Master Logger Certified Company Trusts Kiln Direct to Keep Reputation Strong: Tetreault & Son Forest Management maintains a year-round firewood business. Their recent purchase of a Kiln Direct SmallQuick firewood kiln has doubled their production over their traditional hot water kiln methods alone.
Brimfield, Massachusetts— According to Roger Tetreault of Tetreault & Son Forest Management, everything for surviving in the logging and forestry industry depends upon the “flavor of the day” because what’s good for the market today may not be good for the market tomorrow. Roger knows the market well and he also knows that he’s got to provide a product that can match the high quality industry standards as well as what the current market demands. As one of the few Master certified loggers in Massachusetts, Roger has been studying and working the industry since 1962. When he works his reputation is on the line.
“The market’s so changeable, even from day to day,” stated Roger. “I find it very frustrating. You’re killing yourself to pay your bills but if you’re paying your bills then you’re doing good. The industry has changed so much over the years. It’s a terrible struggle these days…it’s very clear that we had to diversify or not survive.”
Roger has gone from predominantly focusing on logging (buying and selling timber) nearly 50 years ago without mechanization to full-blown mechanization. During the years he and his son have progressively expanded into firewood production. In the beginning, if his firewood production was a 100 cords per year he believed that was quite the accomplishment. But now 100 cords can go in one day.
According to Roger, in the old days timber was delivered within a 1½ hour drive. He remembers when “one tree would be delivered to one place, but now one tree goes to three different places all over the world.” His product is still delivered locally, but within the last ten years he’s seen his product exported globally to such countries as Canada, Europe, and China. He attributes the change to the decrease in mills across the country. Roger has seen the timber side of his business drop from 99% to 60% over the last ten years, while his firewood has increased from a mere 1% of his business to 40% in the same time frame.
Roger and his son, Brian, are co-owners of the family business. Brian, who became a partner in 1992, grew up working in the woods alongside his dad. The company has 16 employees who perform various job functions within the harvesting operations, the firewood processing and firewood packaging operations, as well as the drivers who deliver their products to retailers and residents. Brian manages on-site operations in the woods. Brian’s nephew, Jeremy Lamica, oversees the firewood operations and yard, while Brian’s niece, Alanna Lamica, runs the office. Roger’s wife, Rose, pays the bills and Brian’s wife, Patty, prepares the paper work for the company’s accountant. Roger and Brian work 12-14 hours per day seven days a week. On Sundays, the hope is that they’ll work less. For their firewood production, the day begins at 6am and ends at 8pm; however, in the summer they do try to close by noon on Saturdays.
The Tetreaults focus on one job at a time and all of their harvesting is from private landowners. Everything is done in-house by their employees, with no sub-contactors nor any other outside help. In fact, most of their employees, who aren’t already family members, have been with the company for 19 years.
The Tetreaults use all the wood each job has to offer, both hardwood and softwood, including red and black oak, soft and hard maple, birch, ash, cherry, and beech. Roger’s focus for the company is marketing of the firewood and logs and sorting the categories of timber available for buyers. His goal is to “extract every penny” from the wood that is harvested. The un-debarked wood falls into six categories: slicer, rotary, export, saw log, flooring, and pallet quality. Roger lays out the wood at the landing for the buyers. The exporter buyers purchase the logs they want and Roger either trucks it to the customer’s yard or he loads the customers’ trailers. The buyer is responsible for providing containers and trailers to transport the product to various locations.
“The woodlot that we’re on now was bought one year ago,” explained Roger. “We (typically) have a year’s worth of work because of the lengthy permit process that (usually) takes 30-60 days; and if National Heritage is involved the process may take even longer. Hopefully, we’ll wind up getting more money than we paid for it.”
Sadly, Roger has seen some of his oldest customers and good friends go out of business over the years. His main US customers are Cersosimo Lumber Co. of Brattleboto, Vt., who has been with him since the 1980s, Mass Wood Yard of Russell, Mass., and Hull Forest Products of Pomfret, Ct.. He also consistently supplies timber to various mills throughout Quebec, Canada including Duhamel Sawmill and Mercier Sawmill.
