Featured Farmers for April: The Johnson Family
With Adam McClary, Farmer Outreach Team
Our featured farmers of the month are Will and Amanda Johnson. They live in North Florida on a 4th-generation family farm with their three children.
Thanks for meeting with me today Amanda and Will. How are your trees doing this spring?
Our trees are doing well. Here in the second year, most of the trees are over 13’ in height and they all just finished blooming. We had flowers on the trees for the last three weeks. The flowers were quite beautiful, and they smelled great.
Sounds amazing. How did you find out about World Tree?
Well I was down checking the mail one day and we got a little postcard. It was one with Wendy holding a large leaf and I got very excited. When I got home I researched the trees and sent an email to World Tree which lead to a phone call with Roy. After more research and talking with another farmer, we decided that this would be a good project for our family.
Nice, so what was growing on this farm historically prior to Empress trees?
For the last three generations this was primarily a tree farm. We are keeping the family tradition going. These fields that we planted to paulownia have been out of pine for the last 20 or so years and were in pasture for cattle. After we built our house, we thought it would be nice to plant some trees out front. Originally, we planted long leaf pines. Unfortunately, 48 hours after we planted these trees, we had an unexpected freeze that killed 80-90% of our seedlings. Right after that is when we received your post card in the mail.
Wow, that is some crazy timing. How have you found the project to be so far?
Our first years we were very fortunate. We had very timely rains which meant we only had to water three times the first year. One thing that we were advised to do was to plant on raised beds. This has made the other maintenance tasks difficult. When you plant on a raised mound you can only mow one way. We have had a lot of extra labor invested in hand weeding around the trees. This has been a blessing though because it has kept the kids busy and we get to spend time working together as a family.
World Tree has since updated our grower’s guides. We have farmers prepare the soil and lay down weed mats so new farmers won’t have to deal with weeds like you all have. What would you say to people that are looking at getting into the program?
You will not believe these trees. You pass by them one time and go to the store when you come back they are an inch taller. They are labor intensive don’t underestimate the work that goes into setting them out and weeding, mowing and pruning. They are our labor of love. We were skeptical at first but after seeing the trees grow and looking at what is possible at harvest, we are left with the question why not give these trees a try. The customer service with World Tree has been amazing. What has been neat for us is to meet the founder Wendy and her son Nick and see World Tree progress steadily and be able to have the one on one 24/7 support.
Thanks Johnson family. And thank you to all our farmers that are working so diligently in these unpresented times to keep these trees growing. We really appreciate you!
Find out more about our Farmer Program.