Featured Farmer for October: Jason Humphries
By Adam McClary
Jason is a native to Alabama and is managing a 30-acre tree plantation around Selma, AL. He is a self-described family guy and has been in the fire service for eighteen years. In his free time he runs a successful landscaping company.
Thanks for meeting with us today Jason. First off, I am curious how you heard about World Tree?
Well I heard about World Tree from one of your farmers, Johnny Walker. Johnny went to college with my son Jordan and they hung out so much that I call Johnnie my son now. So Jordan and Johnny found some literature one day and started talking about it.
Then Johnny actually planted with World Tree. I think he was one of the first people to plant in Alabama. So I have been watching him and I have to credit him to helping World Tree getting started here. Watching Johnny I really saw the potential benefits of this model. Anytime you can bring business people and environmentalists together it is a beautiful thing. It’s a win-win for everybody. We’re helping take care of the environment, just like they want us to, and then on the flip side one day, we will get paid back for all the hard work we have put in.
Johnny and Jordan also helped us with the harvest this year on Jimmy Carter’s Empress plantation. They did a great job. So what was your vision getting started with World Tree?
Well my vision for this plantation was to start a trial run for the Empress Splendor tree. In five years I would like to have a silviculture plantation here so that I can graze cattle under the trees and eventually have some hives as well. I would really like to push the maximum use of this space. Once we prove this concept I would really like to expand to several additional tracks as well. That is what we are pushing for right now.
Nice. You planted with us for the first time this year. How have the trees done?
I planted around the first week of April and I think that is crucial down here in the South. So far we have had some beautiful trees over there on our plantation. We’ve got a mixed bag of trees, some are six feet tall, and some are 18 feet tall – it’s just something that you can’t explain. We water them all the same, some were planted at different times throughout the growing process. If we saw a weak tree, we removed it and came in with a brand new tree. But on average our trees are anywhere from ten to fifteen feet tall, that’s a solid average.
That’s awesome. Can you shortly recap what you have done to care for your trees?
Yeah, We’ve had an extreme drought here in our area this year. But even with that we’ve probably had to water the entire plantation just six
times.We watch our trees closely. The trees will tell you if they need watering. Don’t look during the heat of the day, because all of them will be wilted or drooping at that time. Just check them early morning. And when we see them wilted, that’s when we water.
We use a nurse trailer with shower heads. We have calibrated those shower heads to drop a half a gallon in 8 seconds. We usually water eight to ten seconds per tree and that has worked for my heavier clay soil, but everyone’s soil is different. So the farmer has to be diligent and stay on top of it and watch for the wilting. You may have to water twice as much as me it just depends on your soil.
So how often have you had to water in this drought?
Well for us in our clay soil we see the trees start to wilt about fourteen to sixteen days after the last rain so we will go water. But it is crazy, out of all 3000 plus trees, I may have 40 or 50 to say hey, I need some water. So we concentrate on those more than we do the trees that have not wilted.
Wow, so you’re focused on individual plants rather than trying to treat the field as a whole?
Right, You can’t miss the trees for the forest. We have had a six foot tree right next to a fifteen foot tree and when we come back three weeks after watering that single tree it has caught up to the others and is like twelve foot. The growth in between two week visits, just blows your mind. So while you’re there, you need to concentrate on the ones that are crying for help.
One reason our trees have done well this year is we did not take on too much the first year. I would say 20 acres is ideal for a single guy. If he had one helper. That’s about all one person can manage well. Because by the time you mow all the grass it is time to start over again. That’s one reason I think my trees are doing so well, because we keep the grass cut short. Weeds will starve your trees for the water and nutrients and literally choke your trees out.
Yeah,That’s a great point, I noticed that your trees were doing well. I knew that cutting the grass short helped the trees with weed competition, but your saying it also helps with the water infiltration as well?
Yeah, You know, I can see exactly where my water is going. When you’re planting these trees, you got to remember to do your best to form a bowl if you can to catch all of the rain and all of the water so it will concentrate around the roots. That is why drilling the holes is such a great idea. It is a lot of work but it really pays off.
So what would you say to anyone looking to plant with World Tree?
Stepping out on this platform with World Tree, as with any business adventure, you need to do your homework, of course. We have just found everybody at World Tree to be more than helpful. Answering any questions that myself or my wife or Jordan has had. I can speak highly of them company, there responsive. We believe this is a good opportunity for us as a family to offset our personal carbon footprint. If we can do that, work together and have a great investment as well it is a win, win.
Thank you, Jason! You are a real role model for all our farmers.