Both dad and son have seen the industry standards change in Massachusetts over the years with forest preservation, from methods of liquidation harvesting and high grading to clearing the forest and utilizing all the wood. Throughout the years, Roger and Brian have adapted accordingly and even anticipated the upcoming forestry regulations. In fact, Tetreault & Son Forest Management is one of only four companies throughout the state of Massachusetts that has earned and maintained Master Logger Certification (MLC). Even before MLC’s introduction into Massachusetts in 2005, Roger Tetreault and his son and business partner, Brian, strived to “do right” by the forest and to maintain quality, professionalism, and rigorous standards.
MLC began in 2000 as a voluntary program begun by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, but is now run by the non-profit organization, Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands. Tetreault & Son Forest Management was in the first class of MA master loggers in 2005. According to Roger, the process began in late 2004 and took just over six months to complete, mainly because there were at least a dozen companies being evaluated simultaneously. Within that first class, eight companies were certified, but now only four companies are left, a testament to both the rigorous standards required to maintain MLC status and to the economy. Currently Maine has the most MLC companies, but the opportunity is available to any New England logging company.
The MLC process begins with an interview and is followed by two independent inspections of at least three recent and current logging jobs. These inspections evaluate many aspects of sustainable forestry, including protection of water and soils, protection of the forest stand, and protection of biological diversity. There are eight major goals that MLC evaluates and over 100 performance standards. The recertification process occurs every three years; but according to Roger, random audits can occur at any time. In fact, one such audit occurred for Tetreault & Son in 2006. Within the last five years, Tetreault & Son has been officially recertified in 2008 and is up again for recertification in 2011.
Tetreault & Son Forest Management has had to meet high standards for ensuring sustainable forestry. As a part of the MLC network, Roger’s company is also part of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is an international non-profit organization established to globally promote responsible forest management.
“Because we are Master Logger Certified that means that any wood we harvest can be sold as FSC-controlled wood,” explained Roger. “The FSC certification provides companies that buy my wood the assurance that the wood has been harvested in a sustainable and safe manner. I can also provide assurance to landowner clients that my work is independently monitored to meet rigorous standards.”
Because of his MLC and FSC status, Roger maintains the ability to provide diversified wood products. And in his opinion, the “bottom line for surviving in the industry all comes down to buying and selling the wood.” Roger is constantly researching the market to determine which is the most viable at any given time. Roger explained that consistency is everything in the forest industry because money needs to be brought in every week to keep the payroll going, for health insurance, workman’s compensation, etc.
“The costs for running a business are staggering,” stated Roger. “I’ve got to watch the market carefully. If one market gives out, the other hopefully picks up. For instance, if firewood goes south you might have a pulp market open up in New York. If you pay attention, you’ll find out what’s next.”
Tetreault and Son are located on the family’s homestead on a 6-acre parcel where a 30-foot by 60-foot shop stores their kiln-dried firewood. Their timber production never comes back to their home base. Roger and Brian leave their equipment on-site for their timber operations; and for their firewood operations, their equipment is outdoors on their property. They own a total of 15 pieces of equipment. Machinery for their timber operations includes a 2009 John Deere forwarder 1110D, a 2001 Timbco 820-D with a Risley harvester head, a 1978 skidder 208, a 2000 Manac 3-axle log trailer and a 2000 Manac 2-axle log trailer. For firewood operations, they utilize the following: 2005 Multitek fuelwood processor XP2, 2002 Multitek fuelwood processor 2040XP, 1988 Great Dane TL Trailer, 2001 Moffett Mounty M5500, 2010 Kiln Direct Small Quick firewood kiln, two 2006 hot water firewood kilns, and a 2007 hot water firewood kiln. The company also has two loaders, a 1996 Caterpillar loader IT28F and a 2008 John Deere 328 skid steer loader. Roger and Brian also have three trucks including a 1997 Peterbilt with 2007 Rotobec Elite 80 log loader, a 2000 Western Star 49E, and a 1999 Kenworth T800.
