Local tree farm hosts fourth graders; kids get fresh air learning experience

Board foot
At a recent forest field day, DNR Forester Dave Richards shows fourth graders and their teachers the dimensions of a board foot (1′ X 1′ X 1″) — a commonly used measurement for timber production.

Back in 1990, Bob and Lynette Falkner had a great idea: as each their four children entered fourth grade at St. Michael School in Olympia, they would host a field day for the entire class at their family owned tree farm. More than two decades later, field days at the Falkner’s Custer Creek Tree Farm in Francis(about 18 miles east of Raymond) have become annual events for St. Michael School fourth graders.

The Falkners are trying to keep the tradition of working the land alive in an era of iPods, XBoxes, cell phones and the internet. Judging by the enthusiasm of the schoolchildren, their plan seems to be succeeding.

Conducted through Project Learning Tree® – an environmental education program – the field days give children a first-hand look at where the wood products around them originate. The snacks, sawmill demonstrations and hay rides at the field daus are also popular with students.

At the most recent field day, in June 2012, several DNR staff dropped by to help Bob and Lynette show children the different species of trees, how they grow, and how to identify bugs of the forest (always popular with the fourth graders). 

The Falkners are enthusiastic about tree farming to say the least: both are members of the American Tree Farm Society (ATFS) and have served on several ATFS committees for public affairs, outreach and education. Bob & Lynette were named the 2003 National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year by the ATFS. Their roots in natural resources go deep: Lynette’s great grandparents, Leonhard and Rosa Habersetzer, settled near Francis in 1888, a year before Washington became a state. In 1989, the state Department of Agriculture designated Custer Creek Tree Farm as one of the 400 Washington State Centennial Farms because it had been owned by the same family and used in agricultural production since statehood.

The Forest Stewardship Program at DNR offers advice, education and assistance to help family forest owners manage their lands. The program receives funding from US Forest Service and is administered by the Small Forest Landowner Office.

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