Sowing the Forests by Adam Neese
Each winter, when much of America is preparing to celebrate the holidays, dozens of migrant farmers are drifting south to begin the tree-planting season in East Texas. These workers are self sustaining and bring their own shelter, kitchens, and tools. Moving from clear-cut to clear-cut for three months each year, they plant trees in a grid, day in and day out. With Sowing the Forests, I am documenting these tree planters, the landscapes they temporarily inhabit, and the reforestation cycle to increase my understanding of them. The post-industrial timber industry in East Texas uses a migrant workforce to replant clear-cut pine forests, which are harvested when they mature forty to sixty years later. The sustainability of this process is up for debate, but it is widely agreed among campfire talks that harvesting a planted forest is better than the alternative: deforesting what little old growth is left in the Big Thicket. The trees are raised at a nursery until they are large seedlings, twelve to sixteen inches in height, then packaged and refrigerated until they are brought to a clear-cut area and planted. Each box of seedlings contains between 250 and 1,000 trees. While some rookies struggle to plant 250 per day, veteran planters sometimes plant 2,000. Sowing the Forests examines three things to obtain a greater understanding of them; migrant farm culture, the current landscape of the timber industry, and the resource consumption patterns of our culture at large.