Where are your farm and forest going?

By Jason Fisher
More than 10 million acres of Virginia’s woodlands are in the hands of nearly 374,000 family forest owners. Some families have owned their land for multiple generations and others for only a few years. Regardless, as they look ahead, many landowners want to keep their land in the family but don’t know where to begin or how to engage the next generation.
If these issues concern you, an upcoming Family Forest Landowner workshop series is a great place to start where professional advice and experience from other landowners will be shared as well as gaining tools to work with. These programs have been offered going on their sixth year in the Commonwealth. But don’t hesitate, as these programs only come around once every couple years for our area.
“Focusing on Forestland Transfer to Generation ‘NEXT’” is being offered in two locations this year, and one is in South Boston. It will be held from 12:30 to 7 p.m. on September 13 and 20 at The Prizery. Participants should attend both dates. Dinner will be included with reading and records material for a fee.
Another program will be held in Northern District on October 5 and 12 in Orange County. Contact Adam Downing at (540) 948-6881 or adowning@vt.edu to register for the Orange County program.
These half-day programs help family forest landowners successfully plan the transfer of their woodlands, intact, from one generation to the next. Speakers include legal and financial experts experienced in estate planning, forest landowners who have successfully navigated the succession planning landscape, as well as natural resource professionals who work with landowners to conserve and manage land.
Two grants—one from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services agricultural license plate sales and another from the Virginia Tree Farm Committee—sponsor our professional fees and course expenses. Current and future owners of family woodlands will learn the basics of family communications, estate planning tools, and succession planning strategies to help ensure the family woodland legacy.
“Few challenges that Virginia’s family forest landowners face are more important than the issue of passing the family land and carrying its stewardship forward to the next generation,” said Mike Santucci, assistant director of forestland conservation with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “Family forest landowners have myriad reasons for owning woodland. A vast majority expresses a deep connection with the land and wants to ‘do the right thing.’ With many reasons for owning forestland, sometimes it’s difficult for landowners to think beyond their tenure and perhaps do what is best for the land so it can continue to be working farm and forestland.”
The management decisions made by family forest owners play a crucial role in maintaining a viable forestland base in Virginia. These family woodlands are relied upon for not only the sustained flow of forest products, but for invaluable natural benefits, such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat and overall quality of life.
The workshop is co-sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the VDOF, with support from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program at Virginia Tech, Virginia Tree Farm Committee, The Black Family Land Trust and the Piedmont Environmental Council.
For more information visit http://tinyurl.com/o7sanke and to self-register and pay online if applicable. Space is limited to 20 families. Contact Jason Fisher at (434) 476-2147 for question or lorip@vt.edu for an application to register.
If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the Halifax Extension office at (434) 476-2147 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event. The TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

Starting with family and forestland begins with starting the discussion together and with expertise.
Starting with family and forestland begins with starting the discussion together and with expertise.
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