Every Friday we will  feature and flashback to one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.

John Summerford grew up in Falkville in north Alabama. His family worked a small farm and raised chickens, hogs and pigs. In addition to the farm chores, he was head checkout clerk at the family grocery store at age 8 and worked at the family’s nursing home. Summerford quotes his father regarding all the hard work : “We get to put our feet under the table at night and eat.”

John Summerford

John Summerford

Summerford left Falkville to attend medical school at the University of Alabama. Graduating in 1986, he set up practice in Tuscaloosa. At that time, an ongoing soybean “bubble” burst, and good land was available in Pickens and Sumter counties. Summerford purchased the first half of the easement property and added adjacent properties, eventually reaching the 1713 acres protected by a 2009 conservation easement conveyed to the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

“The idea was to run to cattle on the property,” Summerford says, and the family herd at one point numbered 350 Beefmaster purebreds. “When my father’s health began to fail and he couldn’t help with management of the property, it became more than I could handle along with my practice.”

The Summerfords sold most of their cattle and now lease a good portion of the pasturelands on this Black Belt tract and have worked to convert 800 acres back to forest and wildlife habitat. Summerford has been devoted to wildlife management since his youth, winning 4-H and FFA Youth Conservationist of the Year and Wildlife Efficiency Awards. He continues this passion, following Deer Management Association guidelines for keeping the deer herds healthy.

Summerford’s forester also has him replacing Sawtooth oaks with Red and White Oaks, which produce acorns in the winter, when the mast is most beneficial. He is also working to improve conditions for quail on the property and has spotted three wild coveys there.

Asked his least favorite aspect of land ownership, Summerford, obviously thinking on a winter rainy spell, offered, “Cold, wet and muddy. I’ve pretty much given up driving on the properties until things dry out a bit. There’s just not enough cable in the winch.”

Summerford Property

Summerford Property

Summerford says his motivation for doing the conservation easements was in part passed on to him by his parents. “We were raised with great morals and ideals, part of which was that we should be stewards of the land. We need to be friends of the public and the land.” He takes this notion very seriously and beyond the easement has set up trusts to govern the land at the time of his death. “Generations from now we will still maintain these uses of the land.”

 

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