Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Better Way

Here is a one in a million – a perfect log, the best of the best.  Toppled in a windstorm, I salvaged this dead White Oak tree and am about to make a lot of money from the windfall opportunity.
This log measures 20 inches diameter inside the bark on the small end and 8 feet long.  Using the Scribner log scale the volume is about 140 board feet of lumber.   (The upper logs of this tree contained another 360 board feet.)

Every other person in the timber industry would sell this as a veneer log that would be shipped to the far East.  This truck load of similar White Oak logs recently passed through Spring Green on the way to the container loading yard, last stop before being processed in China.  These logs are sliced paper thin and the veneer applied to cheap base material like rubberwood plywood for “engineered” flooring or particle board for flimsy furniture, producing cheap products that soon end up in the landfill.
The commercial value of logs like these white oak veneer logs - the best of the best – is about $1 per board foot for the timber grower.  The export season for logs is winter, due to wood fungus growth in warm summer months, so markets are limited for the next 5 months.  The commercial value of my perfect log is about $140.  The upper logs of this tree were quite knotty so they were saw logs or tie logs, adding another $80 in value to this large good quality tree.  Few forest owners ever earn $220 from their best trees, this tree is very unusual. 
In the commercial markets, the timber grower gets a small payment, never enough to consider forest management a profitable and manageable crop, even when selling veneer quality trees.  A logger likely would make $75 for felling and skidding the tree to the roadside landing.  Truckers would earn another $100 or so from this tree until the container load leaves Wisconsin.  Local log buyers and brokers make money, though that profit would be secret business information.   Guess how much the distant big corporations make….!?
I will earn at least $5,000 selling flooring and other products from this tree and keep nearly all of the money in the local economy.  In our business system, the upper knotty logs of this tree have about the same high value as this one perfect log.  The small knotty and crooked cherry logs and the elm tree also toppled in this windstorm will earn similar high value.  Our character grade custom blended hardwood flooring earns us about $10 per board foot for all dense hardwoods on our farm.
This perfect log and the upper knotty logs will be quartersawn to get the best value boards.  The lumber will be dried with naturally accelerated wind power and the sun’s heat - in our Solar Cycle Lumber dry kilns.  The clear boards will likely be made into higher value products than flooring. 
We make cutting boards, cheese boards, signs and plaques that can earn us $20+ per board foot.
We make kitchen cabinets and doors that earn us $30+ per board foot.
We make wooden countertops, stairways, and furniture that bring in $50+ per board foot.
We make specialty products and pieces of art that earn over $100 per board foot.
Our government and Universities support the commercial timber markets and the ongoing practice of exporting our best logs to the Far East for processing.  This continues the system of exporting our jobs and our resources and our money.  Wisconsin government and Universities actively block forest owner efforts to promote the use of locally grown and manufactured forest products. 
The timber industry is dominated by a few huge corporations.  These corporations influence and control the government  to protect the industrial system.  Even though the Wisconsin timber industry has lost 500,000 jobs and half of our production in the last 30 years to mechanization and globalization, the industrial dominance is still in place around here. 
I encourage other timber growers and urban forestry programs and governments and wood products customers to support the use of locally grown and manufactured forest products.  This would reduce the exporting of our best timber resources, lower the demand for illegally logged timber in the tropics, and boost our local economies.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

No More Logs To Steal

It seems the biggest restriction on illegal logging these days is that we are running out of good trees to take.  We have liquidated the good forests – used up all the accessible old growth Teak and Mahogany and Walnut. National Geographic now has the latest big story on illegal logging, but it is just the same old sad story.
The present situation in Thailand’s Teak forests was summarized for me by Forestry Bureau forester, Prasert  Tappaneeyangkul.  “I have seen the world change in my life time. 50 years ago this area used to be mostly natural teak forest and now it is all gone.  European markets and loggers with chain saws took our forest – now we have to import timber into our country.  I’m afraid Burma will soon look like Thailand. Now it is Chinese companies that are taking the forests, they will pay whatever it takes to get the timber they want.  It is against our laws to cut in natural teak forests today, but illegal logging continues today.  Our forest department has only a few people, there is no way we can effectively patrol and protect our remaining natural forests.”
Travelling  to Brazil, Dominican Republic, Thailand, India, Ecuador, and Canada – I talk direct with the forest owners and workers in the timber industry.  Being just an experienced small business owner, there is always a complete acceptance and understanding and honest sharing with me.  Things are pretty much the same everywhere, from the timber grower’s point of view.
Here in SW Wisconsin I have been working with trees in our family forest for forty years – facing the same market pressures and political corruption as the people I meet in the woods of developing countries.  I tried running a successful business growing trees in the traditional timber industry and found it not possible.  The combination of very low market prices for logs and the industrial dominance of all small forest owners discourages any person from growing timber crops for profit.
There is a simple and universal solution to this huge market mess – and our family business here is a successful example that forest owners in almost any country can use now to live a better life.  With the power of the internet and fast global travel, small local businesses can take back control - in an industry that now profits only a few distant corporations while plundering what is left of our best natural resources.
We Do Just The Opposite of the Timber Industry
We learned from our Native Americans here to just take what the forest gives every year – never let the demand of industry affect the choice of what wood is used.   By using just the dead and dying timber – the truly mature trees in the forest – the trees will last forever.
We learned to take a small annual harvest so the forest is never over cut - to produce a steady income.  If there are no dead or dying trees, we thin the forest, always starting with the worst tree first.  We harvest an average of less than one tree per acre every year and have more growth than we can use.
We learned to do Arthroscopic logging using the smallest equipment possible.  There is minimal disturbance and damage, the forest is improved for the future, we earn good income, and the growth is not interrupted.
We process the logs right on the family farm, using each part of the tree for its highest value use.
We dry the wood with natural wind power and renewable heat from the sun.  Our kilns are the most energy efficient lumber dry kilns in the world and produce the best quality boards!  Really!!
We manufacture hundreds of different products in our simple workshop.  Custom blended character grade hardwood flooring, that we install and finish in our customer’s home, earns us a minimum of $10,000 per thousand board feet  ($10/board foot or roughly $5,000 per cubic meter).  Cabinets, counter tops, stairways, cutting boards etc. earn us several times this amount per board foot.  Arts and gifts and personalized items multiply the income earned. 
Selling high value finished wood products direct to customers maximizes our income and keeps nearly all of the money in the local economy.   Using just the dead trees from our 200 acre farm we now earn thousands of dollars per tree.  The potential income from our oak forest is at least $4,000 per acre and we could employ one person for every 10 acres of forest.  In urban forestry – the potential is to create one good job for every 50 average trees salvaged from the chipper and landfill.
When local trees are used in the regional economy, the demand for illegally logged trees and the wood from industrial clear cutting of the rainforest – is reduced by exactly that amount.  It is our wood purchasing choices that control the global markets for trees.  There is no other way to reduce the demand for rainforest timber.
Around the world today there is a huge effort to plant trees to meet our future need for wood.   Lumber from small, fast-growing Teak trees is not the same as boards produced from natural forest trees, so the demand for illegally logged natural Teak is unabated.
Only when the timber growers in the local community are paid a fair price for their trees and their labor will forest management ever become “sustainable”.   All efforts at “sustainable” and “certified” forest management are false if the forest owner and local community are not paid enough money so that growing trees is a profitable long term business. 
My efforts don’t waste time trying to change the industrial inertia in the traditional timber markets.  I simply say there is a better way and anyone can now earn the same benefits as our family business.  The only limitation is a person’s imagination.  has more information.