Oregon tree farm still going strong after three decades

SWEET HOME — Henry Wolthuis has been a respected dentist in the community for nearly half a century, but he was destined from birth to be a tree farmer.

In Dutch, his family name — Voult Haus — means "Little House in the Woods."

Wolthuis admits he has learned about tree farming at "the school of hard knocks," by listening to the many tree experts who live in the area and completing classes offered by the OSU Extension Service.

"I've had to replant some areas three times, but I've learned," Wolthuis said.

Extension forester Rick Fletcher praised the Wolthuis family for its more than three decades of hard work. "And, he has done a wonderful job of passing along the love of tree farming to his children and grandchildren," Fletcher said. "He has set a great example."

The farm includes a mixture of Douglas fir, valley ponderosa pine and cedar, Wolthuis said. "In some areas that were too wet, the Douglas fir died out and we replanted with pine," Wolthuis said. "We shoot for 400 trees per acre, planted in 10-foot-by-10-foot spacings."

Wolthuis said like any farming operation, growing trees has its challenges, ranging from encroaching deciduous trees such as big leaf maples to blackberries. The goal is to protect a tree until it is "free to grow," tall enough to get above the brush, Wolthuis said.

"One time, when we planted seedlings on a site that we plowed and disked, mice began to eat everything," Wolthuis said. "We had to wrap aluminum foil around them. The kids cut out stacks of aluminum foil on our pool table in the basement."

Home to abundant wildlife, including deer, elk and many species of birds, Wolthuis has also developed roads and "miles of hiking trails."

Tree farming is a long-term business, Wolthuis said. Income is generated every 10 years or so, when areas of the tree farm are thinned. His son Ivan, also a dentist, has started his own tree farm.

"It's fun to look out over the valley and see every stage of forestry," Wolthuis said. "There's an active logging operation, a clear cut that has been replanted, 20-year-old trees and mature trees. It's proof that we're not raping Oregon lands. We're rotating a crop."

Wolthuis gets great enjoyment out of working around his farm, but he especially enjoys a recreation area that features a small shed with sleeping quarters, a shelter, picnic tables, a fire pit, a horseshoe area, tether ball, volleyball, a swing and a zip line.

"This is where our family gathers around the fire, or we host the Boy Scouts or Rotary Club," Wolthuis said. "This is my favorite spot on the farm."

It's also the favorite of his wife, Mollie, who enjoys cooking and making her famous chocolate macadamia nut cookies for family and friends.

"I don't own a boat. I don't hunt or golf," Wolthuis said of tree farming. "What I like to do grows 10 percent a year. I'd say that's a pretty good thing. Plus, it's a lot of fun."

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