Tasmanian Times

Economy

A business model that could be successfully replicated in Tasmania

Spring Green Timber Growers is a small family farm business in SW Wisconsin, USA that sells their annual timber harvest as high value finished wood products. They have created a successful business model that could be successfully replicated here in Tasmania. Six years ago they opened a retail store in the local community to better connect the surrounding forest resources to the economy. They grow and harvest trees on their 200 acre property and manufacture wood products available to meet the needs in the local area, as well as exporting high value finished wood products around the world, everyday.

This family business has learned to earn one thousand dollars from a small dead tree, three thousand dollars each for trees the timber industry would say are just firewood, four thousand dollars per average tree that they grow on each acre every year, and ten thousand dollars – or more – for a good tree. Other forest owners in this area are paid about 1% of these values in the traditional industrial forestry marketplace.

As Jim Birkemeier of Spring Green Timber Growers says “We value our trees and allow their forest to grow in the most natural state possible. We let our good trees grow as long as they are healthy and vigorous, so our timber growth is four times the average production in this region. We employ many neighbouring people to use the natural output of our 200 acre forest to meet local needs and export the excess wood as finished products to customers around the world while importing their money back into our local economy. We call what we do Full Value Forestry”.

FVF masters the Native North American teaching of using just the dead and dying trees that the forest gives each year, and to earn an excellent profit while never allowing industrial demand to determine what trees are taken.

FVF carefully harvests an average of one tree per acre each year so the forest is never changed or damaged thus encouraging natural succession and natural regeneration: following the German Dauerwald teaching to “Watch Nature”.

FVF practices Arthroscopic Logging, using the smallest equipment possible, doing the least damage and most good of any commercial timber harvest. Directional felling skills are essential for safety when selecting just one tree per acre each year. FVF was developed to earn enough money to pay a highly trained timber harvester to do excellent quality work by performing a small selective harvest every year. Earning a fair and profitable annual income for the harvester and the grower is essential for any forestry to be actually “sustainable”.

FVF utilizes each part of the tree for its highest value use and earns a minimum of $10,000 per thousand board feet – $10 per super foot (and usually much more!) for nearly all species. The opportunity at this income level is to create one good job for every 10 acres of forest in this region, and for every 50 trees cut in one year in an urban forest.
FVF uses natural wind power and solar heat to dry superior quality lumber using Timbergreen Farm’s unique Solar Cycle lumber dry kilns with the nightly moisture equalization period being the key to success.

FVF makes hundreds of different high-value finished products, putting local people to work using salvaged dead and dying trees. Using locally grown and manufactured forest products directly lowers the demand to clear cut the remaining rainforests in the tropics.

FVF sells wood products direct to customers, usually earning full retail prices and keeping nearly all the money in the local economy. Wood products are quite universal and growers can sell finished products direct to customers at competitive prices by eliminating the middlemen, brokers, and shippers.

FVF installs and finishes mixed species custom blended wood flooring, cabinets, stairways, furniture, etc. right in their customer’s home. Each completed job becomes another showroom for their products.

FVF Training is designed for timber growers around the world to build a new marketplace for their annual harvests. Landowner groups in Ecuador, Brazil, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, SE Asia, and Canada are already involved in developing this marketing program.

In the traditional timber markets, trees have low value as wood is just a plentiful commodity. Timber growers are not paid enough to encourage them to manage their trees, so our forests around the world continue to be liquidated and replaced with cattle ranches on hillsides and flat open fields where food products can be grown – usually by huge corporations.
Satellite photos show every day the expanding clear-cutting when a new road was recently built in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil.

Stumpage prices paid to other forest owners for standing trees in Wisconsin are about half of what they were paid 25 years ago at the peak of their value. Wisconsin has lost about 500,000 jobs and half of the production of the timber industry, down $18,000,000,000/year, in the same time – to globalization. These trends are about the same across the USA and, on a smaller scale, here in Tasmania the situation is similar.

