WWOA members, Jim and Marlene Zdanovec of Oshkosh, grew up with a passion for woodlands. Coming from rural backgrounds, Jim says “passion for our 160 acre woodlot and the environment began at an early age because we understood how important the woodlots are to our sustainability as a human race.”
The objective of Zdanovec’s Outback Tree Farm in eastern Marathon County is to promote long-term productivity of the forest ecosystem with good land stewardship, for the benefit of the land and wildlife. Their Tree Farm started as land that was referred to as the “pits in early years due to granite excavation and timber high-grading but through their care the land has been transformed to a healthy forest. The Zdanovec’s passion and hard work on their woodlands resulted in being named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Tree Farmers in 2002, and in 2004 they were awarded the National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year Award, becoming only the second Wisconsin couple to receive this honor.
Marlene says, “Our passion, from the work on the woodlot, is shared with others when we host field days, celebrate Arbor Day with local school children, and participate in other events. We enjoy sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm with anyone willing to learn and listen. We realize that we will never be finished with our work but we know that our passion for making it right on the woodlot has served us well.” Both have also been speakers at several WWOA conferences, schools, and other events.
Every year the Zdanovec’s bring 3rd and 4th graders from the Pleasant View Elementary School in Antigo to celebrate Arbor Day on their tree farm. The event began when the two contacted elementary schools in their area and gained teacher support. The annual event has been organized for the past 15 years. Jim explained that the goal is “to teach the younger generation about the benefits of our natural resources. Children exposed to nature will have a life-long connection to the environment.” Jim and Marlene have a keen sense of creativity when engaging youth. In the past they have used an electronic predator game caller hidden near a large mature tree to create a “Talking Tree.” When the children go past the tree it appears to come alive and speak. The tree explains the benefits forest provides not only to man but to wildlife, water, soil, and clean air. The exhibit is always a favorite of the kids, leaving them in wonder and laughter.
The Zdanovec’s sense of service also includes giving back to WWOA. “When we joined WWOA 23 years ago,” the Zdanovecs say, “it just seemed natural to share our passion, to give back to WWOA by volunteering. In addition to other activities, we have worked on annual meeting planning committees, served on the WWOA Board of Directors, hosted field days, manned information booths at various outdoor events, and for the past fourteen years, have served as Co-Chairs of the WWOA Gift Shop Committee.”
“We are passionate about the Gift Shop because all of the proceeds from sales benefit WWOA programs. It is a fiscally sound entity of WWOA. The Gift Shop Committee, comprised of twelve hard working WWOA members, meets to review current inventory and fiscal year sales, determine if current items should be discontinued and of course, choose new merchandise for the Shop.” states Jim Zdanovec. While volunteering with the Gift Shop, the Zdanovecs have encouraged many woodland owners to join WWOA.
“In our passion for the volunteer work that we do with the WWOA Gift Shop, we encourage members to support it with their purchases. What a perfect world in WWOA fundraising it would be if every member purchased just one item from the WWOA Gift Shop! We ask that you be a part of our passion. Grab an issue of the Wisconsin Woodlands magazine, open it to the Gift Shop page, and place an order!,” encourages Marlene Zdanovec.