Speed and ease-of-operation make firewood processor from Hahn Machinery, Inc. the choice.
WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Firewood is just one among many products and service lines at Station Road Farm. “I sell it by the piece, the loader bucket, one-half cord, cord…I sell it any way you want it,” said Steven Lee Binder, who owns Station Road Farm with his wife, Linda Lee Binder.
Put the emphasis on “any way” because customers can “cherry pick” through a pile of seasoned firewood – seasoned is the only type sold, if they want to hunt for certain species or perfect shapes and sizes. Moreover, customers can have firewood delivered or pick it up.
“Whenever we get a chance, we do wood,” said Steven, explaining how the firewood processing fits in among the many seasonally-restricted parts of a business that includes greenhouses for producing annual bedding plants (both flowers and vegetables), farm produce (some sold roadside), as well as related businesses, such as a landscaping consultancy and service run by his daughter.
“We produce maybe 1,000 cords or more per year,” said Steven. Working with a wood splitter that had been on the equipment roster for many years, the production was good. But wanting to do more with fewer hands, Station Road Farm began looking for a new machine.
An employee suggested the HFP160 Firewood Pro from Hahn Machinery, Inc. in Two Harbors, Minn. And Steven was interested enough to do some research. “I saw it on the internet and I fell in love with it,” he said.
In October 2014, Station Road Farm purchased a new HFP160 Firewood Pro from Hahn Machinery. From the start, the HFP160 Firewood Pro proved just how fast it is.
“It just cranked out the wood,” said Steven. “It did it very fast. But every machine is only as good as its operator.”
Robert Ertel runs the HFP160 Firewood Pro. The machine requires only one person to operate it.
At Station Road Farm, the Hahn HFP160 is mounted on a Cat wheel loader, an older model that was already in use at the business. “I’ve had all kinds of wheel loaders,” said Steven. He worked with Chris Murray at Cat in Sharonville, Ohio on the purchase of the loader that carries the Hahn.
A bit of patience was required in getting the Hahn HFP160. “There’s a waiting list,” said Steven. That’s something that does not surprise him, he explained, given the quality of the product.
The information that Steven took in via the internet and from talking with Gary Olsen, the owner of Hahn Machinery, is all that he required to decide on the machine. “We just talked on the phone forever,” said Steven of Gary, pointing to a great instant rapport.
The Hahn HFP160 Firewood Pro can be attached to a skid steer loader, a compact track or wheel loader or an excavator. Because an operator can pick up a log, cut it into lengths up to 20” (with 28” option available), split it and then use the mobility of the carrier to deposit the pieces into trailers, trucks, bins or onto the ground, there is time – and manpower — saved at every juncture.
Steven purchased his Hahn with a six-way splitter. He said he will no doubt soon add an eight-way splitter. Despite the romantic notions of men going out to get firewood to replenish the hearth, it is most often women who make the trek to the wood pile and back. And the women like smaller pieces, said Steven.
The Hahn HFP160 is the first piece of equipment that Steven purchased from Hahn Machinery. “I dearly love it,” he said. That’s for many reasons, including the short time it takes to configure. “It’s quick detach – just push a button in the cab.”
Wood is seasoned in a large, 80-ft. wide open air pile and in bins that are made of ¾-inch plywood. Wood is packed in the 4x4x8 bins as a solid cord.
The plywood bins were built by the team at Station Road Farm, which does a lot of its own building. For instance, when Station Road Farm decided to add hayrides to its offerings, three wagons were built. Members of the Amish community have also completed building projects for the business – a barn among them.
Steven procures wood for firewood from tree trimming services that deliver it. Mixed hardwoods predominate.
In recent years, Steven has been scaling back his business – selling equipment and focusing on spring bedding plants, summer produce, and firewood and Christmas tree sales. There are six employees.
By December 13, 2014, the last available Fraser fir tree for the year had been sold. That was an early end date owing to high demand for Christmas trees. Wreaths and holiday decorations are also sold.
The smaller array of products and services suits Steven and Linda right now. “We got tired of working 20 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.
Work ethic is something Steven learned from his family. “My grandparents came thru Ellis Island.” They came from Germany, Romania and Hungary. And they were eager to work and make a go of it in the United States.
Steven’s father started Station Road Farm in 1968. The elder Binder was awarded the Silver Star five times for his service during World War II, which included landing on Omaha Beach.
After several other full-time stints, including long-haul driving, Steven began working with his father full-time in 1977. He met Linda when she was a freshman in high school. She was 15 and forbidden to date until she was 16. As soon as she was 16, he took her on their first date.
Linda and Steven have been married 44 years. “It was love at first sight,” said Steven. “If I didn’t have Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior and Linda as my wife” all would not be as it is now.
About to celebrate his 62nd birthday in January, Steven was in a reflective mood when we talked with him in mid-December. “I’ve done so much,” he said. But what matters more is to keep doing. “It ain’t over ‘til God says it’s over.”
In addition to his responsibilities to Station Road Farm, Steven is deeply involved many sorts of outreach to those that need help. Missions and shelters for orphans and battered children are all places where he has sought to help and continues to help. He has also helped Jerry Reiner in his Project 5-2 mission work. The Project 5-2 is headquartered in the same township, West Chester, as Station Road Farm.
West Chester Township is part of Butler County, Ohio. It is in the southwestern part of the Buckeye State. The township has a population of approximately 61,000.
Steven’s experience with firewood began early. His family heated with a wood stove for 20 years. For decades, he split wood for the stove with a maul, ax and sledge hammer. When his father started the business nearly 50 years ago, the two men used just chain saws to clear 20 acres. They relied on an Arabian horse and a quarter horse for skidding power.
The first mechanical processing at Station Road Farm began just ten years ago. “I got a ‘Wood Devil’ in ’05,” said Steve. The Timber Devil® is made by Labelle Wood Splitter Inc. headquartered in La Conception, Quebec, Canada. The machine has a hydraulic lift that can stack pieces 20-ft. high on the 80×120 concrete slab used for the single, large wood pile. It is used with both two-way and four-way wedges.
By deploying the new Hahn HFP160 firewood processor and keeping the older wood splitter in service, Steven has been able to ramp up production of firewood in part by using the Hahn for larger pieces of incoming wood and the older machine for smaller pieces.
“I just love it,” said Steven of the Hahn machine. “It’s so efficient.” The machine will allow the firewood market niche to expand.
“In God We Trust” is the phrase painted across the top of the roadside produce stand at Station Road Farm for a reason, said Steven. “It’s all about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your Lord and savior. It’s not about money.”
Indeed, Steven explained that he has been “downsized” more than once. “I wore a lot of hats. I did a lot of jobs. I started out on a loading dock.” He also worked in refrigeration.
In a family filled with siblings, children and others who hold advanced degrees, Steven said that he is the odd-man out, having not finished high school. But when he looks across the parts of his business, present and past, he notes that he probably did earn an advanced degree in “the school of hard knocks.”
The opportunities have all come from one source, said Steven. “It was a miracle from God. He opened the door and I ran with it. I learned how to do without, invest…If you can think, you can do it.”
Florida, the Bahamas and Hawaii have been favorite vacation places for Steven over the years.