Three Questions for the Big Stage: A Conversation with Kedren Dillard

By Amy Juliana

The plenaries at SAF National Convention excite and re-ignite attendees’ spirits about being forestry and natural resource professionals—jolting us to learn, grow, inform, and influence as a professional community. This year’s plenary speakers will fulfill attendees’ diverse learning preferences and enrich the continuing education experience of convention. In this three-part blog series, you will read first-hand accounts from our plenary speakers about the plans for their presentations and thoughts on the sector. 

This year's keynote speaker is Kedren Dillard, a fifth-generation forest landowner. In her plenary session, titled, “A Forest Legacy – The Past, Present and Future,” she will share her experience and ongoing journey of maintaining history while building for the future on her family’s farm in Southern Virginia.

Dillard's story of navigating family decisions, finding modern solutions to land management, and upholding the property's legacy will resonate with all. Learn how one landowner works to maintain family forestland now and in the future.

1. SAF: "What is your favorite memory related to forests?"

The road leading up to our farm in Southern Virginia is lined with trees. Beautiful, tall, luscious trees standing at attention on both sides of the road for two or three miles leading up to our farm. I remember as a child we would drive from California to Virginia to spend summer vacations on the farm…traveling five days by car to reach our destination. The drive was horrible (this was before iPads, streaming music, and fancy gadgets to keep my brothers and I entertained). I have clear memories of my dad turning on this three-mile dirt road. He’d drive a bit faster, the windows would roll down, and I would look up and out the window at the trees. We made it.  

2. SAF: "What are some of the challenges facing forestry now and in the future?"

Dillard: I think a challenge for small family forest owners is finding opportunities that provide a faster return. Some small families are considering solar energy due to the immediate return this option offers over planting trees. Other families are deciding not to replant after cutting their forest to maintain as much profit from their investment as possible. 

3. SAF: "What do you want the audience to walk away with after your presentation?" 

I look forward to exploring the gap between the forestry profession and underserved landowners.  What are some ways to bridge this gap and build trust and partnership to maximize and benefit the landowner?

About Dillard

Kedren Dillard is an executive committee member with Shipley Associates.  As Senior Vice President of Client Success, Dillard oversees business development and consulting, training, strategy, and partnerships for Shipley’s Mid-Atlantic region.  Prior to Shipley, Dillard worked in Global Talent Acquisition for Bloomberg LP where she recruited and hired senior leaders in various critical areas of business.  Earlier in her tenure at Bloomberg she led Federal Sales for Bloomberg Government in Washington, DC.

Since 2019, Dillard has served as a Board of Trustee with the American Forest Foundation where she is currently an Executive Committee member and serves as Secretary.  In May of 2021, she testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in support of the Rural Forests Markets Act – legislation supporting family forest owners access carbon markets.  She is also a board member of Dovetail Partners, a non-profit environmental think tank based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dillard holds an MBA from Northern Arizona University and an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis, where she was a proud member of the Women’s Rowing Team. 

Save the date for Kedren Dillard’s keynote presentation at the 2023 SAF National Convention on Thursday, October 26 from 8–9:30 a.m.
To learn more about Dillard's presentation and other plenary sessions at SAF2023, visit our plenary webpage

Amy Juliana is the Science and Technology Manager at SAF. For more information about the science and technical program, email [email protected]