Vermont GreenWood Resources, LLC Makes Sustainability Part of Every Venture

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Committed forester and logger chooses a Log Max® 7000XT head mounted on a Barko 240 track carrier.

 

WATERBURY, Vermont – With more than 400 lakes and ponds, hilly and rugged terrain, and abundant rainfall, the Green Mountain State is an exceptionally beautiful place. Its rich mix of statuesque trees – from red spruce and other conifers to maple, oak, hickory, ash, birch, cherry (and more) – contribute to the economy as well as the aesthetic landscape.

Fully committed to sustainable forestry solutions, Grahm Leitner, president of Vermont GreenWood Resources, LLC recently moved to a cut-to-length (CTL) operation on the commercial side of his business. In January 2015, he purchased a Log Max® 7000XT head and a Barko 240 track carrier.

Since the inception of his business in 2009 (under a different name), Grahm and his team had been felling and cutting with chain saws, skidding and forwarding. As for the choice of a CTL machine, it had to fit the philosophy of his business. “We are committed to small, low-impact forestry on small family forest parcels,” he explained.

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Of course, the CTL machine also had to get the job done. Grahm wanted a machine that could handle both hardwood and softwood species and be adept with large-diameter trees. For this, he chose the Log Max 7000XT head. Log Max is headquartered in Vancouver, Wash.

Some of the biggest trees that the Log Max 7000XT encounters are oaks, said Grahm. Not only is the Log Max 7000XT designed to be a match for heavy timber, but it is also designed to work well when a tree has a branchy trunk.

When the Log Max 7000XT meets a tree that has many tough limbs, it can respond automatically with more power. If the head is working in smaller wood, however, its variable displacement feed roller motors provide a faster speed. As a result, the versatile head can work amongst the wide range of species and sizes of trees that Grahm’s team harvests.

The Log Max 7000XT incorporates high-performance saw hydraulics, which further enhances the machines ability to cut all sizes of timber. The configuration of the saw hydraulics allows full flow to the bottom saw for fast cutting.

To protect internal components and hoses from damage, Log Max has fitted its head with well-placed guards and heavy-duty covers. The single-grip harvester/processor head line from Log Max is built with the end user in mind. Flexibility is what Log Max strives to offer its equipment users. It’s the sort of flexibility that supports the day-to-day operation – and varied projects – of Vermont GreenWood Resources.

Grahm wanted a small carrier capable of supporting the Log Max 7000XT. He chose the Barko 240. The Barko 240 from Barko Hydraulics, LLC in Superior, Wis., is one of the most powerful machines in its size class according to many ratings.

Putting the Log Max 7000XT on the Barko 240 was Grahm’s idea. “I had made my decision before going to the dealer,” he said. That dealer was Pete’s Equipment in Morrisville, VT.

Log Max meets the desire many loggers have to put a Log Max head on a carrier of their choice. The Log Max 7000 can be matched with a carrier from any major manufacturer, including John Deere, Rottne and Komatsu.

“We’re a full-service forestry company,” said Grahm. “That means writing forest management plans, overseeing timber sales, harvesting and marketing of wood products. Our customers value our brand of forestry, which places greater value on what is left behind, rather than what is cut. Every cut is an improvement cut on the properties we work on. That means that with each cutting cycle our clients will grow better and better wood.”

Veneer logs, saw logs, hardwood pulp and softwood pulp are among the sorts – sometimes as many as seven – that Vermont GreenWood Resources does. Seventy percent of the work the company does is commercial timber harvesting, generally on tracts from 30 to 150 acres that belong to private landowners.

“Eighty percent of our land base in Vermont is privately held,” said Grahm. Treading as lightly as possible on the substrate is important to the health of the soil and ultimately, streams, forests and wildlife.

A dedicated operator runs the Log Max 7000XT most of the time, although Grahm takes over occasionally. “We’re happy with the way it performs,” said Grahm.

