When the staff of the Fillmore County Journal was informed that Minnesota’s 2020 Regional and State Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year was an area resident, Janet Erdman of rural Preston, we made contact with her. Although she was reluctant to offer information regarding herself, Janet wholeheartedly agreed to the need for an article on the benefits of woodland management, using her story as an example.
To offer some background on Janet, her roots are solidly planted on third generational land purchased in 1932. “Of the 450 acres, 225 acres of that is woodland, 150 acres CRP that I manage,” comments Janet. “I want to give credit to my parents, Keith and Shirley Krogstad (both deceased in recent years), for instilling deep appreciation for the land and encouraging me to take leadership of the farm’s stewardship.”
Although Janet moved away from Fillmore County for a few years, she returned in 2019, continuing her job as a medical librarian for M Health Fairview. This ambitious woman states she “gets lots of support from family, especially Mike Erdman, my husband, who is my rock and assists me and supports my interests.” Together this couple has raised three children, Katie (Nick) Kaiser, Faith (Joel) Krogstad, Eli (Sam) Erdman, and are the proud grandparents of Sula, Espen, and Miles.
Sharing her love of the woodlands moves out beyond her family, Janet states, “I became aware of the responsibility I would have in owning and caring for such a beautiful woodland. It sparked a passion in me, and as an adult, I looked for opportunities to learn more about our natural environment as well as help educate others about it. Over the years I found my most passionate interests are native plants, woodland wildflowers, trees, and woodlands.”
Janet has been active in the Minnesota Women’s Woodland Network (a group that recognizes and enhances the role of women in woodland management), attends Southeast Minnesota Landscape Committee meetings, and has been involved with Minnesota/Dakota County Master Gardeners, Minnesota Master Naturalists, and Minnesota Tree Care Advocates. In 2016, because of her dedication to woodland management, Janet was appointed by Governor Dayton to represent private forest landowners as a member of the Minnesota Forest Resources Council. The MFRC is a 17-member board created to develop policy recommendations to the governor and federal, state, and local governments and to encourage the adoption of sustainable forest management policies and practices.
When Janet attended a forest field day about 10 years ago, the landowners encouraged attendees to create a woodland stewardship plan. “With the help of consulting forester Mitch Gilbert, we put together a Woodland Stewardship Plan that outlined my woodland goals,” mentions Janet. “Mitch and other foresters have been instrumental in assisting me with woodland management advice and have given me a broader perspective. For example, Mitch has helped me understand how to thin and prune walnuts, and learn about winter tree identification, woodland soil types, and even animal tracking. He assisted with a timber sale on a maple stand a few years ago, and is also assisting with a timber sale that is currently in process as well as a follow-up timber stand improvement (TSI). DNR Forester Alex Gehrig, DNR Forestry, assisted in obtaining cost-share funding for invasive species control, TSI, trails, and forest road improvements, and has offered education in those projects. Jim Edgar, DNR Forestry, was instrumental in certifying my woodland in the American Tree Farm System and has also offered forestry advice.”
With safety on Janet’s mind (and a good fear of chainsaws), she took chainsaw training classes sponsored by the MN Women’s Woodland Network. “I use the chainsaw to prune trees, cut small trees, or clear invasive species. This past year I cut 40 3’ ironwood logs for inoculating shiitakes,” says Janet. “I also use a battery pole saw to trim walnuts in winter as well as prune other trees.”
One of the more challenging aspects of woodland management is keeping a handle on invasive plants such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, barberry, and garlic mustard. Janet admits, “It can be overwhelming, as it’s just plain hard work. A few years ago, I received and completed a cost share for 30 acres of woods that were heavily infested with invasives that I continue to control. Though I continuously work at controlling invasives, every fall when all the trees have lost their leaves and buckthorn and barberry is still easily visible, I treat or remove what comes back. The benefits are many — better wildlife habitat, and native plants and trees thrive. Identifying, controlling, and reporting invasive plants and pests are important for keeping woodlands healthy. Two examples of invasive plants found on my property this year were multiflora rose and cutleaf teasel.”
There are so many aspects to woodland management to consider. Janet wants readers to think about how forest land has a significant impact on wildlife habitat, clean air and water, climate, soil conservation, recreation, landscape aesthetics, forest products industry, and our mental and physical health. “Private forest landowners are Minnesota’s largest landowner group and own almost half of Minnesota’s forests. Woodland management is what you do to keep your woods healthy,” she states.
Woodland management goals may include:
• Removing invasive plants to allow native plants to grow, or to improve aesthetics and wildlife habitat.
• Obtaining income from logging or other forest products like berries,mushrooms, or maple syrup (extension.umn.edu/natural-resources/goods-your-woods#other-forest-products-2385561)
• Performing timber stand improvement for future harvests where some trees are removed to decrease competition for remaining trees.
• Adding trails to cross country ski or walk.
• Creating warbler habitat, or improving deer habitat for hunting.
Making a Woodland Stewardship Plan to organize goals is an important place to start and this website can help: www.dnr.state.mn.us/foreststewardship/index.html. Also note that having a plan helps for qualifying for woodland tax and financial incentive programs.
Janet concludes, “While I am grateful for being recognized as Southeast Regional Tree Farmer of the Year, I am humbled by the many woodland managers in the area who are doing so much to improve the woods. As with most things, I find the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I’m grateful to all who have helped educate me so I can make good management decisions. And I enjoy my woods. In today’s frenzied world, I follow the advice of John Muir, ‘And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.’
“My husband Mike stands by me assisting and more importantly, encouraging. When I see my family enthused about finding wildflowers, morel mushroom hunting, turkey hunting, trail clearing, or even participating in prescribed burns, it gives me a great sense of gratitude. I have a deep passion for sustaining our land and forests, hoping to pass on an improved environment to future generations.”
More information about woodland management can be found at: University of Minnesota Extension (extension.umn.edu/natural-resources#forestry), Minnesota Forestry Association (minnesotaforestry.org/) and DNR Forestry (dnr.state.mn.us/foreststewardship/index.html