By Joe MacKenzie, Florida Forest Service; Ginger Feagle, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and John Nash, Florida Tree Farm Program
The Florida Tree Farm Program is proud to congratulate Mr. Albert Fuller of Levy County as Florida’s 2022 Jon Gould Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. Mr. Fuller was selected for this award among other certified Tree Farm nominations in Florida, for implementing forest stewardship practices that protect and improve our forest resources and in recognition of his exceptional efforts to promote forest stewardship within his community.
Mr. Fuller is a man of many talents; however, his greatest joy is time spent on his 75-acre property of which 60 of its acres are certified as a Tree Farm. Mr. Fuller’s farm includes planted pines and natural stands of pines and hardwoods, as well as livestock, sugar cane, and other crops.
As a part of his forest management plan, Mr. Fuller manages his property with balanced objectives that include timber production, recreation, wildlife, water resources, and a desire to leave a long-term impact on his community. For example, longleaf pine on the property has been regenerated both naturally and with hand and machine planting. He sustainably harvests his forest for firewood and conducts periodic prescribed burning. Vegetation management is accomplished through the use of prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, and to a lesser extent, herbicides when appropriate. In certain areas of his tract, Mr. Fuller manages for timber and goat production simultaneously though agroforestry practices which prevent the buildup of understory fuels.
Mr. Fuller’s interest in trees and agriculture are rooted in his youth as a member of the New Farmers of America, a vocational agriculture program for African-American men, in the early to mid-1960’s. Inspiration also came from his grandfather and great-grandfather, who both owned considerable acreage in Levy County, and helped develop his appreciation for land conservation. Mr. Fuller spent a 42-year career working in agriculture with 38 of those years with various programs of the University of Florida IFAS Cooperative Extension Service.
Since his retirement from UF/IFAS, Mr. Fuller volunteers his time to deliver educational presentations to mainly minority landowners in Levy, Dixie, and Alachua Counties. His programs focus on building awareness of income-generating opportunities, and available landowner assistance programs provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Florida Forest Service. He also promotes the use of various forest management techniques to reach multiple objectives. “Investment in land is one of the safest investments that can be had” and “it only produces attractive returns if you do something with it”, says Fuller. With this realization, Mr. Fuller actively inspires and educates other forest landowners to manage their property and achieve returns that they may have not thought were possible.
Mr. Fuller is an active volunteer in his community and strives to make an impact with agricultural and forestry outreach. Locally, he shares his expertise to advise a minority farmer cooperative near Monteocha (Alachua County); guides access to cost-share assistance and forest management markets to small female-owned farms (Alachua, Marion, Levy Counties); leads a Community Garden; chairs the City of Otter Creek Planning and Zoning Council; and serves on the board of the Levy County Fair. Internationally, he is involved with leading community development and youth programs in 25 countries, including establishing a 4S (based on 4H) youth organization in Curacao (Netherlands Antilles).
Mr. Fuller is also personally involved with the City of Williston Citizens’ Task Force; Community Resource Organization; political candidate forums; the Community Mental Health Organization; Friends of Cornelius Williams Park; Church Events; a food bank that demonstrated raised bed gardening at 30 food distribution sites in multiple counties; and an elementary school program that facilitates teaching youth how to make positive life skill decisions.
Mr. Fuller is proud that his property serves as home to day-camp programs that introduce basic forest ecology, outdoor skills, and archery to youth along with hosting special programs that instruct women and youth on firearm and ATV safety. Mr. Fuller feels strongly that his property shall continue to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, environmental education programs, remain in his family, and be productively managed.
Across Florida, family forest owners like Mr. Fuller are active in their community and care for the largest portion, more than half, of Florida’s forests. Forest landowner efforts are crucial to the sustainability of our country’s forest resources that provide benefits such as clean water and air, wildlife habitat, carbon storage and a wood supply for the over 5,000 forest products Americans use every day. All from a natural resource that is solar powered, biodegradable, renewable, recyclable, and beautiful.
Join us for a tour of the property on December 8, 2022. 2022 Florida Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Details and registration here.
Florida’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Award honors the memory of Mr. Jon Gould, a respected member of Florida’s Tree Farm Program State Committee and a proud Tree Farmer and advocate for forestry for more than 30 years throughout the southeast. Mr. Gould was selected as the Florida Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year in 2006 and as the Southern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year in 2018. Mr. Gould passed in 2019. His legacy lives as an ultimate model of the Tree Farm Program for which the Florida award is now renamed beginning in 2020. Learn more about Jon, his wife Carol and the Gould Tree Farm at: https://www.treefarmsystem.org/south-nominee-goulds
This piece was written by Joe MacKenzie, Florida Forest Service; Ginger Feagle, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and John Nash, Florida Tree Farm Program