Family Forest Blog

Paul and Joanne Mechling, 2020 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year Finalist

American Forest Foundation

October 7, 2020

Paul and Joanne Mechling-banner image

Paul and Joanne Mechling moved to Ashtabula County, Ohio, in 1974 to launch a veterinary practice. Although they knew very little about forest management at the time, they knew they wanted to own woodlands. The couple soon purchased their first parcel, 30 acres of reverting agriculture and clear-cut, and enrolled it in the Ohio Tree Farm program in 1978.

A thriving practice and growing family kept the Mechlings busy for the next two decades. In 1997, they began purchasing more land. Today, 17 parcels comprise the 355-acre Snowy Oak Tree Farm and its now-vibrant, productive ecosystems. (The National Weather Services has measured snowfall at the property for 44 years—annual snowfall averages 130 inches—and the northern red oak is a dominant tree that grows rapidly in this climate. Hence the name.)

The Mechlings have planted more than 140,000 tree seedlings, sustainably harvested timber, established ponds and wetlands, and enhanced wildlife with food plots and pollinator habitat. Their sugar house has produced more than 12,500 gallons of pure Ohio maple syrup from 750,000 gallons of sap. One recent variety was aged in white oak bourbon barrels. Proceeds are reinvested into forestry and conservation projects.

Time, invasive plants and disease, and real estate taxes have been challenging. The Mechlings learned how to manage time and labor more efficiently. They spend one month per year controlling invasive plants. They’ve worked with their legislators to reduce taxes.

Eight miles of trails are maintained for outdoor recreation. A local birding group comes for the annual Christmas bird count. Boy Scouts have earned badges at the farm. “Our children and grandchildren caught their first fish in our ponds and harvested their first turkeys and deer in the woodlands,” the Mechlings said. The calming effect of a “walk in the woods” is what this tree farm is all about.

“ATFS strengthens our land ethic of ‘passion for place,’” they said. Joining ATFS provided them a model for sustainable forestry and connections with Tree Farmers across the country. Being a Certified Tree Farm was a pathway for selling their maple syrup in the national food market.

Today, three generations of Mechlings steward the land and give back to the forestry community. “Conservation is critical for the future of our country and world,” Paul and Joanne told us. “Life is short. What better way is there to enjoy life than practicing conservation of our natural resources so our next generation will benefit.”

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