Hiram Twp. – Last summer, a local woman snapped a photo of a creek scene in her back yard and sent it off to a national photo contest. Now that photo is the centerpiece of a national advertising campaign.
Diane Wilthew enjoys capturing the beauty of the changing seasons on her family’s 21-acre wooded property along Hankee Road — a designated certified Family Forest. It’s commonplace for her to snap photos of nature scenes along Slippery Rock Run, which drains into Garrettsville’s Eagle Creek. Last summer, she stood in the creekbed and took a photograph of the morning sun illuminating the leaves of overhanging trees and draping ferns along the sloping banks of the peaceful waters.
Diane’s husband, Jerry, suggested that she submit the photo in the 2010 Tree Farm Photo Contest sponsored by STIHL, which he had seen promoted in Tree Farmer Magazine. Diane submitted a few photos to the contest and then forgot about it. Just last week, she was notified that one of her photos was selected as first runner-up in the national contest, and would be featured in STIHL ads, in Tree Farmer Magazine, on the ATFS (American Tree Farm System) website www.treefarmsystem.org and the STIHL website, www.stihlusa.com/atfs. The first-place winner was from Mississippi while the second runner-up was from Wisconsin.
For those thinking the chain saw manufacturer and the ATFS make strange bedfellows, that’s actually the subject tackled in the ad campaign. The headline reads, “Can a chain saw company and 90,000 Tree Farmers possibly find common ground?” The ad copy goes on to explain that STIHL is a proud partner of ATFS, supporting the organization’s mission “to promote the growth of renewable forest resources while protecting environmental benefits and increasing public understanding of all benefits of productive forestry. As an industry leader, STIHL believes it is our duty to set the example in sustainability and continue to invest in innovative technologies, programs and partnerships as part of our ongoing commitment to socially responsible environmental stewardship.”
As tree farmers, Diane and Jerry rely on their forester/brother/neighbor Mark Wilthew with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry to help them maintain a healthy woodlot. Part of that process is identifying and marking trees that should be thinned out in order to allow healthier native hardwoods to flourish. Like weeding a garden, cutting down invasive species and damaged trees gives more desirable tree species the advantage in a natural system of competition for soil nutrients, water and sunlight. A chain saw is a useful tool in this process.
The Wilthews have been a member of the American Tree Farm System for approximately 15 years. ATFS provides them with updated forestry information, including an online, searchable database, the Woodland Owners Resource, which contains information on special sites, threatened and endangered species and management for desired tree species (www.treefarmsystem.org/woodlandresources).
“Joining the ATFS helps to make it clear to those around us why we timber, because they can see that the tree farmer does indeed promote renewable resources,” Diane says. ATFS has established standards and guidelines for private forest owners to develop a management plan that encourages sustainable forestry with clean water, healthy wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.
While Diane gets the credit for taking the winning photograph in the national ad campaign, Jerry gets the $250 STIHL gift certificate, which he plans to redeem at his local STIHL dealer, Garrettsville Hardware.