The Mississippi Pine Belt, located in the southeastern portion of the state, gets its name from the large number of longleaf pines growing in the region.
Nestled in the heart of the Pine Belt, just west of Hattiesburg, is Turkey Pine Plantation, a 480-acre haven that includes 80 fully stocked acres of loblolly and longleaf pines. There is also a 26-acre watershed lake on the property.
To Henry and Kay Hudson, Turkey Pine Plantation is home.
“This is a family farm,” Henry said. “My dad acquired the 160-acre certified American Tree Farm System parcel in 1958, and I knew that I would always end up back here.”
Turkey Pine Plantation is not only the Hudson’s home, but it is also a working farm. Henry and Kay actively work their land on a daily basis to ensure they meet their goals for the land.
The 80-acre stand of loblolly and longleaf pines is regenerative growth from a clear cut in the early 1900s. The Hudson’s work to maintain this stand in its natural savanna state, only harvesting damaged trees.
The vast majority of the remaining land is planted in genetically-improved loblolly pines. This, the Hudson’s say, is their income tree.
“With proper management for wood, water and wildlife, you create an aesthetic environment for the landowner,” said Henry. “Whether it’s hunting, fishing or bird watching, properly managed land pays off for the landowner.”
Last year, the Hudson’s hard work, management of their land and involvement in their local county forestry association was recognized when they were named the 2019 Mississippi Tree Farmers of the Year by the Mississippi Forestry Association.
However, the road to Turkey Pine Plantation’s success hasn’t been without its difficulties. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused widespread damage on Turkey Pine Plantation that took nearly two years to restore. In 2012, a 100-year rain event that dropped almost 13 inches of rain in 72 hours caused the lake dam to blow out, destroying everything. This past December, an EF-3 tornado destroyed 20 acres of mature longleaf pines.
Despite the setbacks, the Hudson’s never wavered. They had a management plan in place after each disaster, so they buckled down and set to work on restoration of the property.
Managing Turkey Pine Plantation for future generations will be the legacy of Henry and Kay Hudson. It requires hard work and a major physical and financial investment. However, that investment is well worth it as an investment in the future.
When asked about advice they would give to someone thinking about starting a tree farm, Henry said, “There is a lot that goes into it. Make sure you get the assistance of professionals. Make sure you develop a relationship with a good forester that can see your goals and will work to help you plan to meet those goals.”