Season 9 - South Carolina Tree Farmers - Land of Legacy Series | Episode 9

#165 | You’re looking at a Tree Farmer’s dream

March 18, 2021 | Dr. Walt McPhail

Episode 9 in the Land of Legacy series, Dr. Walt McPhail takes us through his spectacular woods, talks about his journey with the Tree Farm Family, and shares memories from his everlasting friendship with the Master Tree Farm creator and mentor, Dr. George Kessler.

At first glance, what makes the McPhail Tree Farm so different is the sheer size and number of pole-sized timber on his property, which are the straightest and tallest trees a person can grow, but that’s not where this story begins – or ends.

Walt is a veterinarian by profession but a Tree Farmer by passion, so naturally, he will give you the facts. For example, while we were sitting with him for a short amount of time, he described his trees per acre, poles per acre, price differentials, tree competition, tree spacing, site indexes, board feet, site preparation techniques, herbicide options, tree genetics and land buying strategies. However, Dr. McPhail also has a soft side – his family, his friends and the future of the land he has nurtured. Over the years, Walt has taken on a tremendous amount of work outside of his veterinarian practice to ensure that the land he and his family inherited remained in the family. This passion and work spilled into the land he and his brother, Bill, bought, so they could continue providing habitat for wildlife, healthy trees for the forest ecosystem, and a beautiful place to be enjoyed by future generations.

For this and countless reasons, Dr. Walt McPhail received the SC State Tree Farmer of the Year award in 2001, the Southern Region Tree Farmer of the Year award in 2003 and 2012, and finally, the National Tree Farmer of the Year award in 2012. Looking back on his journey, you’ll hear how the McPhail brothers have thrived under what most others would call backbreaking work, how Walt loves being hands on with his forest, and how he glows with pride in the results. Walt and his brother also share their pine cathedrals with anyone who cares for the land like they do, including students, teachers and other Tree Farmers. Finally, you’ll learn how the McPhail forest is at a turning point, between harvest and replanting, and a sustainable tree growing process that is never ending, just like his friendship with Dr. George Kessler who joins him for this special episode.

Listen now, and share this series with others, who – like our SC Tree Farmers – love the land and put the family in family forestry!

Navigation Points

[3:45] If you ever get a chance to work with Walt, do it!

[4:45] Walt took the Master Tree Farmer course in the early 90s, and look where it took him!

[6:35] Building a legacy is very important to Walt, and he made it a priority to take his children along with him to show them what he was doing.

[8:20] Walt’s girls were little hesitant to take on the property at first, because they weren’t sure how they were going to manage it when Dad will be gone. Walt came up with a solution to that.

[11:50] How do you best manage for poles?

[15:55] How did Walt get started on growing poles instead of sawtimber?

[20:35] What’s Walt’s favorite spot on his property?

[24:50] How do you determine what qualifies as a pole and what does not?

[34:35] Walt talks about his family lineage and how they first came to America.

[38:00] Walt always knew he wanted to be a forester, but he got into veterinary school to fund his forestry habit!

[42:05] What lessons has Walt learned over the years?

[45:00] What’s the best way to manage a Tree Farm? Dr. Kessler offers some advice.

[48:50] What are Walt and George most proud of in their careers?

For More Information:

South Carolina Tree Farm

Forestry Association of South Carolina

South Carolina Forestry Commission

The Center for Heirs Property Preservation

Clemson Cooperative Extension

Dr. Walt McPhail, veterinarian by profession – Tree Farmer by passion

Emily Oakman, Director of Landowner Outreach, Forestry Education and Programs at the Forestry Association of South Carolina and Producer of the Land of Legacy Series




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