(Editor’s note: The Clums were named the 2018 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year on Oct. 29, 2018.)
TIPPECANOE, Ohio — When Koral and Randy Clum look at their 152-acre certified tree farm, they see a blend of trees, wildlife, plants and water. And sunlight. Don’t forget the sunlight.
The professional foresters consider all the farm’s natural resources and fauna when they’re making their management decisions — directing nature to develop the woodland’s fullest potential.
“We look at the woods holistically, from the salamanders on up,” said Randy Clum.
Since they bought the farm in southwestern Harrison County in 1993, their management has yielded exceptional timber production — enough that they’ve completed five harvests, yielding 505,614 board feet from 1,929 trees. The woods is far from depleted, however, as they estimate their growing inventory is between another 650,000 and 700,000 board feet.
They’ve also been rewarded for their work as recipients of the 2017 Ohio Tree Farm of the Year honor.
“A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.”
— Gustav Mahler
Life’s passion in the woods
The Clums aren’t your typical tree farm owners — their careers are in the woods, too.
Koral Clum was the first female state forester in Ohio, first working on the 63,700-acre Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio. A graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in forest management, she uncovered her career path at a forestry camp during high school.
“I just fell in love and never turned back,” she said. “I just loved trees and wanted to know more.”
Randy, who holds a degree in forest management from Ohio State University, managed 19 counties as an urban forester based in Findlay, Ohio, before joining Koral at Shawnee. They both became service foresters with the Ohio Division of Forestry in 1985; Randy working with private landowners in Harrison, Carroll and Stark counties, and Koral in Tuscarawas, Holmes and Wayne.
During their time as service foresters, they started searching for land of their own.
“Our job is do give people advice,” said Koral. “But then you go home and you don’t know if they did it or not.”
They wondered if they would be able to follow their own advice, if they had their own place. When Randy found this property in Harrison County’s Washington Township, he was hooked. Bringing Koral to the site for the first time, he took her straight to one of the farm’s three waterfalls.
She took one look, turned to him, and said, “We need to buy this.”
They named the farm Hepatica Falls Tree Farm, after their favorite wildflower and those three waterfalls, “but mostly we just call it The Farm,” Randy said.
In 1997, Randy decided to leave government employment, and started his own business, Clum Forestry Consultants. Koral joined the business in 2000. They work with landowners within an hour’s drive of their home on the outskirts of Dover.
Along the way, the couple, who will celebrate their 36th anniversary in October, discovered owning their own tree farm made them better foresters — starting with lessons learned during their first selective timber harvest in 1994.
“We’d been doing timber harvests for people for 15 years, but this was so different,” Koral said. “There are emotions involved with trees.”
“We discussed every stinkin’ tree,” Randy added, “but it made us more sensitive to landowners, because now we knew how it felt.”
Developing the tree farm
In 1994, the farm the Clums bought was a mix of uses — 96 acres had always been woodlands (although part was home to a rock quarry in the late 1800s); 56 acres were pasture or fields; another 50 acres had been planted to pines in the 1950s. The woods is home to a diversity of species, including a few native American chestnut, akin to “finding a woolly mammoth on your property,” Randy said.
They divided the woodland into nine management parcels, ranging from 3 acres to 52 acres, and crafted a management plan for each. They also kept a small 3- to 5-acre parcel untouched, as a control.
On a four-wheeler, Randy Clum splashes through a muddy area on the trail. “These used to bother me, but now I realize it’s a haven for tadpoles or a watering spot for deer.”
When he approaches a particularly overgrown part of the path, he slows the ATV to point out a vibrant, yellow wildflower. “We don’t brush hog the trail when the giant wingstem are growing, because the pollinators love them.”
That dead beech tree with the big hole? The Clums will let it stand, knowing wild animals or birds can use that cavity.
And Clum was rewarded that day on the trail, as a wild turkey flew out of a walnut tree right in front of his ATV.
Timber harvest myths
A passionate teacher, Randy Clum said he works hard to dispel three myths many landowners have: First, that cutting trees will destroy wildlife; second, that cutting trees will increase soil erosion; and third, that you need to replant in Ohio (there’s such a seedbank in the soil in Ohio, that many trees will naturally regrow, he says).
“The Clums get to practice what they preach,” said Jeremy Scherf, ODNR service forester in Belmont, Guernsey, Harrison and Jefferson counties who was also the 2016 National Tree Farm Inspector of the Year. “And in doing that, they get to learn.”
Scherf, who has Randy Clum’s former service forester position, considers Clum a mentor. “We’re all passionate, but his enthusiasm is just contagious.”
“The two of them together make a nice balancing act,” he added. “They encourage each other to learn, too.”
In addition to state forestry groups and local landowners groups like the East Central Ohio Forestry Association, the Clums are members of the Association of Consulting Foresters of America.
Tree farm tour
The Clums will host a tour of their tree farm from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 21. The event, which will be held rain or shine, will include static displays and walking tours, with tour stops manned by various professionals to highlight the farm’s diversity.
There is no parking at the farm, and visitors will be shuttled to the farm from the nearby former Lakeland High School, on state Route 800. Food will be available to purchase during the tour. No reservations are necessary. For more information visit ohioforest.org.
Hepatica Falls Tree Farm
- 2017 Ohio Tree Farm of the Year
- Owned by Koral and Randy Clum
- A Certified Tree Farm on 152 acres in Washington Township, Harrison County
- Divided into nine management units, from 3 to 52 acres in size
- Five timber harvests (selective, clearcut, thinning, salvage) since land purchased in 1994
- Open house: Oct. 21, starting at 10 a.m.; no parking at tree farm; shuttles will run from the former Lakeland High School, 77520 state Route 800, Freeport.
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