Big industry uses big machinery and fewer people and then we wonder where all the jobs have gone. We can choose to change the future for the better and woodworking is one business that can be done on small scale. We can choose to support local wood, local food, local biofuels. FVF only works when all parts are in place and the wood is flowing every day.

It’s really pretty simple, common sense, a step back to simpler times. Using the natural production of our forests to support local communities first, then to also share with population centres is a rewarding way to conserve all tropical and local forests.

http://www.timbergrowers.com/

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Peter Brenner

    December 1, 2013 at 11:05 am

    So, Mr Poynter and others of the “we are different here”-brigade: It’s not about lamenting about what cannot be done, but about developing a real interest in forestry and a forestry industry along the line of the ones presented on this thread. (The same is true for agricultural pursuits).

    The boys and girls at the tillers in Tasmania/Australia have got away for ever with opportunistic, shonky dealings and created the prevailing attitude of sleaze in business and government.

    That is the problem here, not the lack of opportunities for honest, socially, ecologically and economically viable industries.

    It’s a poisonous carpet upon which the rest of us are forced to struggle.

  2. Frank Strie

    December 1, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Hi Pat and all, and then there is the Hans Hundegger technology story:
    …” After his apprenticeship in mechanical engineering, Hans Hundegger first worked as a design engineer in a factory for carpentry machines. In order to rationalise the parental sawmill, he began to develop and construct machines for sawmills in his spare time in the late 70s.

    In 1978, he then founded his own company.” …

    2002
    •Construction of the first MHM house with the Massiv-Holz-Mauer system invented and patented by Hans Hundegger. The solid wood elements are produced on the MHM production line which was especially designed and constructed for this purpose by Hundegger. …
    ==================================================
    2011
    •Delivery of the first production line for profiled wood elements with integrated finger joint plant.
    •Premiere at the LIGNA fair: The high-performance system K2i becomes even more flexible with the integration of the 6-axis Robot unit.
    ==================================================
    2012
    •Presentation of the ROBOT-Drive, a highly flexible and compact class joinery machine.
    ==================================================2013
    •Construction of the new administration building.
    •Presentation of the new cutting machine TURBO-Drive during the trade fair LIGNA in Hanover.
    •Delivery of the 700th Speed-Cut (SC-3).
    •Delivery of the 2500th Joinery-Machine (K2i).
    =================================================
    Currently ~ 4,500 Hundegger machines are in use worldwide, in carpentries, contract joinery centres, prefabricated house manufacturers etc.

    http://www.hundegger.de/en/machine-building/company/our-history.html

    ==================================================
    http://www.massivholzmauer.de

    Solid timber wall construction material – MHM
    Ecological. Warm. Regional.

    Our passion is solid wood. Because the innovative construction material MHM brings countless advantages: wood is a renewable, regional and healthy construction material. Due to the fact that pure solid wood is without glue, chemicals or plastic film, creative architecture is possible and a self-regulating, warm living climate is produced; its thermal conductivity saves money. And the best thing is that in order to obtain this versatile construction material, no trees are chopped down especially.

    Solid timber ceiling construction material – PHE
    Strong. Versatile. Inexpensive.

    Different operational areas, require different product profiles!

    Specially tailored for the requirements of roofs and floors, those present the new profile-timber elements.
    Variable in length and thickness, they are easily adapted to the realities of your floor plan, taking into account (almost) every load.
    The PHE are also recommended variously used and as a lightweight for alternative room or building wall, indoor or stable component.
    ===============================================
    Characteristics of the MHM construction material
    Solid, pure wood – that is our secret

    On the interior, no chemical wood protectors are generally required in timber constructionbecause the drying process makes the wood dimensionally stable and resistant to parasites. On the exterior, constructive wood protective measures reduce the use of wood protection agents to a minimum. Once fitted with insulating elements, the façade of MHM houses can simply be plastered.

    Tasmania – what will it take?

