Ron and Peggy Pedersen

Though there was not much talk of environmental or forest sustainability during the 1940’s, Ron Pedersen’s parents purchased a 200 acre property in Broome County with the intention of “doing what is right” from the natural resources point of view. Ron’s father loved trees and seeing things grow and long dreamed of owning land in the country, stemming perhaps from his holidays to Wales while growing up in inner-city Liverpool, England. Ron’s parents lived in northeastern New Jersey, and as such, Ron was raised in a suburban atmosphere, but spent summers and weekends on their New York property while growing up.

The property, located in the narrow valley stretching north from the Village of Deposit, was the first of the farms to be purchased by “a city slicker,” but many would follow suit in the Southern Tier as poorly drained, shallow soils, stone and topography stymied the demands of modern dairy farming. While pasturing for neighbors’ young stock continued for a few years after the 1944 purchase, immediate changes set the stage for the future: livestock was fenced out of the woods, the first of many plantations was established, and relationships were formed with foresters in NY’s Conservation Department, predecessor to the Department of Environmental Conservation. To this day, Ron points to state forester Gerry Kachmor and his predecessors for their valuable advice and guidance through the year

Since 1944, thousands of trees have been planted on the property – mostly red pine, Norway spruce, and larch, but also some Austrian pine, Scots pine, white spruce, and Douglas fir, making up about a third of the farm. Ron describes his role in the earliest of the plantations as that of a “reluctant teenager,” planting in the cold April rain and snow with his Dad and brothers. He now, however, appreciates the need to help people understand that the newspapers they read and the tables where meals are eaten are the result of judgments made many years ago.

About one third of the property is hardwoods, predominantly hard and soft maple, black cherry and white ash. The passing years have seen the hardwood areas expand as pole stands have become established in previously open areas.

The final third is what Ron calls “other,” which includes brushy transition zones, and areas kept open by the brush hog about every other year. Additional areas could be planted, but Ron and his wife, Peggy, prefer a landscape regimen of heavily wooded to ponds to open areas, with everything in between. The wildlife like it that way, too.

The Pedersens have had three hardwood harvests over the years. The first was in 1978 in the poorest area of the woods, with most of the wood going for pulp. With the marking done by a state forester, the purpose was to rid the area of poorly formed trees that were simply taking up space and nutrients. Now, thirty years later, there are a number of stems that have promise of becoming valuable trees.

More recently and in a different area, the second two harvests were also aimed at improving the woodlot by opening up the canopy and by salvaging some storm-damaged trees. While non-commercial improvement cutting had been done through the years, Ron states that these harvests, marked and managed by consulting forester Michael Greason, were the first of value after some 50 years of nurturing.

Through the years, Ron and Peggy have done a lot of thinning/culling in the plantations. The pines, larch and spruce were planted on seven or eight foot spacing, which disciplines the trees to grow up rather than out, but leads to the need for repeated culling. For the Pedersens, culling plantations is a do-it-yourself job, made possible and satisfying with help from their 40 hp John Deere (Ron’s retirement present to himself) and Farmi winch.

In recent years, virtually all the thinnings have been saleable from the roadside. Most of Ron’s red pine thinnings have gone full length to a log homes firm, while larch has been sold locally and the spruce has been shipped to Canada.

Ron built a small barn on the site of the earlier cow barn using wood harvested from their property. The poplar rafters, framing and roof boards, and the larch board and batten siding were sawn on site from trees the Pedersens had planted. Only the pressure treated posts were purchased. They later put matching larch board and batten siding on their house.

Ron and Peggy met at Cornell University, where Ron received his bachelor’s in Agricultural Economics and master’s in Land Economics, and Peggy earned her master’s in Home Economics Education. Peggy worked as a cooperative extension agent in Tioga County while Ron was in graduate school, and after they moved to the Albany area, she raised their daughters, taught part time and directed a church-run day care center.

The teenagers from Peggy’s church sell some Christmas trees and make well over a hundred wreaths each year to help fund their annual summer work camp. According to Ron, it is a fun day each November when the teenagers come to cut the trees and greens for wreath making. One spring, they helped to plant some replacement trees

Ron’s career has been with New York State Government. Evolving over some 34 years from the Department of Taxation and Finance to the Governor’s program office to DEC to staff in the State Senate, Ron retired at the end of 1994. Peggy followed suit a year later.

The Pedersens are charter members of the New York Forest Owners Association. Peggy served on the Board of Directors during NYFOA’s earliest years, and Ron’s turn came in the ‘90s, including his service as state President. He is a Master Forest Owner Volunteer, and continues his strong interest in private landowner activities.

The Pedersen’s have been certified by the American Tree Farm System for over 25 years, and were named New York’s Outstanding Tree Farmers in 1998. Ron has received Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s Friend of Extension award, and was voted an Honorary Member of the Society of American Foresters - only the fifth New Yorker to be so recognized.

Over the last twelve years, Ron has worked to raise awareness of timber theft and the steps needed to help curb it. He feels landowners must have boundaries clearly marked and use sound contracts, dishonest loggers must receive quick and effective attention from law enforcement agencies, and buyers and mills must know the source of purchased logs.

His efforts, along with others, have resulted in new laws to clarify DEC’s responsibilities and increased penalties for timber theft. In 2007, Ron and Dr. Hugh Canham, Professor Emeritus, SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, prepared, distributed and compiled a survey on timber theft, which was helpful to the Joint Legislative Commission on Rural Resources as it continues its efforts to thwart the illegal taking of timber.

In addition to his work with timber theft, Ron and Peggy welcome the use of their property for research purposes. In the 1990’s, entomologists from SUNY-ESF used the property as a laboratory to study the Peach Bark Beetle - an insect that seriously damages black cherry trees. More recently, Dr. Peter Smallidge, State Extension Forester from Cornell University, has begun testing use of a flame thrower for eradication of multi-flora rose, a very persistent invasive.

Like many families, questions of succession were difficult for the Pedersens. Ron and his brother recognized that with 60 years behind them, a good start had been made to overcoming the previous years of neglect and mistreatment of the woods. With Ron and Peggy’s daughters settled in California, and his brother’s sons also not in a clear path for continuing management, they decided to put the farm under a conservation easement, which is a permanent deed restriction. Easements can have a wide array of provisions, but in their case, while prohibiting development, the easement allows and encourages natural resource management consistent with a forest management plan. Hence, while future owners may not be forced to properly manage the land as we would like, the updated management plan will preclude gross mismanagement.


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