‘It means a lot’: Oro-Medonte tree farmers earn White Pine Award
‘We now have turkeys, deer, coyotes, owls, and all sorts of things living in this forest that we planted. It’s very rewarding to see the wildlife responding to it,’ says Hawke
Two Oro-Medonte tree farmers have won the 2022 Huronia Woodland Owners Association (HWOA) White Pine Award of Merit.
OrilliaMatters columnist David Hawke and his wife, Juliana, are “honoured” to win the award that recognizes leadership and “unique skills to advance” woodlot management.
“It means a lot on a couple of levels,” Hawke said. “Both my wife’s father and uncle are previous recipients of this award. It’s so nice to proudly say that we are doing the best that we can with our management of the trees.”
Hawke, 67, and his wife, 66, live on Line 6 in Oro-Medonte and manage Valk Valley Farm, a tree plantation originally developed by Juliana’s parents.
“Hopefully my grandson will get the award 20 years from now,” Hawke chuckled. “It’s becoming a family tradition.”
While Hawke is more involved with the labour side of the business, he says his wife is the brains behind the operation.
“She figures out what we need to do and how we need to do it,” he explained, noting that Juliana’s dad, Matt, worked at the Muck Crops Research Station looking after certain vegetables. “He became an expert on growing and storing carrots and onions.”
When Matt retired, he was able to transfer his knowledge of vegetables to his new passion for planting trees.
“By following him around and seeing his meticulous ways of tending to each tree individually, we’ve had very good success with the growth of our trees here,” Hawke said. “I’m certainly carrying on his example with some foresight, patience, and some hard work to have a very healthy woodlot.”
Hawke, an Orillia native, was raised in the country. He has built a career out of working in the ecological field and outdoor education.
“Forestry and woodlot management is always something I’ve been aware of,” he said. “To have such a unique opportunity to manage a woodlot is pretty exciting.”
Hawke says he and his wife plan on running the tree farm for the rest of their lives. Their daughters and grandson have shown lots of interest in inheriting the farm someday.
“Hopefully the trees will be a lovely huge size,” Hawke said. “They will create a very natural-looking forest 80 to 90 years from now.”
Hawke hopes that his award-winning success will inspire others to make a difference.
“We now have turkeys, deer, coyotes, owls, and all sorts of things living in this forest that we planted,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see the wildlife responding to it.”
Doug Frost, a board member with the HWOA, says Hawke and his family are more than deserving of the award.
“The first thing we look for is people who manage their properties with forest conservation and stewardship in mind,” he said. “David has a very interesting property where his father-in-law originally planted a real mix of trees, and they’ve spent a lot of time over the years developing and obtaining it.”
Frost says Hawke and his wife show their dedication to conservation through more than just his property.
“He is a very outspoken conservationist,” he said. “Especially in his articles that he writes for OrilliaMatters.”