With 1,200 acres of land, a few thousand trees and some good old fashioned know-how, Harlan County native Jim Corum has been nominated for the Kentucky Farmer of the Year honor and the Leopold Conservation Award.
Corum is a Bell County resident and farms trees across Bell and Harlan counties on property that has belonged to his family since 1852.
“It’s kind of a special place, the emotional attachment. You just kind of want to make it better — leave it better than you found it, and that’s the importance of that place,” said Corum.
He was born at the Pine Mountain Settlement School and graduated from Cumberland High School. In 1961, he graduated from Georgetown College with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. He continued his schooling through the University of Louisville doctoral program in dentistry and graduated in 1965. He also specialized by receiving a masters of public health from University of North Carolina.
Corum served in the Air Force, worked in private practice dentistry in the Louisville area for seven years and then worked as the dental director at the state health department.
“After I retired from that I came back, got a little bulldozer and made some trails in the woods and started to improve the woodlands,” said Corum.
He has been farming trees since the 1970s and got his start when he realized the importance of conservation thanks to a neighbor and friend. Jim Couch, a logger and sawmill operator, taught Corum how to make his land and the existing trees more desirable for the timber market.
Corum does not plant trees, but instead looks to keep the thriving trees growing healthy for a harvest in 70 to 100 years.
“It’s not a whole lot different from corn farming. You know, you want to grow more bushels per acre and that’s good for the consumer. The same is true with timber farming, but where you get a corn crop every year, well maybe the kids will harvest these trees,” laughed Corum.
Corum was recognized in 1973 as the Kentucky Tree Farmer of the Year and Kentucky Soil Conservationist. He is thankful and honored to be nominated for the 2016 Kentucky Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year and Leopold Conservation Award from the Sand County Foundation. Winners of those awards will be notified in the upcoming months.
Corum has been married to his wife Joanne for 50 years. Together they have two children, Jaime and Jimmy, and one grandson.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.