Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year
Kirk and Cindy Dahl
Kirk and Cindy Dahl of Eau Claire have been named the 2020 Wisconsin Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year by the Wisconsin Tree Farm Committee. The award is presented annually to owners of woodland property who have demonstrated an outstanding level of commitment to woodland ownership and forest management. Selection is based in part upon demonstrated ongoing involvement in such activities as tree planting, timber harvests, wildlife management, soil and water conservation projects, and educational outreach endeavors.
The Dahls own woodlands in Eau Claire County and Trempealeau County, and they have been active managers of tree farm property since 1982.
Kirk was a city boy who grew to love the outdoors and the natural world, one who acted upon that and never looked back. It finally occurred to him that he might be better suited to live in a more rural area. He established himself in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in his profession as a physician. On his way home from the first day of work, he began looking at rural properties. There was a good deal of land for sale in the early 1980’s, and he did his homework by visiting about twenty properties. He wrote down his objectives, which included that it had to make financial sense as well as be property he could be passionate about. When he happened upon 80 beautiful acres at a good price just 13 miles from town, there was no hesitation in making the purchase. That was 38 years ago, and he still regards the purchase of “The Branch Office” as one of the best purchases he ever made. That began the beginning of his passion.
With the purchase of his first property and his interest in forestry, he and his wife Cindy continued to purchase additional property. They have done everything correctly in the process. They contacted professional foresters, had forest management plans written and followed them, and became involved with forestry organizations. Timber sale harvests have been conducted, TSI has been completed, ten thousand trees have been hand planted, and an additional 35 acres was machine planted. Wetlands have been maintained, stream crossings were created and ponds were developed and restored. Creating diversity has been a priority, important for wildlife, esthetics, and recreation. They have gotten their children involved and interested in spending time with them in the woods. Kirk has been active with the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association and has written numerous articles for the Woodland Management magazine. Kirk has recently been elected one of the Board Members for the Wisconsin Woodland Owner’s Association. Kirk has been a speaker on several occasions at different conferences. They have held field days on their property and are able to showcase their hard work as well as educate others on principles of sound forest management. Most importantly, Kirk has been an active, outspoken, and involved woodland owner for nearly four decades and has established himself as a committed tree farmer who makes tree farming a way of life.
Tree farming became a lifestyle, a source of recreation and pride. Kirk and Cindy had 150 guests help plant seedlings there on their wedding day 32 years ago, in an area that persists with the name “Honeymoon Hill.” Later, as their family grew and the kids could enjoy being there, they hosted numerous fall cookouts and bonfires with friends and coworkers. Realizing he was into it for life, he began looking for other properties, and ended up purchasing a 395-acre tract in Trempealeau County in 1997. When an adjacent 100-acre parcel came up for sale, they bought that, too. They call this farm “Belly Acres.” The property came with a pole shed, and Cindy put it to good use by buying Kirk a tractor and mower for Christmas.
A formal management plan was promptly drawn up to guide them through at least thirty years. Several logging operations have been conducted, the trail system was repaired and expanded, over 40 acres were planted to trees, a large pond was rebuilt, and four unserviceable buildings were removed. The farm operates at a profit every year, with income from hunting and agricultural leases plus CRP income, not to mention timber growth, timber sales, and appreciation. The farm also provides tremendous personal recreational opportunities, in additional to firewood, some apples, and the family Christmas tree. More recently, several family members and friends now hunt there. Both their son and grandson shot their first bucks there this past season. They are learning to feel at home there, a good thing since their three children will inherit the land someday and carry on the legacy.
Ownership for the Dahl’s has been a source of pride and has proven to be an interesting hobby, a rigorous physical challenge, and an outstanding investment. It has become a lifestyle, a recreational outlet that never lets them down. Kirk and Cindy truly deserve to be called Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year.