    Characteristics of the MHM construction material
    Solid, pure wood – that is our secret

    Untreated wood without any chemicals
    MHM® walls consist of untreated wood. The boards are joined together by aluminium groove pins, the resilience of which ensures extremely stable and strong wall elements. Thus, the MHM® doe not require any glue as an adhesive agent. Due to this permeable construction method and the intrinsic properties of wood, absolutely no vapour brakes are required for MHM walls.

    High degree of fire retardancy
    While construction materials such as brick, steel and concrete are mostly fire retardancy class F30, official measurements confirm that MSM® are actually classed as F90 B. Wood has a further advantage: Due to the material’s low thermal conductivity, heat does not reach neighbouring rooms so quickly. Fires can only spread slowly whilst remaining controllable.

    Remarkable heat storage, low thermal conductivity
    The solid construction of MHM® walls and the consequent mass forms a much larger heat store than in other construction systems. The thermal conductivity of wood is so low that the surface warms up quickly.

    When the indoor temperature drops, e.g. during the night, the high retention capacity means that only the indoor air and not the walls needs to be heated the following day. The so-called “phase shift”, this means the time in which a square metre of wall cools down by 1°K, is up to four times as long as with a brick. …

  3. pat synge

    November 30, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Mark Poynter #9: “But most private forest owners only grow trees. For this to be the way forward for Tasmania, every forest owner would need to have their own harvesting equipment, sawmill, and manufacturing plant. Hardly likely.”

    The negativity is astounding. With attitudes like this it’s hardly surprising Tasmania stagnates.
    The whole point is that people can work cooperatively. Contractors with specialist equipment can provide services just like in farming.

    Harvesting equipment can be as simple as a couple of chainsaws, a tractor and a winch.

    Lucas and Woodmizer saw mills are efficient and hardly a huge investment. Between $10 and 20K fully equipped. There are quite a few around and they are eminently portable. They can virtually be taken to the log in the forest.

    “Manufacturing plant” might be as simple as a solar kiln and a 4 head moulder/planer.

    A good 4 header costs under $20K and at around half a tonne could even be trailer mounted with its own genset and go from site to site processing timber as required rather than sitting idle most of the time.

    None of this is a huge investment for a business. Just look at the kind of equipment most farmers have in order to be competitive nowadays.

  4. Peter Brenner

    November 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

    9, Mark Poynter. “Well, of course they would earn more…” you say, and then “But most private forest owners only grow trees…”. A bit like “of course they can earn more – but most office clarks only master an old Olivetti”.

    Somehow the world has moved on in the last 50 years and skills as well as consciousness have evolved with it.

    The good old agricultural co-operatives have been revived in places. Modern technologies are available on all sorts of scales. Alternative investment schemes are out there looking for ethical investment opportunities. Not only the flow of junk information but also the flow of really useful information and experience has increased massively. Marketing skills and media are making fast and accurate information and trading possible. And so on.

    New, exciting technological developments (eg biochar/terra preta), especially in the agri/forestry sector, are developing at an incredibly fast rate, shaming the steam rolling global chemical based agribusiness.

    Combine all this with the Full Value Forestry concept as practiced by Spring Green Timber Growers in an advanced economy country comparable to Australia, and you really do have a recipe for small scale, but widespread success.

    You are right, the Greens have not “got it” at this stage. Not enough effort is going into relevant research from their side. The future is therefore in the hands of individuals and groups who are willing to build up rural and semi-rural communities who turn these visions into reality. Exactly like the Birkemeiers in the USA.

    Jan Davis, are you listening? I daresay your popularity amongst farmers would soar out of sight if you became a champion for such small scale, highly successful self help concepts – not just for forestry.

  5. William Boeder

    November 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I note the forestry model expounded by Mark Poynter: “The reality of the required production scale and the enormity of the resource that must be managed to meet its dictates that this sort of approach can only complement, rather than replace a substantial modern-day timber industry.”
    Who is it Mark Poynter that makes those excessive dictates, here in Tasmania?
    In my estimation it seems that Forestry Tasmania makes its own dictates, those of which are to retain a non cost-effective piss poor low unit price for all of its across the board products removed prior to the next step in the scorch-earthed policy resultant follow-up to each of the clear-fell harvested coupes here in our State.
    What ever you lot get up to in Victoria, after the intensive brain-washing exercises your lot engage in and then dump your mumbo-jumbo in house dictates upon Vic-Forests and its horde of executive do-nothings must then address., are left so totally confused that they find it easier for themselves to say yes to whatever crap they decide to direct to the government appointed individuals.

