres of softwood planted in the early 1960s and 80 acres of hardwoods that has been under active management since 1959. The remaining acres are chemical-free hay fields that are managed by Brad and Linda and harvested by their nearest neighbor for his beef cattle.

They have had three modest hardwood harvests and are planning for another selection cut in 2018. In the more mature hardwoods red oak is dominant followed by ash, maple, and white pine. There is also a fair amount of hickory, quaking aspen, basswood, and some white oak. The understory is pretty diverse, as the forest regenerates well. Brad credits that to dedicated implementation of their timber stand improvement (TSI) plan, noting that the unmanaged state land that borders them has much greater issues with forest regeneration and invasive plant species. Along the forest edges there is some ironwood which they cut back each year, as it makes excellent firewood. An original 20 acre pasture has reverted to forest. While partially planted with Scotch pine and larch, it is now primarily sugar maple with some ash and red oak moving in. The original hardwoods, after three light harvests and untold hours of TSI, are much more beautiful and productive than they were. Their orchard (mostly heritage apples), lavender bed, vegetable gardens, and extensive flower gardens have all been started in the last 15 years. Linda utilizes occasional part-time help for her flowers, and had her first lavender harvest this July; she plans to dry bouquets from her harvest, as well as distilling essential oil.

One of the ponds on the property was dug for trout in 1964 and was initially 18 feet deep. Brad’s father stopped putting trout in after a few years and switched over to bass and blue gills, which overpopulated over time. In 2001, Brad and Linda had the pond re-dug to 20 feet to get rid of the accumulated sedimentation, and started stocking it with rainbow and brook trout. Now, Brad said proudly, “the neighborhood kids have dubbed it the best swimming pond in the world, and there’s not a blade of grass in it.” There are about 100 each of rainbow and brook trout. The current batch is maturing now and will take about 3 years — the last batch got wiped out by blue herons, but that issue has been resolved now that Brad and the dogs are on the property full time. They get new fingerlings (about 50 per year) from Finger Lakes Aquaculture, which Brad describes as an amazing and quality resource. The owner retired from the DEC, and carries about 20 different species of fish and crustaceans.

Brad and Linda have a forest management plan that was prepared by Future Forest Consulting and reviewed by their DEC Forester, Brice June. Brad had known Cory Figueiredo at Future Forest Consulting for a while, felt very comfortable working with them and is quite pleased with the work they have accomplished. In 1960 and 1961 the Jones family planted 20 acres of softwoods (larch, scotch pine, red pine, and white spruce), much of which underwent a commercial thinning in 2008. For the three commercial hardwood cuts that have taken place so far (about 200 trees each time, not value cuts), a DEC forester marked and inventoried the trees to be cut and put the harvest out to bid to their list of qualified foresters. Each time, Brad and Linda went with people who were fairly local; for their 2018 harvest they will continue to stay with local loggers.

At this point, most of the major projects are complete and Brad and Linda are in an annual maintenance/production mode. They do have some access trail, culvert, and drainage tile work that will be done this year or next. “Ongoing management of fields, forest, and access roads all support our enjoyment of the property,” Brad said. “Just living here is recreational, with all of the peace and quiet and natural beauty.” They also hike, ski, and snowshoe with Micha and Tobi leading the way. Family and friends visit often and have a great time. The grandchildren all live in more developed areas and love coming to a place with wide open spaces and few restrictions. They have friends who hunt on the land — Brad and Linda used to hunt, but are almost too busy to now. Brad will be training Micha and Tobi under the gun this fall, and will take them out grouse hunting — they are excellent grouse dogs.

In the fall, Brad’s recreation is mostly processing firewood. Last year they harvested and processed about 35 face cords and will harvest more beginning next month; due to the warm winter last year he kept processing up until late December, and already has about half of what he needs for the coming winter. “Harvesting the firewood is continuous timber stand improvement, just taking out the poorer trees,” Brad said. “Trees that grow on any edge of the forest are not good lumber — 75% of wood cut last year was red oak with epicormic branching; it had no value except for firewood, and red oak burns really well.” Over the last 15 years they have acquired most of the tools and equipment that they need: John Deere 5015 diesel loader/tractor, 1949 Ford 8N tractor, flail mower, wood splitter, bush hog, plow, harrow, back blade, York rake, Stihl chain saws, and a supporting cast of tools. Brad and Linda work with friends and neighbors on many projects and share equipment and tools as needed, hiring local help for forest planning, commercial thinning, and a small amount of the TSI. They also hire a young neighbor to help with firewood processing. A portion of the timber sale revenue is paid to local tax jurisdictions.

Brad’s father joined NYFOA decades ago, and Brad has kept his membership going. “NYFOA provides us with a steady stream of useful information and keeps us in touch with many other forest owners across the state,” Brad said. His advice to other forest owners includes: “Regardless of the size of your forest, get some professional advice and a written forest management plan. And when you select tools and equipment, make sure that it is high quality and reliable. Farms and forests are not meant for homeowner-grade products. And lastly, if you want a beautiful, healthy, and productive pond, dig it steep and deep.” His favorite things about being a forest owner are: “The amazing grace and beauty every day of the year, always finding something new and interesting there, and an endless supply of high quality firewood. Doing work in the forest is one of the healthiest things you can do.”

Briana Binkerd-Dale is a student in Environmental Biology and Applied Ecology at Cornell University. If you are interested in being featured in a member profile, please email Jeff Joseph at jeffjosephwoodworker@gmail.com


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