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Sonnenbergs named tree farmers of the year

Bob and Ingrid Sonnenberg, who were named Minnesota Northwest Region Tree Farmers of the Year, are shown here on their tree farm just north of New York Mills.

Robert and Ingrid Sonnenberg of New York Mills received regional acclaim at a forestry meeting held earlier this month at the Mills Creamery.

The Sonnenbergs are the recipients of the 2009 Minnesota Northwest Region Tree Farmer of the Year award, which is presented by the Minnesota State Tree Farm Committee.

Robert "Bob" Sonnenberg's professional career was a long ways from the retirement 'career' he chose on the family farm near New York Mills. Bob is a retired nuclear weapons engineer.

After 50 years away from the family farm, Bob returned in 1991and started to make improvements. The farm, located just outside New York Mills in central Minnesota, was worn out by over grazing and poor land management.

Being an engineer, Bob believes in getting good plans to build things. His first Forest Stewardship plan was done in 1996 from Department of Natural Resources - Forestry. Most people do a few of the recommendations but Bob completed all of them. Bob was made a Tree Farmer in 2002 by DNR forester Dave Johnson.

With a plan in hand, Bob began to plant his marginal fields into trees. Since 1998 he has planted over 80,000 trees on 100 acres of his farm.

Bob has a myriad of interests: he and his neighbor have started a white pine nursery, and he works with the University of Minnesota on hybrid aspen clones. Bob's penchant for engineering has resulted in some interesting 'tools' of the forestry trade; he has designed a variety of machinery for timber stand improvement activities.

Bob has harvested and sawn over 600,000 board feet from his and his neighbors' lands of white pine and oak trees. Bob has 12 acres of red oak forests and has had several timber sales in this stand.

Bob cuts and splits over 175 cords per year. Over the last 15 years he has produced about 2,600 cords of firewood, as well as does custom sawing.

In 2002 Bob took his first classes as a woodland advisor. He has completed it and has become the local expert his neighbors look to for help in managing their woodlands. Bob joined the Minnesota Forestry Association in 2000 and is currently serving as its co-Treasurer and currently serves as the chair of the Minnesota Forest Resource Partnership.

This group represents the counties,state, federal, tribal, industry and private forest owners throughout Minnesota.

(Information for this article provided by Kathleen Preece; Coordinator, Minnesota Forest Resources Partnership.)