Two forwarders, a Rottne Rapid and a Valmet 840, work in tandem with the harvester. The Valmet was in use before the Log Max 7000XT was purchased. And the Rottne was purchased in January through a private sale. Both forwarders are 12-ton machines.

As for a choice of chain saw, there has only been one for Grahm. “We’ve always used Stihl,” he said.

Waterbury is home to Vermont GreenWood Resources. “We work within about one hour of Waterbury – in central and western Vermont,” said Grahm.

Part of Washington County, Waterbury has approximately 5,100 residents. The county and the town are located in north-central Vermont.

Grahm is a Certified Forester (CF) through the Society of American Foresters (SAF). He is also a certified arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). And he is a member of the Forest Guild. He holds a master’s degree in forestry (from the University of Vermont) and a degree in environmental law and policy (Vermont Law School).

What prompted Grahm to pursue his formal education – and multiple degrees — while running a company? “I got more and more interested in managing whole landscapes, which means understanding the social and environmental processes that act on them,” he said.

“I had been in tree care industry for 10 years [before starting my business],” said Grahm. “I felt that there was a niche to start a modern forest contracting business that provides rural employment opportunities and sound forestry services in central Vermont.”

A native of Wisconsin, Grahm was familiar with tree cutting before he entered the wood products industry. “I grew up on a small family farm,” he explained. Cutting firewood was part of his experience on the farm.

Education and experience combine to give Grahm an acute understanding of the needs of private landowners. Vermont GreenWood Resources offers a large number of services, including timber stand improvement, boundary maintenance and wildlife habitat improvements.

In May 2015, Vermont GreenWood Resources was awarded a grant from the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative. The grant will support the company in its effort to add chipping capacity and develop a pulpwood concentration yard. The goal is to capture even more value from harvested wood products.

“We have plans to add a pulpwood concentration yard in 18 months to two years,” said Grahm. When we spoke to him in August, he was in the process of working out logistics for space and scope.

Grahm’s company was one of 36 Vermont businesses and service providers that were awarded grants this year from the Working Lands Initiative Grant Program. The program is in its third year. It is administered by the (Vermont) Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The 30 percent of the work that Grahm’s company does in urban settings most often yields fiber that is given away as wood waste. In future, that may change.

In fact, Grahm continues to evaluate markets and opportunities, all while focusing on sustainability. Biofuel, microchips, and kiln-dried firewood are among the product lines he is considering.

At this juncture, wood slated as firewood quality is sold to homeowners and commercial firewood dealers.

Knowing what he wanted in a harvesting head, Grahm was happy to find a dealer so close to Waterbury that could meet his needs. The town of Morrisville is just over 20 miles north of Waterbury.

Grahm said he has been very happy with “the product support and service through Pete’s Equipment Sales.” Family-owned, Pete’s Equipment started as a service company in 1974.

The Log Max 7000XT proved a fit for Vermont GreenWood Resources for several reasons. It could be mounted on a relatively light and compact carrier. In turn, this carrier is kinder to the substrate and more maneuverable in tight places.

Vermont GreenWood Resources has three employees. The company emphasizes safety consciousness and professionalism in all endeavors.

Grahm is very happy with the path he has taken. “I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to work in the woods and practice sustainable forestry,” he said.

Moreover, explained Grahm, he is glad that he can operate a business that provides work opportunities for those interested in the field of forestry. “My company provides real employment opportunities in an industry where subcontracted labor dominates and externalizes the true cost of production.”

Guiding Grahm in all his activities is a belief that economic activity and sustainable practices – those that do no harm to or improve the environment – are fully compatible. The epigram on the home page of his company’s website (www.vtGreenWood.com) is “serving Vermont’s working landscape with sustainable forestry solutions.”

Grahm’s company and others like it are ensuring that the beauty developed over eons – whether from ancient tectonics, relatively recent glaciers or continuous weathering of rock – will persist.

When Grahm has free time, he enjoys time with his wife and children camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, skiing. “Basically, all outdoor activities,” he said.