Longleaf Pines Take a Stand in County
If you want to visit a tree farm, then Pinestar Farms in Carthage is the place to go.
Owned by Terry Bryant, who has been a tree farmer for 31 years, the farm grows several acres of longleaf pine trees and leases several more acres.
A tree farmer is a landowner who practices forest management for timber, recreation, wildlife habitat and watershed values and gets the most out of woodlands while protecting the environment.
"I grew up on a tobacco farm with cattle and small grain," Bryant says. "My granddaddy and daddy worked the farm dating back to the 1900s. Tobacco was a cash crop back then for the family."
Bryant's father was one of the founders of Carthage Cooperative Tobacco Warehouse. While working for his father during the summer months, Bryant studied business administration at Elon University and also attended Campbell University.
In 1979, Bryant was baling straw part-time and working the tobacco fields. After the government offered tobacco farmers an allotment, many accepted the money, then left the tobacco business. Some farmers simply retired, others kept on with tobacco fields in a smaller capacity, and some changed careers once the tobacco industry began to shrivel and new avenues were born.
"My dad was ready to sell the farm," Bryant says. "I purchased the farm, and in 1986 I got out of the tobacco business and decided that tree farming was the path for me to take. So in 1987, I planted 14 acres of longleaf pine on the same land where my dad once grew tobacco."
After a period of time Bryant looked for coastal land.
"There were big landowners down there," he says.
He leased 50,000 acres of land in Pender, New Hanover and Brunswick counties, and worked on Orton Plantation, in Winnabow, located beside the Cape Fear River.
"The longleaf pine is a tree that everyone notices," Bryant says. "I call it 'the natural lightning rod. It can grow to more than 100 feet tall, and has a root system that can stretch to 100 feet in the ground with a tap root."
Bryant says baling pine straw is a difficult task.
"Longleaf pine has more resin and will stay in a bale better than short leaf," he says. "Originally we had to tie every bale by hand with two pieces of wire. Then we bought a modern hay baler. We looked overseas for ideas."
After checking France, Germany and Italy, he found an optimum hay baler in Germany.
"The Welger hay baler, often referred to as the 'Mercedes' of the industry, is perfect," Bryant says. "It places the twine at optimum distance, so the bale is easy to keep together. But when the parts for the baler became hard to get to replace, I phased it out and built my own baler. We are constantly changing the balers to make them better."
With a lot of hard work and 31 years of experience under his belt, Bryant works hard at dealing with the challenges tree farmers face.
"Pine trees are favorites of woodpeckers," he says. "And the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers peck out of healthy pine. These birds can ruin years of work in one afternoon, which hurts the tree farmer."
Another challenge is the blackjack oak tree.
"This tree is found in our woodlands and contaminates pine straw," he says. "The oak has many diseases, such as oak wilt, which is transmitted through the root systems and affects other trees. Canker fungus and bacterial wetwood are just a few more diseases that can affect blackjack oak and become harmful to the other trees."
As for Bryant, he is very confident about the future.
"We bale about 300,000 bales a year that we sell to lawn and garden centers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia," he says. "We also sell to Quebec and a small amount to New York, some in Iowa."
Pinestar Farms sells to retail customers as well.
"I set out to be the best in the pine straw," he says.
Pinestar Farms is located at 111 Bryant Road, Carthage. For more information, call (910) 947-3721 or (910) 947-6735, or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Anita Stone at email@example.com.
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