Kiln-Dried Firewood Expands with Kiln
Tetreault and Son sells both custom and standard-sized firewood lengths. Special orders include 12-inches to pole-wood and processor quality firewood. Much of Roger’s customers extend from Western Massachusetts towards Eastern Massachusetts with the bulk being in the Boston area. Though Roger markets through advertising and mailers, 80% of his business is repeat customers from grocers, garden centers and residential areas. He generates product 12 months per year which he attributes as “key to staying in business.”
In the winter months he supplies firewood as a heating source for homes and bundled firewood for retailers. During the spring and summer until Labor Day weekend he provides firewood for area campgrounds. Because his firewood is heat treated, it is purchased by various customers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Hampshire.
Roger rotates using his three hot water kilns, which are stored in an insulated container, and his newly purchased 2010 Kiln Direct Small Quick firewood kiln for maximum efficiency. All four units are fueled by waste wood. He’s owned his three hot water kilns since roughly 2006, but found that he was unable to get the moisture content low enough. With his previous hot water method, it took at least four to five days to bring soft maple or ash to a moisture content under 12%. Now with his Kiln Direct kiln, the moisture content comes down below 6% in less than 48 hours depending upon the species of wood. Soft maple takes only 12 hours. Because his hot water kilns are only 85,000 BTU’s per kiln, it is impossible to heat treat his firewood. Roger’s latest system is to rotate his cages from the hot water kilns to the Kiln Direct kiln, while filling more cages to go into the Kiln Direct kiln. His priority kiln is the Kiln Direct which he fills to its 12-plus cord capacity and heat treats within 30 hours. Meanwhile he simultaneously uses his hot water kilns, and once the wood has been dumped from the Kiln Direct kiln he rotates the hot water kiln cages into the Kiln Direct kiln to heat treat the wood. This usually is done within a 12 hour period.
“Our production has doubled,” explained Roger. “Every 36 hours we’re doing 12 plus cords of wood whereas before it took us four to five days to dry 15 cords of wood…We’re drying up to 51 cords of wood per week.”
Roger’s firewood is delivered up to twice daily in a five-cord compartmentalized capacity truck. Once a day he delivers 13 cords at a time depending on his customers’ needs. His excess product is stored in his shop for no longer than 30 days at a time.
Roger thinks owner, Niels Jorgenson, and his Kiln Direct SmallQuick kiln stand far above any of the hot water kilns on the market. And in all fairness to the hot water kilns industry, he admitted he does not own one of their top-of-the-line models. If he did, he stated that his costs would have been “tripled” that of what he spent with Kiln Direct, and that the set up process far more cumbersome.
“With Kiln Direct, I provided a concrete slab, supplied electricity, and it was running in 12 hours,” Roger said. “You get the whole package with Kiln Direct for $100,000, while it would have been $275,000 for a one million BTU hot water kiln which includes the cost of the chip boiler, the chip maker, and the plumbing. Five years ago Niels wasn’t making these kilns. The hot water kiln manufacturers are going to have to start dealing with Niels because he’s got the solution for heat treating and to fuel them with waste wood. You don’t want to spend more money than you’re going to make. The costs are too high (for hot water kilns) for what you’re going to make on it, unless of course you have hot water or steam and a way to make chips.”
According to Niels, founder of Kiln Direct in Burgaw, NC, he was not considering the creation of a larger version of the six-cord MiniQuick firewood kiln, but several potential customers requested larger units during the spring of 2010. After extensive consideration, the 12-cord SmallQuick firewood kiln was born. And although they were slow to recognize the market potential, Niels indicated that he’s seen a steady increase in interest for the SmallQuick having already sold 4 of them in the second half of 2010.
“One of our main goals for a larger kiln was that it would use the exact same basket as our smaller MiniQuick firewood kiln for six cords,” Niels commented. “Secondly, we did not want to change the efficiency of the system and simply made it twice as wide.”
Roger, noting that hundreds of others have had bad experiences with hot water kilns, took extensive time to research his Direct Kiln purchase. He found that Niels’ product heat treats in a timely manner and at an affordable cost.
“I trust Niels, his reputation, and the reputation of his product,” stated Roger. “I bought this product all on trust. It does everything he says it does…They have an excellent reputation and that’s important to me.”