by Maureen Mullen

Stuart Varney is a business news contributor on Fox News Channel and hosts Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” He is also a proud owner of over 1,000 acres of land that straddles Delaware and Broome Counties. Originally from England, the land is reminiscent of where Stuart grew up. “It reminds me very much of rural England: rolling hills, deciduous forest, four very distinct seasons,” says Stuart. The property was formerly a dairy-beef farm when Stuart and his wife bought it in 2002. However, the dairy had been shut down a generation ago and about 800 acres of the land has become almost completely forested while the rest remains meadowland.

Stuart did not have prior forestry experience, so he hired a consulting forester, Rod Jones of Walton, New York, to help manage his property. Rod manages the land and is training Stuart in forestry practices: “Everything I know about trees and farming, he taught me.” Together, they have cleared the land of the derelict dairy buildings and equipment and have established nine forest stands of varying size, comprised mainly of black cherry, red oak, and hard maple trees. The stands will be rotated for timber on an annual basis; this year will mark the first year of cutting!

Although Stuart is the sole owner of the property, his family and friends often join him on the land. Because of his job in New York City, the Varneys live in nearby New Jersey, but they travel two hours to their woods most weekends. They take advantage of the opportunities to enjoy the solace and beauty of the woods as often as possible. As Stuart said, “If you work in the city, a walk in your own woods is very attractive.” They especially enjoy watching the changes in season that the trees display. And each November, Stuart and his friends organize deer hunts on the property.

Stuart’s main concern, as well as a goal, is to pass the land on, in-tact, to his six children and seven grandchildren. He sees the land as a wonderful opportunity not only to manage a successful timber farm, but also to keep such a large parcel of preserved woodland available for solitude and enjoyment. The Varneys feel that the land is wonderful place for their grandchildren and future generations to spend their time, appreciating the fresh air and expansive natural surroundings where the kids can grow up. He also has several management challenges: 1) compliance with regulatory requirements. “That means paperwork, which tree farmers are not naturally inclined to like;” 2) timing the timber harvest to both timber prices and tree maturity; and 3) ensuring his practices are sustainable so that the land remains productive for generations to come.

Stuart’s advice to other forest owners: join NYFOA so that you have a voice in policy that affects tree farmers and read the literature that NYFOA publishes – it’s always helpful!

Maureen Mullen is an Extension Aide at Cornell Cooperative Extension, Human Dimensions Research Unit, Cornell University. Dr. Shorna Allred is the faculty advisor for the NYFOA Member Profile Series.

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