Patty Vance is manager and co-owner of the 149 acre Elmore-Vance Tree Farm which is located in eastern Lewis County, In 2019 she was named the Lewis County Tree Farmer of the Year, and in 2020, she was honored as the Washington State Tree Farmer of the Year. This video shows how Patty has managed the land that was purchased by her father and how she is involving younger members of her family so that it will be in the family for generations to come. For more information, read the press release and description of the tree farm.
“Cascade mountains have a hold on me. They say home is where you find it. These mountains are home to me. Logging trucks and blacktail bucks, Cascade mountains have a hold on me.” The inspiration for these music lyrics is the 149-acre Elmore Vance Tree Farm where Patty and her husband Rory have lived since 1980. For those first 20 years, we had to produce our own electricity,” Patty says. Their property is now fully electrified, with a house whose windows overlook the expansive Gifford Pinchot National Forest and provide the views that inspire Rory, who’s a songwriter and musician.
In 1993, following the passing of her father, Patty and her brother, Bob Elmore, assumed ownership of the property, and Patty became the manager. Although she worked for the US Forest Service as a field technician, she wasn’t fully prepared for the work required to manage a tree farm or write a management plan. “Thirty-two years ago, I harvested my first clearcut and submitted the forest application myself,” she says. “I can’t believe I was brave enough to do my own planning, permitting, burning and planting.”
In 2008, 122 acres was certified by the American Tree Farm System. Patty credits fellow tree farmers for serving as mentors, and the Lewis County Farm Forestry Association for connecting her with educational resources. She now is a pillar of membership recruitment and maintenance for Lewis County Farm Forestry Association because she know how much its members have helped her. Patty manages the tree farm for multiple objectives: generate income from commercial harvest, provide opportunities for family recreation, and enhance wildlife habitat. Along the half-mile-long stream and wetlands that runs through the property, she’s removing the mature red alders and planting western redcedar to increase the presence of conifers. There’s a 15-year harvest plan in place, and in addition to the commercial timber harvests, trees are harvested for Rory’s hobby of furniture making. Connecting the next generation to the family tree farm is also a priority for Patty. Fourth-generation grandniece Annalise Combs also calls the tree farm home, and family members frequently visit for family reunions or outings. Hiking, berry picking, and mushroom gathering are a number of the activities that everyone enjoy and connects the next generations to the tree farm. “I feel my family is fortunate that my father planted the seed that the property remains in our family for generations and generations to come,” says Patty.