Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year
Geary and Kay Searfoss
Geary & Kay Searfoss were selected as the 2022 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. Matt Carothers is the nominating Inspecting Forester.
Geary and Kay Searfoss’s main goal and objective is to grow timber, for profit, on a commercial basis. Other objectives include production of other forest products such as mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, winecap, etc) for profit on a commercial basis. Secondary goals and objectives include maintaining the current water quality in the surface waters on the property and to maintain wildlife habitat.
Their Tree Farm is located in southeastern Sawyer County. The property itself has significant topography even though the surrounding landscape is one of gently rolling hills. The Brunet River cuts through the southeastern corner of the property and has significant frontage on a cold water stream that is classified by the WDNR as a Class 1 trout stream. Kay and Geary have implemented the consideration, addressed in the management plan, of growing forest mushrooms as a crop with 2021 being the third year in commercial production. Total acreage of the “Brunet River Property” is 91.
They were married in April of 1979. They purchased their first Tree Farm, a 32 acre pine plantation, in 1980. They were therefore Tree Farmers before they became homeowners. They started out thinning the pine plantation themselves using a chainsaw, tractor, and pulp wagon. It was hard work but Geary could cut and skid roadside three cords of pine pulp per full day and did that for quite a few years. They eventually cut and skidded the pine logs that make up the bulk of their log home in which they now live on the property in Sawyer County. They built the structure themselves, by hand, using the Swedish cope method of round log construction. Even the trusses are built of logs and by hand. It took about seven years to build, but one could argue whether it is yet finished!
Harvests Completed – include salvage cutting, commercial thinnings, final harvests, overstory removals, etc. (2) Total Harvest Volumes: cords, tons, MBF, etc. (3)Total Harvest Acres (4) Non-Commercial Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) accomplishments (5) Reforestation accomplishments (6) Insect / Disease treatments (7) Invasive Species treatments (8) Protection – special sites, rare plants, etc
They have cut 56,700 Board Feet, 510 cords plus every year about 2 cords for mushroom cultivation through Timber Stand Improvement.
Their home is almost exclusively heated with wood. Utilize 2.5 to 3 cords per year of wood from thinning or salvage. They also have a small sawmill to utilize salvaged wood.
They have many unique water resources on the property with significant frontage on both sides of a cold water stream that bubbles and rolls, like a mountain stream, on its way to its confluence with the Brunet River, significant frontage on both sides of two other intermittent streams, some frontage on the Brunet River, three vernal ponds (with their own intermittent outflow streams) and multiple lowland and riparian areas. Equipment is generally restricted or not allowed in these areas.
They don't create artificial food plots for wildlife but feel the best thing for wildlife is a healthy forest with abundant natural food sources. The property contains a wide variety of habitats, an abundant amount of cover, and a year round supply of water (the cold water stream never completely freezes over) so the property generally tends to be heavily used by wildlife during the winter months.
There are a couple kilometers of dual use hiking and cross-country ski trails that are made available for public use The Brunet River is a great fishery yielding some nice size northern pike and smallmouth bass. They also run a small sugarbush for personal use.
Though the property isn't very conducive to field days and the like due to the ruggedness of the topography, the inaccessibility, except by foot of most areas, and the lack of parking, they have had the several events take place on the property. Geary has written numerous articles for publication and Ky has entered WWOA's annual photography contest multiple years with all pictures being taken on the Sawyer County property.