“This is my source of entertainment,” Braun says as he walks through the woodland that surrounds his residence.
Like a third grader trapped in school on a warm spring day being released onto the playground, Braun’s personality change is invigorating. He becomes almost giddy as talks about working in the dirt, planting new trees and finding natural treasures throughout his land. “A woodland is just full of things to do,” Braun laughs.
Under Braun Family Properties, he has acquired and maintains acres of forestland throughout Martin, Orange, Perry, Crawford and Dubois counties. He’s been purchasing this land for his forestry passion since 1987. “My rule is the land has to be within a 60 mile radius,” Braun explained. “I started with the 100 acres I bought back in ’87 (where he currently lives); that has now expanded to a couple 1000 [acres].”
The land is an investment for Braun. “If you take a woodlot and manage it by species and by spacing, it is three times the return you can get on a stock market portfolio with a whole lot less frustration.”
He acknowledges the return on his investment in trees and forestry is years and years down the road. He stands by the fact that the payout is experienced through the satisfaction of seeing its growth and development as well as the hard work that is involved.
One experience is the family tree planting ritual that occurs each spring. Mike and his sons plant hundreds of trees on the family’s property near Jasper. Conversation is easy going as they move around; Mike picks the site for each tree and meticulously trims back branches from surrounding trees. Jeff and Jason then dig, plant and tamp the saplings, finishing the process with a ribbon to mark the new addition.
Mike returned to build his business and now Jason has returned to continue in the family business and raise his own family. The youngest son, Jeff, lives in Chicago and travels a lot for his job (he manages new growth for the company) but even he plans on returning to Dubois County to raise his family.
Over Easter weekend this year, Jason and Jeff were joined by Jason’s young son as they planted the trees. The three generations moved among the trees — planting, exploring and laughing. Two of those generations know the importance of home and the newest generation will grow to know it as well.