  6. Peter Brenner

    November 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Nr 9, Mark Poynter. “Well, of course they would earn more…” you say, and then “But most private forest owners only grow trees…”. A bit like “of course they can earn more – but most office clarks only master an old Olivetti”.

    Somehow the world has moved on in the last 50 years and skills as well as consciousness have evolved with it.

    The good old agricultural co-operatives have been revived in places. Modern technologies are available on all sorts of scales. Alternative investment schemes are out there looking for ethical investment opportunities. Not only the flow of junk information but also the flow of really useful information and experience has increased massively. Marketing skills and media are making fast and accurate information and trading possible. And so on.

    New, exciting technological developments (eg biochar/terra preta), especially in the agri/forestry sector, are developing at an incredibly fast rate, shaming the steam rolling global chemical based agribusiness.

    Combine all this with the Full Value Forestry concept as practiced by Spring Green Timber Growers in an advanced economy country comparable to Australia, and you really do have a recipe for small scale, but widespread success.

    You are right, the Greens have not “got it” at this stage. Not enough effort is going into relevant research from their side. The future is therefore in the hands of individuals and groups who are willing to build up rural and semi-rural communities who turn these visions into reality. Exactly like the Birkemeiers in the USA.

    Jan Davis, are you listening? I daresay your popularity amongst farmers would soar out of sight if you became a champion for such small scale, highly successful self help concepts – not just for forestry…

  7. Peter Brenner

    November 28, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you Pat Synge. Another convincing and replicable example of how a successful wood working industry can operate ad infinitum without causing distress to nature, society or the local economy. Quite the contrary: a textbook model of what a small but well informed number of Tasmanians have been trying to advocate for many years on a number of fronts. To no avail so far.

    The future for this island (and way beyond) lies clearly in intelligent, caring local industries. A local “people economy” instead of a global hit-and run, get-rich-quick planet destruction race to the bottom.

    Replicate the FVF approach or perish!

  8. Mark Poynter

    November 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    I presume this article has been put forward so as to outline a better type of forestry for Tasmania, and so I have given it some consideration to see how applicable the Spring Green system could be.

    “This family business has learned to earn one thousand dollars from a small dead tree, three thousand dollars each for trees the timber industry would say are just firewood, …. Other forest owners in this area are paid about 1% of these values in the traditional industrial forestry marketplace.”

    Well, of course they would earn more (although not sure of the 100 times more) because they are a family-owned business that grows and harvests its own trees, and then processes the logs in their own mill, and secondary manufactures the boards into salable products, and even installs those products for their customers.

    But most private forest owners only grow trees. For this to be the way forward for Tasmania, every forest owner would need to have their own harvesting equipment, sawmill, and manufacturing plant. Hardly likely.

    “FVF masters the Native North American teaching of using just the dead and dying trees that the forest gives each year,……”

    For Tasmania to be following this lead, it would need to be harvesting old growth forests that are full of dead and dying trees. Of course, as we know the Greens and ENGOs won’t allow this.

    “FVF carefully harvests an average of one tree per acre each year so the forest is never changed or damaged thus encouraging natural succession and natural regeneration….”

    The drier Tasmanian forest types could be managed in this way (although the costs would be huge in terms of accessing the forest and moving equipment for such tiny timber volumes), but the more productive wet forest types are intolerant of shade and will not easily regenerate under such circumstances.

    “FVF utilizes each part of the tree for its highest value use ……”

    The inference is that they can saw timber from lower grade timber rejected by the industry. This is certainly possible on a 200 acre property where there is no cartage cost and family-labour is used.

