Sandy & Maria Babcock

In 1940, Sandy Babcock’s parents purchased one hundred acres of land on Thompson Road in the town of Cazenovia, NY. At $40 per acre, a price deemed high at the time, the Babcock’s were one of three families with property along the 1.8 mile narrow dirt road south of Syracuse. For years the Babcock’s leased the property to Norm Harter, their neighbor. Norm was charged with maintaining the fences and paid a sum of $100 dollars and a pig every year, in exchange for keeping his cows on the Babcock estate. As time passed, however, Sandy and Maria Babcock began managing the property, known as Applestone, and are now one of twenty houses along Thompson Road.

In 1974 Sandy and Maria built a new house on the property where their three daughters were raised. The girls spent their summers swimming in Chittenango Creek, which flows behind Applestone, while winters were spent cross-country skiing through the woods. Despite the deerflies, the girls spent much of their childhood enjoying the outdoors, though they have since grown up and moved away.

Prior to its purchase by the Babcock’s, the property was comprised of mainly apple orchards and littered with large rocks, which is where the property name “Applestone” originated. Currently, Applestone is mainly hardwood forest. Maple, beech, cherry and ash trees make up approximately thirty-five acres of the property. The Babcock’s lease another thirty acres to Crete Farms, which grows pumpkins and Christmas trees. The property is varied in its distribution of flora and fauna. Sandy and Maria look for site indicators such as ginseng, trillium, and trout lilies during their evening walks through the woods. Coyotes and deer populate the area as well, though the Babcock’s still manage to keep ten indoor/outdoor cats.

Enjoying the wildlife and wooded environment of the forest is one of the primary reasons that the Babcock’s own the land. Aside from their respective occupations as real estate agent and mortgage broker, Sandy and Maria spend a good portion of their time tending to their property. While it is difficult to keep up with the timber stand improvements they would like to see accomplished, Sandy and Maria have the proper training thanks to NYFOA and the MFO program. They have both been members of NYFOA since 1995 and earned MFO status in 1997. As a mortgage broker and a real estate agent, Maria and Sandy are able use their networks to expose current wood lot owners to the benefits of NYFOA and the MFO program. More important, however, the Babcock’s use their knowledge and experience to maintain the integrity of Applestone.

Though Applestone was acquired in 1940, the first timber harvest of the property did not take place until 1965. Under the management of Sandy’s father, $3,500 worth of timber was logged by Johnson Brothers. Decades later, in 1997, Sandy and Maria had the property commercially thinned, which removed nearly 500 trees, mostly low-grade hardwoods and hemlock. The Babcock’s hired forester David Skeval to manage their most recent timber harvest. This two week harvest took place in July of 2006 and Sandy has been cutting up the remaining tree tops ever since. In the next ten to twelve years the Babcock’s hope to have another harvest.

Whether cutting up tree tops or not, Sandy is usually in the woods three or four days a week working with his Farmi winch-equipped tractor. Maria, a country girl herself, is also very active in the management of Applestone. Over the last seven years the Maria has led four woodswalks on their property: two on wildlife and two on identifying edible plants. Sandy is currently treasurer of the Central New York Chapter of NYFOA and sits with Maria on the steering committee. The Babcock’s were presented with the 2004 Forest Stewardship Award, as well as an award for outstanding contribution to NYFOA in 2005 for their hard work on the property. Aside from their responsibilities at Applestone and NYFOA, Sandy and Maria are both past presidents of the Fayetteville Manlius Rotary Club and members of the Cazenovia Club.

Through their experiences, the Babcock’s have come to learn that a management plan is critical to the successful management of property. Furthermore, contacting a forester or MFO is extremely helpful when considering a harvest or simply for added professional insight.

While Sandy and Maria hope to keep Applestone in the family, none of their daughters have shown interest in managing the property. As a result, they have looked into selling the development rights to the county, but have found that “forestland doesn’t seem to excite enough interest for the required public funding.” Either way, the Babcock’s hope to keep the property as forest and prevent further development on the property; maintaining the desired privacy amid encroaching development.

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