How often does the green industry cross paths with arguably the greatest living rock band on the planet?
Not too often would be a fair, and obvious, assumption.
But there is one example.
Chuck Leavell, the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones since 1981, is a passionate tree farmer and conservationist. He and his wife own a 2,900-acre award-winning tree farm and hunting preserve near Macon, Georgia (Twiggs County).
The Leavells are two-time Georgia Tree Farmers of the Year and were selected as National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1999. They are big supporters of sustainable forestry, conservation and environmental protection.
Leavell – who was also a member of the Allman Brothers Band during the height of their 1970s popularity – has written several books about the green industry, including “Growing A Better America: Smart, Strong, Sustainable,” published in 2011. (And for you Rolling Stones and Allman Brothers Band fans, his autobiography, “Between Rock and a Home Place,” is a must-read, trust me.)
Leavell, 63, explained to the Chicago Tribune exactly he how got started in the green industry.
“In 1981 … (Leavell’s wife) Rose Lane inherited 1,100 acres of land. We knew we wanted to keep it, so I studied up on what would be the best way to use it,” Leavell recalled to the newspaper. “We looked at cattle, crops, timber, peach trees, pecan trees. One day at breakfast, my brother-in-law Alton said, ‘We have a 50-acre plot where we usually plant crops. Why not try trees?’
“That started me going to the library, studying land management, forestry management, going to seminars, talking to other farmers. Eventually I enrolled in a correspondence course. Trees were perfect because they were less day-to-day than other crops, and I could pursue my musical career, which took me away from home a lot of the time.”
Leavell’s professional honors—of the forestry kind—include appointments to the Georgia Land Conservation Council, the American Forest Foundation, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and several other influential nonprofits that affect our country’s forestry industry.
Also, in February 2012, the same month he received the Lifetime Achievement Grammy award, Leavell was given an honorary Forest Ranger award from the U.S. Forest Service.
Talk about the best of both worlds.
Leavell was asked by the Chicago Tribune what being around trees does for him.
“I love the quote from Emerson that ‘in the woods, we return to reason and faith.’ I find that to be so true in my own personal case,” Leavell answered.
“To commune with nature is a very spiritual thing for me. To breathe air that is clean from all the trees on [his tree farm] that are sequestering carbon … to see the deer, wild turkeys, quail, songbirds and all the other wildlife; these are things that renew my spirit and give me a certain fresh energy when I experience them.”
The preservation and re-population of American chestnut trees is also something on Leavell’s radar.
“The American chestnut was a true icon of this country and provided so many wonderful things for both mankind and beast,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “It was a tragic thing to lose them, and the idea of bringing that great giant of the forest back and restoring it is something that means a great deal.”
Leavell was asked in the interview if his band mates in the Rolling Stones ever give him “grief” about his interest in trees.
“It’s so 180 degrees from rock ‘n’ roll,” Leavell responded. “It’s quite a juxtaposition. I’ll get teased if they see an article. But the truth of the matter, every one of these guys is a father or grandfather, and they have the same concerns as I do about the future.”