To capture the full value of fiber, a Missouri logger adds a Bandit model 2290 whole tree chipper.
ARBELA, Missouri — Negotiating contracts for standing timber is as much an art as it is a science. For Don Gibson, owner of Tri-State Timber, the process is also the essence of his business. Sealing a good deal and setting a fair price, while giving the customer what he wants, is part of the day-to-day for Don.
In one respect, the deal-making got a bit easier recently. In mid-summer, Don added a Bandit model 2290 whole tree chipper to his equipment roster. It’s his first chipper and his first piece of equipment from Bandit Industries in Remus, Mich.
With the chipper in service, Don has a new negotiating point.
“I can honestly tell a farmer I can make his land look better,” said Don. And he can do that without the need to burn tops and brush or haul away such cutting byproducts.
The Bandit model 2290 whole tree chipper makes short work of ancillary material and quickly converts it to a product that can be sold. “The Bandit 2290 is an awesome machine,” said Don.
Indeed, although it was not his intention, Don discovered that with the Bandit 2290 in service, he could pare his employee list a bit. The company still contributes to fueling a robust economy with as many as 47 employees and independent contractors earning a living from the jobs the company completes.
Among the employees are two people close to Don’s heart. One is his mother, Pat Gibson. The other is his fiancée, Kim Johnson.
“My Mom’s 70,” said Don. “She runs her own picker truck, sorts her own logs, loads her own logs.” And she has been doing so for 50 years.
Kim drives a John Deere 548 G3 skidder. And one day, she will be loading logs, said Don.
Don highly commends his work force and appreciates the excellent work that they do, both those in the woods on the logging crew, as well as those in the sawmill. “I couldn’t do it without them and so appreciate their effort and hard work,” said Don. Some logging crew members have worked for Tri-State for over ten years. Don couldn’t be happier with people that work for his company.
The timber felled by Tri-State heads to the company’s own mill and to four other mills with which Don contracts for sawing. The mill owned by Tri-State is undergoing some expansion. “We’re sawing about 20,000 feet a day,” said Don. “We’re rapidly growing. It’s a pretty nice sawmill, about 100 feet of green chain.”
A Corley circle saw gets the line started. A new Brewco resaw is set off to its side. There is no debarker, but one may be added in the near future. For now, a Montgomery hog is fed bark slabs. With more concrete placement, Don considers many possibilities, including dry kilns. He is not yet certain which direction he will take with the 13-year-old mill.
From its inception, Tri-State put logging at the center of its operation. Don is a third-generation logger. His father, Carl Wayne Gibson, died ten years ago.
“[My father] was probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever seen in the timber business,” said Don. Carl had a “phenomenal” knowledge of and insight into the industry, he explained.
The equipment roster at Tri-State Timber is a large one. The mainstay felling machines are a Timberjack 740 feller buncher on rubber tires and a Timberjack 608 feller buncher on tracks. Both carriers are fitted with Waratah heads. A Barko 595 is used at the landing for slashing and bucking.
Skidders include one John Deere 748, two Cat high-track D4 skidders and four John Deere 548 G3S skidders. Equipment, such as loaders, from PKS Services, is also in the mix.
A very extensive truck fleet has mostly Peterbilt tractors at its core; there is a new Kenworth, too. Among the vehicles for moving logs are flotation trucks, three picker trucks, three pre-hauler trucks and swamp buggies with four-foot tires. When substrate conditions get too soft for even wide tires, Don relies on a Komatsu D365 dozer with pads that can haul out a semi-load of logs.
Cottonwood is the only softwood Tri-State Timber cuts. White oak, red oak, maple and hickory predominate among the mixed hardwoods that the company tackles on private and public land within a 150-mile radius of its home base in Arbela, Mo. Arbela is an incorporated town with a population of 40. It is part of Scotland County in the northeast corner of the Show-Me-State.
Tri-State runs four log crews. “In a bad year we cut five million feet,” said Don. “In a good year six million feet…”
With the Bandit 2290 on board at Tri-State, the fiber that farmers want to see leave their land finds new, marketable life. “A lot of farmers want their ground cleaned up,” said Don.
Being able to deploy the Bandit 2290 whole tree chipper minimizes hours and personnel required to ensure a beautiful look to a cleared landscape. The most compact of the four whole tree drum-style chippers that Bandit offers, the model 2290 can be tailored in configuration to the needs of the operation it will serve.
Don purchased his Bandit 2290 with a 400 horsepower (hp) Cummins engine. But the machine can be powered with a range of engine sizes from 275 hp to 440 hp. Similarly, a purchaser can select a stationary discharge or one that uses hydraulic power to swivel (side to side or up and down).
Working directly with Bandit Industries in the purchase of the whole tree chipper, Don emphasized that he did a great deal of research before settling on the machine. He compared the products of at least four companies.
What he got in the Bandit 2290 is a chipper capable of producing 45 tons per hour. The model 2290 can be purchased with a cab and loader, or used as a tow-along device linked by a pintle. The large infeed opening (24-1/2″x26-1/4″) makes it easy to feed the machine material that has many limbs and forks.
In addition to working at Tri-State Timber, Pat and Kim handle an agricultural business. “We run about 1500 acres of cattle ground,” said Don. “Pat and Kim and one hired man put up hay, [putting] up 1500 bales of hay a year.” They maintain 200 head of cattle, which are Black Angus and Charolais.
“We’ve got a lot going,” said Don. Three new tractors, John Deere mowers and John Deere balers power the cattle and haying operation.
To ensure the mill realizes its full potential, Don takes in raw material from other sources. “We buy logs off other loggers, smaller loggers,” he explained.
At age 40, Don is spending some time these days developing a concept of how he would like to shape his business interests into the next decade. “I have to cap it off somehow,” he said, as there are so many possible directions in which to expand.
One thing will not change, however. That is the way that contracts are made. “We do everything by the book,” said Don. “We pay cash for timber up front. I will not buy by the board foot.” The pay as you go along approach to cutting just does not work well, he explained.
Don said that he wants an “iron-clad contract” in “black and white.” And he believes those with whom he does business appreciate the same.
In addition to handling business agreements, Don runs the Barko 595. He likes the machine and he enjoys operating it. “When I run the Barko 595, I just buck all night,” he said. “When I put on lights, it’s like a stadium out there.”
Working seven-day weeks is within the norm at Tri-State. Those who want to make extra money can work on Saturday or Sunday at their discretion. Pat and Kim often work with Don on the weekends. Both women also handle the bookkeeping for the company.
One thing Don has on his to-do list is finding a definitive way to carve out more free time. He took two weekends off during the summer of 2010. He tries to take at least three weekends, around the holidays of summer, to travel to the Lake of the Ozarks resort area in the southwestern part of the state. Pat enjoys the gaming opportunities there.
It’s not difficult to invest the hours he does in business, said Don. “I love my job,” he explained. And he laments that too many people have “lost their work ethic.”
Don sees each day as full of possibilities. “Every day I work, I feel I should get more done,” he said. He acknowledges that he is “very competition minded” and he relishes the idea of besting his competitors. But first and foremost, his goal is to provide customers with a good service and to produce valuable products, ranging from grade lumber to chips, mulch and animal bedding.
Since he was “a pup,” said Don, he wanted to be logging. He explained that he “kicked” all the way to school as his father insisted he go there instead of following the loggers into the woods. He misses his father and the ability he had to “just perfect everything he did.” And he values the intimate involvement of his mother.
“To be honest with you, I couldn’t operate without my Mom,” said Don.