Sometimes people find their calling in life and it coincides with what they love. Earl and Wanda Barrs are two of these lucky people. They have blended their love of forestry, the outdoors, and education and have made a profound impact on their community. Together, they created not only a Tree Farm but a living, breathing example of good stewardship.
“We saw a disconnect between the forest community and the general public. The benefits of forestry to the community were simply not communicated to people. We realized that we had a different story to tell, one that connected us to sustainability. At Gully Branch, we show the science of sustainable forestry, so people make the connection between growing the trees, harvesting them, and replanting them for future generations.”
The Barrs share their passion for sustainable forestry by using their 1,500-acre Tree Farm, Gully Branch, as an outdoor environmental classroom that offers an experience like no other for students, educators, forestry professionals, and others. Each year, hundreds of children and adults come to learn about sustainable forestry. The Barrs have merged their intense love of forestry and education to create learning opportunities that will impact their community for generations to come.
“Over the past 30 years, my love for the land has appreciated constantly.”
Earl and Wanda’s Gully Branch Tree Farm holds a unique spot in the history of the Barrs family. Earl’s family first settled the land in the late 1800s. His great-grandparents share-cropped the land and raised their family there.
In the 1970's Earl Barrs was just a man with a motorcycle. He would slowly ride past the house of one particularly pretty young woman, until one day she emerged and they started to talk. Soon, they began taking Sunday rides out to the rural Georgia property Earl’s family had crop-shared for generations. It was there that Earl and his future wife Wanda fished in the pond, strolled through the reforested pines, and fell in love with the land and each other.
In the decades that followed, Earl and Wanda convinced the timber company that owned the land to sell it, piece by piece, to them.
“As you become older - and wiser, - your appreciation grows and you feel the responsibility of taking care of something that will be passed on for generations. It's more than just a business.”