    In Tasmania, low quality logs that may contain some small volume of usable timber if there was unlimited cost constraints, usually become unviable when the costs of cartage and extra handling are factored in.

    The next most valuable use was for export woodchips, but as we know the Greens and ENGOs have largely destroyed this market by exacerbating the impacts of the GFC and other factors.

    The next most valuable market may well be biomass for power generation, but as we know the Greens and ENGOs are opposed to this also.

    “FVF uses natural wind power and solar heat to dry superior quality lumber using Timbergreen Farm’s unique Solar Cycle lumber dry kilns …”

    The more advanced sawmills in the Vic/NSW red gum forests used solar power to heat kilns, has since been closed down at the behest of ENGOs/Greens to gain the favour of green-leaning voters.

    “We can choose to support local wood, local food, local biofuels.”

    Good luck with the forest-derived biofuels in the face of Greens/ENGO opposition.

    But the main problem is that most of the Australian community has no access to a local forest, and so must obtain its timber from far away and at a scale that far exceeds the sort of production being described here.

    Good luck to Spring Green, they set a good example to other private forest owners. However, the 21st century is different to the 19th century when the population of Tasmania was more spread in small rural communities with access to local forests.

    The reality of the required production scale, and the enormity of the resource that must be managed to meet it dictates that this sort of approach can only complement, rather than replace a substantial modern-day timber industry.

  9. hugoagogo

    November 26, 2013 at 1:49 am

    #7

    You are wise to avoid directly contrasting the carbon storage of oil palm with that of the former native forests. They are about the same. There are obviously other very complex issues that won’t be solved by 4% of customers boycotting non-Oz bikkies in aisle 6.

    Again, you were wise to say “the other countries with plantations and low carbon trees.” As you know, in the Victorian Koala-bounce zones, globulus plantation estates on 12 year rotations store about 150t C ha-1 versus the 20 odd carried by the previous crop/odd red-gum, and about 30 times more pissin’ scratchin’ critturs than before.

  10. Basil Fitch

    November 25, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Since 2000 American scientists have used data from satellite surveillance centres to assess if forests have decreased around the world. At first glance ‘no’, but then looking at individual countries the truth emerged.

    Malaysia has ripped out nearly all forests and replaced with ‘oil palms’, other countries with plantations and low carbon trees. But anti climate change sceptics are claiming nothing has altered (TGC?).

    Also 12 threatened species now 60! Basil

  11. A.K.

    November 25, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Been advocating this approach to forestry for the last 35 years, no one takes any notice. We have the resources to provide high quality timber products to the world, solving many of our economic, environment and social problems. Planned well, it would also contribute to reducing the impact of fires.

    No one listens, as it takes power, money and control away from the corporate world and no politician wants to see that happen. If it did, they would be worthless to their corporate and vested interest masters.

  12. Justa Bloke

    November 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    So tell me again, how does ANZ make millions out of this? If you can’t answer that question I would suggest that it’s not the kind of forestry that we can have in Tasmania.

  13. Pete Godfrey

    November 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for the article Pat. It is heartening to read that somewhere else people are trying to do forestry in a sustainable and sensible manner.
    It would be an interesting experiment to try here, but it would have to be on private land as access to resources would be quickly denied if it were done on state owned land. Remember the man who tried to start a sawmill on the west coast but was blocked at every turn because he was not one of the darlings of the government at the time. I am certain that he lost a lot of money are returned to the mainland.
    It is good to see that the future of forestry is being shown to us. Big is UGLY when it comes to forestry and mining.

  14. TGC

    November 25, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Tasmania need not log another tree if it purchased all it’s timber requrements from Spring Green Timber Growers.

  15. hugoagogo

    November 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    This was tried on a realistic scale in West Coast South Island NZ Myrtle using helicopters to do the arthroscopic bit. A great concept that would have ticked all the boxes. Clark scuttled it for some reason.

  16. Estelle Ross

    November 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Why can our foresters here in Tasmania not use this example of a truly sustainable, financially viable method of forestry?This is how it should be done making the highest possible profit from every tree while at the same time protecting the environment.

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