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Our farmers are the key to our success, and they also provide us with unlimited amounts of inspiration.

They are always willing to work with us to learn new things and to find ways to maximize the impact their Empress tree farms have on their land, within their families and in their communities.

Our primary business purpose is to grow healthy trees to produce beautiful, versatile hardwood lumber. But our larger purpose includes putting new life into degraded and underutilized farm land, drawing down carbon, and protecting our natural forests. We couldn’t do any of this without the care, compassion and savvy of our farmers who are with us every step of the way.

We’d like to introduce you to one World Tree farmer who has risen to the challenge of working with us to discover the most appropriate techniques to grow the best trees possible, and to incorporate some innovative agroforestry (growing crops with the trees) and silvopasture (incorporating foraging animals) systems on his land.

These regenerative farming systems result in healthier, more productive soil that can hold more water and carbon and is less likely to erode. Each system has been a learning process; one our farmer has embraced and succeeded at!

The Herman Family - Guatemala

The Herman family farm in northern Guatemala operate World Tree’s largest farm. Over the past two years they have planted 38,500 trees, and in 2023 plan to plant another 9,420 for a total of 47,020 trees over 450 acres.

Derek Herman

Derek Herman is a trained agricultural engineer. He did his research on which trees would be best for his farm and was attracted to the Empress Splendor tree for its fast growth, plus its ability to be used in intercropping systems and its benefits to cattle.

The area is very warm and wet, favorable climate for planting Empress trees. The Hermans are planting Empress, Cedar and Teak in a mixed planting system and are inter-cropping with corn.

The first year of planting things did not go as planned. Weed control was a problem and in addition the soil was too wet. Survival in some fields was just 50%.

Derek worked World Tree to create a system that would produce healthier trees the following year. This included spacing the trees more widely between his corn crops, replacing lost trees and building a drainage system in the low-lying areas of the farm also benefited from drainage systems he built so that the tree roots would not get too wet for too long. The results have been impressive and the trees across the farm are healthy and thriving.

This successful farm has also become an economic driver in the region. “This system will allow us to offer decent work to 25-30 permanent employees in a region where a model of sustainable development is very much needed”, says Derek Herman.

We’re proud of Derek and his ability to envision a farm where the land, crops and the people thrive together.