Lebanon tree farmers get woodlands honor

SHERMAN WELD, left, looks over some family photos and documents during the tour of Tim and Kathy Otis’ property. Erin Otis and daughter Juniper are at right. Sherman and Leslie Weld were Linn County’s 2018 Tree Farmers of the Year. Photo courtesy of Larry Mauter

Three generations of Tim and Kathy Otis’ family helped tell the story of a historic family tree farm July 6 as the Linn County Small Woodlands Association honored its annual tree farmers of the year.

The Otis family hosted an afternoon tour and potluck picnic on their property off Ingram Road near Waterloo. It was attended by some 30 people.

The tree farm property has been in family ownership for more than 150 years. Historic photos, maps of the property and the property’s forest management plan were on display for visitors.

Otis children recounted the trials and tribulations of ancestor Capt. William Ingram, who traveled from the East Coast through treacherous Nicaragua and then up the Columbia River to Oregon City in the early 1850s.

Tim and Kathy Otis, who have been named this year’s Linn County Tree Farmers of the Year, manage more than 370 acres of forest land in the Middle Ridge area between Brownsville and Lebanon, with much help from their family.

Their family holdings include 135 acres of farmland and 25 acres of restored riparian woodlands along the Calapooia River east of Brownsville.

The majority of the property is owned in a limited liability corporation — Farm and Four-est LLC — by Kathy and her three sisters, Jill Hauptman, Jan Sheets and Deanna Russell.

It was formed in November of 2014. Some properties are owned with cousins, which adds to management complexity.

That complexity of ownership was among the discussion topics on a tour led by Tim Otis.

Visitors walked or were treated to a hay-bale ride along roads where the results of a recent blackberry-control project was completed.

“It’s the one plant I’m willing to spray,” said Tim Otis. He holds a masters degree in forest engineering from Oregon State University and is a Master Woodland Manager.

Trout Mountain Forestry prepared the current management plan that updated a plan the Otis family had in place.

On the tour, Otis explained that small “patch cuts” have been used to provide income for family members. Soils on the site range from very rocky ground to silt loam — wet clay.

Another site on display during the tour was a marginal timber site that was affected with blowdowns and sun scald after a neighboring property was harvested.

Where trees were cut in the 1940s by family members, grand fir has flourished and is now about 50 percent of a mature stand.

Another tour stop viewed a patch cut of 2.1 acres. Douglas-fir was planted in 2011 and is now clear of blackberries.

“They’re doing O.K.,” said Otis noting the rocky soil.

Planting and working the family tree farm has been a long-standing tradition, noted Steve Otis, who now teaches English in Japan. He said Christmas dinner at the tree farm was something he fondly looked forward to — because dinner meant the wet, cold day of planting trees was over.

Joe Holmberg, who heads up the tree farmer of the year committee, presented the Otis family with the “Outstanding Tree Farmer” sign during the gathering.

Also, last year’s honorees, Sherman and Leslie Weld of Sweet Home,  were presented with embroidered jackets during the day’s activities.