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Kelly farmer named tree farmer of year

A third-generation farmer from Kelly has been named District Eight N.C. Forest Association Tree Farmer of the Year.

Elliot Henry, 82, still actively farms over 750 acres of trees and crops, on the same land his grandfather purchased in 1887. Henry Farms also holds a Century Farm designation from the state.

“I just like to see things grow,” Henry said.

Bill Holmes works for Georgia-Pacific Co., and volunteers with the N.C. Tree Farm Association. Henry Farms has been a certified tree farm since 1959. The Tree Farmer of the Year program was inactive from 1991 until 2001, Holmes said.

“It gives us a chance to recognize outstanding tree farmers across the district, state and nation,” Holmes said. The program is active in 46 states, and works closely with both producers and buyers of pulp wood, timber, and lumber.

The association uses the same district lines as the N.C. Forest Service. District Eight comprises Bladen, New Hanover, Duplin, Brunswick and Columbus Counties. It provides workshop and seminars on improving timber management to tree farmers at no cost.

Volunteer inspectors with the Association will, at the landowner’s request, visit tree farms and evaluate everything from terrain and timber to soil quality. They then offer advice and support to farmers who want to improve their forests.

Certified tree farmers use proven land- and forest-management methods to improve both the environment and their crop, Holmes said. Henry “actively” works his farm, Holmes said.

“He doesn’t like to see the land bare,” Holmes said. “He regularly reforests, and he doesn’t like to see the ground lay idle.”

Henry said the ethic is one taught by his father and grandfather.

Henry’s grandfather, Edward Luther Henry, farmed and harvested naval stores on the farm. Later he grew crops and timbered with Henry’s father, Reuben. The family has always held a reputation for embracing new and improved techniques and farming practices.

“My grandmother used to give my grand-daddy all kind of trouble when he’d buy up another field covered in broomstraw,” Henry laughed. “She saw it as something else to pay taxes on. He knew it could come back, if you cared for it. He passed that down to my daddy.”

“They taught me the land doesn’t wear out,” Henry said, “but man can abuse it.”

Much of Henry’s land is also in row crops, and is linked with a network of canals and laterals that he built to help the drainage. Henry is an active proponent of improved drainage in the lower Bladen area. Trails and roads crisscross the property, where Henry enjoys horseback riding, hunting, and riding all-terrain vehicles. He occasionally allows Scout troops and families to use a small cabin he built deep in the woods.

The forests of Henry Farms have a wide variety of growth and terrain, from plantation loblolly pines to slash pines and even some heritage longleafs on the original portion of the property.

“They planted some trees for me,” he said, “and I have planted some for the next generations. I just like to see things grow.”


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