Curt Kreklau - Wadena, MN

Reforesting the Other Place

Curt Kreklau remembers a good, busy childhood on his parent’s farm north of Wadena, Minnesota—a life devoid of today’s de rigueur video games but rich in sticks and stones and other building blocks of the imagination.

As an adult, Kreklau is charged with stewarding the tract that spreads across 240 acres and straddles a county road. Standing among oaks, he recalls “We used to call this ‘the other place’ since these woods are across the road from the main house. If we weren’t at home, we’d always be at ‘the other place.’” Who wouldn’t have chosen to spend their childhood playing among trees that drew deep into the sky?

Many family forest owners, like Kreklau, start out by inheriting or purchasing the family farm. They soon face the same dilemma—how to maximize the value of a farm when, as absentee owners, they don’t have time to plant and harvest annual crops. Kreklau decided to experiment with crops that didn’t need so much attention—hybrid poplar.

About 25 acres of the family farm will soon become a hybrid poplar plantation. Willow and alder also will be planted under a USDA pilot program for biomass production that Kreklau discovered through WESMIN Resource Conservation and Development. While Kreklau is not completely sure what the future holds for hybrid trees, he’s confident that there will be a market for the product once it matures.

Meanwhile, he’ll continue to manage the other acreage as a mixed hardwood forest, complete with sawlog-size red oak and healthy maple and basswood. Kreklau regularly thins and reforests the woodlands.

A large gas pipeline runs through his property, and Kreklau even plans to naturalize this large swipe of a scar by seeding it to prairie. He is deeply committed to stewarding “the other place.”