The oldest of three brothers, Brett Chedzoy grew up believing he would one day become a forester and never leave Schuyler County. That all changed, however, during a tropical ecology field trip to the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. After two years studying Natural Resources at Cornell University, Brett transferred to SUNY ESF where he was pre-enrolled since high school. It was during his years at ESF that Brett first traveled outside of the country and became interested in the Peace Corps. After graduating in 1991, Brett spent another year completing a Master’s degree in Forest Management Operations and then left New York for two years of Peace Corp Service in Argentina, where he eventually met his wife, Maria.

After working as a consulting forester in New England for several years, Brett and Maria returned to Argentina in 1998 where he worked for a sustainable forestry project in the northwestern corner of the country. They returned to Brett’s home town of Watkins Glen, NY four years later with their three children: Ian (age 10), Clara (age 9) and Joe (age 7); however, the Chedzoy’s still have a ranch in Argentina today.

In early 2007, Brett began work as a forester for Cornell Cooperative Extension, where he works with forest owners over a 5-county area. He is also the secretary for the Southern Finger Lakes Chapter of NYFOA.

When not working as a forester for CCE, Brett manages the family’s 200-acre livestock and tree farm just west of Watkins Glen. Brett and Maria are in the process of buying the land and farm from his parents – Jim and Rose, who recently sold the family business (a local funeral home) to his youngest brother. Brett is also a licensed funeral director, which he jokingly says probably makes him the only forester-funeral director in the country.

Brett, Maria and their three children moved into the property’s main house this summer, while Brett’s parents moved into the newly-built log house next door. The farm is about half wooded and half open fields and pastures. With help from the family, Brett looks after about 130 head of livestock, including Black Angus beef cows, sheep, goats, horses and chickens.

The wooded portions of the farm are mostly mature hardwood stands. Oak is the predominant species, growing on well-drained, fertile soils. These woods, however, are also home to a dense under-story of invasive species, including buckthorn, privet and other shade-tolerant non-native plants. In order to remove these unwanted species from the under-story, Brett has successfully used goats and other livestock in a controlled grazing system. Though Brett admits that the practice of turning out livestock into wooded area is rather unorthodox, he finds that it’s the most logical approach to reclaiming their woods from noxious plants, while at the same time generating income from the wooded acreage. Brett feels that woodlots should be viewed as an integral part of a farm—not just the “back 40” that yields an occasional timber sale or firewood harvest. Brett notes that not all farm woodlots are suitable for “silvopasturing,” but the practice is working well on their farm so far. Once the invasive under-story is eliminated, the livestock can be removed to allow natural regeneration to become established.

Presently, Brett is working to strike a balance between several management goals. While attempting to manage for high-quality crop trees, a healthy forest, and quality browse in the under-story, he is at the same time hesitant to cut too many of the undesirable trees because he believes that we are on the verge of seeing new markets for low-grade timber. For example, a salt company in Watkins Glen expects to fire up a new biomass boiler in early 2009 and use 150,000 green-tons of chips and round wood per year from regional forests.

Brett’s family has had two timber sales on their farm in the past twenty years, but he feels that from this point forward they will not sell any more stumpage. Brett would rather see the trees grow to a “ripe old age”, and then turn them into lumber or firewood when they die. Firewood is used to heat the house and to provide hot water, but face cords are also sold roadside during the winter. Under dad’s supervision, the kids take care of stocking and tending to the wood-fired boiler and wood piles. Never a slow moment at the farm!

Brett can be reached at bjc226@cornell.edu


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