Family Forest Blog

Clifton Taylor, 2020 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Finalist

American Forest Foundation

October 7, 2020

Clifton Taylor-header image

Clifton Taylor’s tree farm, Elk Cave Farms, in Gravel Switch, Kentucky, has grown from 287 acres in 1959 to 1,076 acres of certified hardwood forestland. That first tract launched the family’s mission of establishing new forests, tending young timber stands, and harvesting sustainable forest products from mature trees. Today, three generations of Taylors actively manage the land and generously share their knowledge with other landowners.

Taylor was one of the first private landowners in Kentucky to obtain forest management certification from both the ATFS and Forest Stewardship Council. At his tree farm, you’ll find impressive oak and hickory forests and one of the best examples of the oak shelterwood method. His 150-acre demonstration area of this method is a great educational tool for woodland owners, foresters, and the distilling and cooperage industry. This site has motivated other large landowners to pursue these practices to establish advanced oak regeneration prior to timber harvesting.

Taylor’s hard work is paying off: Today, his tree farm is the exclusive white oak log supplier to Irish Distillers Ltd. for the production of PEFC-certified whiskey barrels in the United States.

In addition to timber production, Taylor focuses on managing his land for clean water, habitat, and recreation. The Taylors maintain 17 miles of extensively restored roads and trails that improve access to the land and water quality. Native grasses were established on old field sites. Prescribed fires and strip mowing are used to maintain those areas for ground-nesting birds. Edge habitat supports large and small mammals, birds, and some amphibians.

Clifton enjoys sharing his forest management expertise with his neighbors, the forest industry, and other woodland owners. Waterfalls, picnic areas, and campsites offer great views of the surrounding landscape. Friends and family enjoy hiking, hunting, and riding ATV’s throughout the property. The Hollow Tree Inn, an open-air shelter built on the on the land in 2010, serves as a meeting place for family get-togethers, field tours, and forestry outreach.

Clifton and his late wife, Barbara, always searched for ways to promote support forestry education. In 2005, they established an endowment to provide scholarship money for University of Kentucky forestry students, helping to ensure the future of sustainable family-owned woodlands.

America’s family forests are vital for clean water and air, wildlife habitat, and sustainable wood supplies. The American Tree Farm System, the American Forest Foundation’s signature program, is the country’s largest sustainable woodland program, with a network of more than 70,000 family forest owners managing 19 million acres of forestland.

American Forest Foundation

October 7, 2020

Related Articles

September 9, 2021

Announcing the 2021 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

The American Forest Foundation and the American Tree Farm System are excited to announce the 2021 Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year.

Read More


July 6, 2021

ATFS Recognizes Outstanding National Volunteers

Each year the American Tree Farm System recognizes a number of individuals for their invaluable contributions of time and energy to their communities.

Read More

Al Robertson outside his 60-acre Acadian forest in Sheffield, Vermont.

April 1, 2021

Encouraging Lifelong Learnings

Al Robertson was introduced to the Dauerwald concept of forestry during his U.S. Army days in Germany. The concept dovetails with the American Tree Farm System's Standards of Sustainability in helping landowners become good stewards of their forestland.

Read More