Photo by Lisa Bicknell
In 1987, Jack and Teresa Stickney bought their first 60-plus acres of mostly wooded land on Lilly Ferry Rd.
That was the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream. Jack said he was working as a geologist on an oil rig decades ago, reading Mother Earth News, and telling himself, “One of these days, I’m going to have me a farm.”
One of the first things Jack and Teresa did as new homesteaders was to inoculate some logs with shiitake mushroom spawn. Thirty years later, they are still growing shiitakes-and they have purchased more land and tackled many more agriculture and forestry improvement projects.
Jack was recognized as Kentucky’s “Tree Farmer of the Year” during a Farm Field Day at his farm on October 5. The event was sponsored by the Kentucky Tree Farm Committee, UK Forestry Extension, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Estill County Cooperative Extension Office, Kentucky Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, and the Kentucky Forest Industries Association. About a 100 people signed up to attend the event.
Over the years, the Stickneys have utilized several of the Natural Resources Conservation Service programs as they have harvested timber, practiced timber improvement, and grown their shiitake operation.
Jack has applied for cost-share programs through the NRCS which have helped him install spring-fed water tanks, develop rotational grazing practices, and fence cattle out of creeks and springs.
Sam Miller, Estill and surrounding counties’ Natural Resources Planner for the USDA-NRCS, encouraged land owners to check out the technical and financial assistance available through the NRCS. He said they can sign up for programs such as EQIP that can pay for marking timber, for example, as well as make recommendations for future timber stand improvement.
“[It’s] kind of like weeding your garden,” Miller said. “For decades, what has typically happened in Estill County is that people think in terms of logging for all it’s worth, when it [the forest] could be left in better shape for their children and grandchildren.”
Miller added that the NRCS also has some agriculture programs that farmers can take advantage of, such as the high tunnel on the Stickney farm that helps extend the garden growing season and fencing to protect waterways.
The Stickneys conducted tours of their farm, and the field day was followed by a meal catered by Kim Gill.
Anyone interested in growing shiitakes can view a You tube tutorial produced by Earth Healing that features Father Al Fritsch interviewing Jack Stickney about how to grow them.