Tami Jo and Barry Braz have lived on their 50-acre property in Oakland for 30 years, where they have transformed timber-less, unproductive land into an ever-growing tree farm through three afforestation projects.
Tami Jo Braz said they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Douglas County service forester and the Oregon State University Extension Service of Douglas County.
The extension service is planning to offer a day of woodland classes through Tree School Umpqua, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 31 at the Phoenix Charter School, 3131 N.E. Diamond Lake Blvd., Roseburg.
Tami Jo Braz said Tree School provides reference materials and up-to-date information on current topics to help landowners meet their management goals in a friendly and fun setting.
“You connect and network with other landowners who have similar goals and visions for their land,” she added. “You learn what’s working for them and what hasn’t worked, and you’re doing this all under the guidance of great experts.”
She said the landowners in Tree School all have different needs, whether they are just beginning to plant, preparing to harvest or planning to restore their property, but they all want to learn how to improve their land.
“I can’t over-emphasize the value of having that many experts in one place to answer your questions,” Tami Jo Braz said, adding that the expertise covers a wide range of topics.
“There’s unlimited knowledge about trees there,” Barry Braz added. “These people are all very highly qualified in their field.”
The Brazs attended Tree School in 2013 and still refer back to the written materials and online resources they received during the classes.
“Tree School actually takes you from the very beginning of preparing the ground to the biochar, if you want to go that far with it,” Barry Braz said. “The people there are so knowledgeable, it’s just a pretty fantastic thing because you walk away with something positive.”
In the past, Barry Braz took a class on chainsaw use and safety and Tami Jo Braz attended a class to identify the trees and other plants on their property.
This year, the Brazs plan to attend the Tree School sessions on tree identification, tree death and insects, and spacing and thinning in young stands. Barry Braz also plans to go to the class called “Diamonds Under Douglas-fir” while Tami Braz will attend “Talking Forestry.”
With the help of the state forester and the Oregon State University Extension Service, the couple rid their property of the brush, weeds and invasive species that had covered it 30 years ago and planted trees, starting on the north-facing slope.
“It’s really good to have those people on your team because they know how to do it right,” Barry said.
The Brazs also converted an under-productive vineyard into forestland to maximize the land.
“Our main goal is to be good stewards of this land that God has given us to take care of for just a while,” Tami Jo Braz said. “We’re just trying to do the best we can with what we have.”
The Extension Service helped the couple create a management plan for their property, pointing out which parts of the land would be best for certain trees while others would be better to leave open for wildlife habitat.
After their last planting in 2003, the couple was named the 2004 Tree Farmers of the Year through the Douglas Small Woodlands Association, of which they are members.
“Small woodland owners are key to sustainable forestry in Oregon because there’s a large amount of federal and state lands that are tied up, so landowners are free to utilize their land in a productive way that they see fit,” Tami Jo Braz said.
She said people who plant trees take a long-term view of the land and think about not only themselves but the common good.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago,” Tami Jo Braz quoted Warren Buffett. “It’s true, we planted those trees, and they’re shade, they’re squashing out the invasive species and someone else will walk underneath them after us.”
The Brazs said they don’t plan to harvest their trees, but let them grow. Barry Braz said every tree farmer at Tree School has a huge connection to the earth.
“The biggest reward is to walk under the trees that you planted,” Barry Braz said.
Participants of Tree School can take up to four of the 28 available classes about forest insects, oak woodlands, forest management planning, timber taxes, biochar, carbon and more. They are also welcome to eat a catered lunch and enter to win in a raffle.
Participants must register before March 19, and registration is $75 per person. For registration and more information, visit http://extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas/treeschool or contact 541-672-4461, firstname.lastname@example.org.