It’s the burning season again in the Pine Barrens! While that might sound frightening, it just means it’s time to start doing some needed forest maintenance via prescribed burning.
Per the New Jersey Forest Fire Service:
The primary purpose of prescribed burning in New Jersey is to reduce the hazardous accumulations of forest fuels. This aids in the prevention of wildfires, reduces the intensity of the fires, and also provides a foundation for safer, more effective fire suppression and protection operations.
Pine Island has been a long-time proponent of this method and works closely with the fire service and our forester when it comes to this crucial method of forest maintenance. “Pine Island has a very long history of using prescribed burns to protect life and property on their land as well as the surrounding area,” says Bob Williams of Pine Creek Forestry. “In addition, it is used to sustain or enhance the overall ecological health of their forest. Fire is a critical component of sustaining this forest and used often in the farm’s forest management program. These forests need fire; it is as essential as rain or sunshine to the life of the forest. Native Americans used fire to sustain this forest as well as most forests across North America for millennia, and many plants and animals need fire to provide critical habitat components in their lives.” He understands the concern, but reassures people that all is well: “Weather permitting, people will see many smoke columns rising from the pinelands area in the coming weeks with no cause for alarm.”
Pine Island team members also recently attended a meeting similar to last year to brush up on the application process and meet some new Fire Service employees. “I went with Matt Stiles, Gerardo Ortiz, and Tim Bourgeois,” says Manager of Operations Matt Giberson. “It was good to meet not just the growers who are involved with burns, but the larger area landowners as well. They’re not necessarily farmers, but have big parcels of land in the area and are just as involved. There are some new forms they walked us through, and we were able to go over the process and discuss what we liked, what we didn’t, how we can make changes that work.” The team was also able to meet Bill Hamilton, who is taking over Shawn Judy’s section. “He’s a great guy,” Matt says. “When things get a little less busy for him, he wants to come to the farm and see what we do and why we do it. I thought that was cool. The entire meeting went really well and we were really able to get a good feel for what everyone needs from each other.”
Our team and the Fire Service discussed our targets for this year as well. “We decide what needs to get done or our end, but they’ll give us ideas and suggestions,” Matt says. “Which is very helpful if it’s a tricky spot with a lot of fuel. I’m new to this and a lot of these guys are new to it, too, so it’s good to have the knowledge and experience to back us up!” Our team is still working on their target acreage, but has already gotten started. “We’ve done about 70 to 100 acres so far,” Matt says. “That’s only one day with a four-man team, though, and we’re prepping the ground right now for the next stage.”
With constant communication, our motivated team, and the able assistance of neighboring growers and fire experts, Pine Island is more than ready to keep up the the constant endeavor of caring for the place where we live, work, and grow!