Planting trees keeps Hefley happy
While many other farmers are in the process of tearing out trees and burning brush piles to gain tillable land, Jon Hefley of rural Marion works steadily to plant and maintain rows and rows of trees and bushes in various stages of growth.
“I do it because it makes a good windbreak for the farm,” Hefley said. “We need more wildlife habitat, not less. My wife, my daughter, and me — we love trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit that while everybody else is tearing them out, I am planting more trees. It’s something I really believe in and enjoy doing.”
In the past several years, Hefley planted 400 oak trees, 200 to 300 cedar trees, and “bunches” of bushes.
Last fall he concentrated on putting in close to 100 golden currant, sumac, choke cherry, sand hill plum, and Peking cotoneaster bushes around the perimeter of his farm at 1753 Nighthawk Road. He also planted trees across the road in the 55-acre pasture he owns.
“I think so many people are going to start realizing what a mistake it is to take out trees just to gain a couple more crop acres,” he said. “The amount of topsoil lost to wind erosion plus the cost of cutting out that quarter mile of hedge and plowing out the roots, I don’t see how it can be good. I think in the long run it’s better to take a little moisture loss around the edges than to watch it all blow away.”
Hefley kept his newly planted trees and bushes growing through the past years of drought conditions by faithfully giving each plant a 5-gallon bucket of water, two to three times each week.
“I planted them far enough apart that I can drive my big truck down through there with the two water tanks on the back,” he said. “There are some that I have to carry buckets to, but I reach them all with water.”
In addition to watering his trees and bushes, Hefley also fertilizes them to promote growth.
“I use fertilizer spikes, starting with the small indoor ones and then graduating to the larger ones, depending on the size of the tree,” he said. “Sometimes my wife asks me if I am ever going to quit because I spend a lot of time on my trees. It keeps me moving, keeps me out of the recliner. I enjoy this kind of work.”
Different kinds of wildlife are also starting to enjoy Hefley’s planting work. He has seen turkeys, deer, pheasants, quail, and even badgers in and among his tree rows.
“They do eat some of the seedlings,” he said. “The small oaks were like candy to the deer. Some of them grow back, others I will have to replace. The bushes, especially, are pretty hardy and can take a nibble or two.”
Hefley protects small bush seedlings with plastic netting that keeps the rabbits from causing too much destruction.
“I have a friend who hunts in the area and he took a picture of a doe with one of my tree nets stuck on her nose,” he said. “I knew exactly where she had been.”
Hefley said he gets his tree starts in bundles from Kansas State University. The cedar trees he planted he dug up from a neighbor’s pasture and replanted on his own land.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “But I enjoy it so much. In the fall, it is especially beautiful around here, with all the red, orange, and yellow leaves. Some people tell me they stop along the road just to enjoy the colors. The beauty of it all can just be breathtaking.”
Hefley, who owns and operates The Lumberyard, Inc. in Hillsboro, said he was waiting this spring to see how things greened up and then would decide what he needed to replant at the farm and at his pasture acreage.
“I want to get some more oak trees and probably some more bushes,” he said. “I look forward to spending my evenings outside, watering and planting trees. It makes me happy.”