Tree farm sustains 'generational' loss from June 14 storm

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Seth Angel, co-owner of Angel Family Farms talks about an estimated 200-year-old white oak "seed tree," Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage.
Seth Angel, co-owner of Angel Family Farms talks about an estimated 200-year-old white oak "seed tree," Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage.

PORT WASHINGTON — It may be decades before the Angel family knows the total dollar amount of the loss they sustained on their timber crop when a severe storm swept through Tuscarawas County in the early morning hours of June 14.

The storm, which packed winds in excess of 80 mph, took down trees throughout the heavily forested Angel Family Farms in Clay Township, including a giant white oak estimated to be about 200 years old. One hillside is a tangle of fallen trees.

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A ridge line along the Angel Family Farm can be seen damaged, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage.
A ridge line along the Angel Family Farm can be seen damaged, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage.

"We really don't know how much yet, because we honestly haven't been back in the woods yet. It's just not safe," said Seth Angel of New Philadelphia, whose family has owned the 100-acre farm on Leonhard Hill Road since the 1860s.

"We have too many trees hung up in others, snags, I guess you call them widow makers, and our access roads are all blocked."

The family lost a lot of mature trees that would have been ready to harvest in the next 5 to 10 years. Some trees could have been harvested by his son and daughter-in-law Jonathan and Shana, and others that were 6 to 8 inches in diameter could have been harvested by his grandchildren.

Angel called the loss "generational."

"The magnitude of the loss is really hard to calculate," he said.

Added Shana, "We're not talking tens of thousands of dollars. It's more than that."

A downed walnut tree can be seen on Angel Family Farms property, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage. Many of the trees that went down will not be able to be used for anything except firewood as a result.
A downed walnut tree can be seen on Angel Family Farms property, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage. Many of the trees that went down will not be able to be used for anything except firewood as a result.

Jonathan and Shana live on the the farm with their two young children. They raise beef cattle, dairy goats and chickens, selling the meat direct to consumers. An old schoolhouse on the property that was built in 1880 has been converted into an Airbnb bed and breakfast. It's called Goosefoot School. In addition, Seth has about a dozen beehives he takes care of. And it's been a tree farm for about 35 years.

When Jonathan and Shana heard that storms would be coming their way on June 14, they weren't too worried. They live in a sheltered valley that is usually protected from storms.

Around midnight, Shana said she was awakened by Jonathan's phone going off, but she thought it was an Amber Alert. So she went back to sleep.

"A little while later, I woke up again and I just heard this noise outside," she recalled. "I can't say it sounded like falling trees. I can't say it sounded strictly like wind. It was all one noise — the thunder and the trees, everything. It all blended together into this loud noise. That's what woke me up.

"Then I felt the power go out. We've had the power go out so few times here that when that happened, I knew something was wrong outside."

The family headed to the basement as quickly as possible.

"Our front door was actually whistling because of the pressure differential pulling on it," she said. "It was just screaming around the door, which made it even more intimidating."

They stayed in the basement until the worst was over.

Shana worried about the well-being of the cattle, pigs and goats on the farm. The animals were all outside. She said she assumed the worst.

But they were all fine.

"There's no other word for it than a miracle," she said. "I walked down here and I saw the cows standing in the field and I came down here and I saw the goats safely in the building just laying their chewing their cud and I started crying, because why are you alive? You shouldn't be alive."

When Seth got the news, he went to a local business to pick up a generator Jonathan had ordered. Then he and his wife, Debbie, headed down to the farm. They encountered a few fallen trees on Oldtown Valley Road.

The situation was different when they turned on to Kinsey Valley Road. They had to cut their way through numerous fallen trees. When they got to the top of a ridge, they encountered a crew from Frontier Power working on tree removal. Seth joined the crew in removing a huge beech tree from the road.

"It was a rough morning," he said.

Shana Angel retrieves wheat for testing in a damaged wheat field leased by another farmer on the property of Angel Family Farms can be seen, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage.
Shana Angel retrieves wheat for testing in a damaged wheat field leased by another farmer on the property of Angel Family Farms can be seen, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage.

The storm had other impacts on the farm beyond the loss of timber.

A neighbor leases some fields on the property and grows wheat there. The storm dropped trees on the fields and knocked down some of the wheat.

When wheat is knocked down, it can impact the quality, Shana said. Moisture can get into the kernels and create mold.

"That heavily impacts the price he's going to receive," she said. "Not only that, because it's down, it's hard to get back up with the combine, so he's going to see reduced yields as well."

An abundance of an invasive Japanese Stiltgrass can be seen rapidly growing on Angel Family Farms, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage. According the Seth Angel, co-owner of the farm, when trees go down, invasive species on the forest floor can rapidly take over causing further ecological damage.
An abundance of an invasive Japanese Stiltgrass can be seen rapidly growing on Angel Family Farms, Wednesday, June 29 in Clay Township. A storm classified as a derecho passed through the area on June 14, causing widespread damage. According the Seth Angel, co-owner of the farm, when trees go down, invasive species on the forest floor can rapidly take over causing further ecological damage.

The storm punched holes in the forest canopy, allowing invasive species to move in, such as Japanese stiltgrass. According to the Ohio State Cooperative Extension Service, stiltgrass can spread rapidly and form dense monocultures that can suppress most native plant species.

"Now without those trees here, that gives all of those plants this great sunlight that they need to thrive and you end up with these invasives that crowd out the native plants that are so good for our soil and our environment," Shana said.

Seth Angel said he will be working with his forester to look at options for their timber. The forester hopes that someone can come in and do a salvage cut and attempt to harvest some of the trees that are down.

Some of them will likely be converted into firewood or pulp, which has less value than lumber.

Alex McCarthy, director of the Tuscarawas County Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency, said there is no financial assistance available for losses on tree farms.

The storm has likely altered the woods on Angel Family Farms for the next 80 years.

"I've only been here a decade, and I can tell you every inch of these woods," Shana said. "I love them, I know them. I know where the plants are. I can tell you exactly where what plants are, what trees are. Now I can go up there and I can get lost."

This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Tree farm sustains 'generational' loss from June 14 storm