Low-impact Logging Is a Priority for Currier Farms Forest Products

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Vimek 610 forwarder boosts efficiency in an already versatile operation.


DANVILLE, Vermont – What does an acoustic guitar have in common with a ship’s mast? Both may have had their start at Currier Farms Forest Products, owned by Joel Currier.

This Vermont custom sawmill operates on a sixth-generation family farm dating to 1800. Joel established Currier Farms Forest Products 25 years ago, and approximately half the logs that feed the mill are harvested from family land.

“We’re trying to make a difference here,” said Joel. “We’re trying to practice good silviculture with appropriate scaled technology. It’s a model of exemplary forest management.”

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One way a small-scale operation such as his contributes to the bigger picture of sustainable and healthy forests is by using low-impact methods for harvesting, explained Joel. And low-impact methods begin with low-impact equipment.

Since its inception, Currier Farms Forest Products logged with a forwarder wagon pulled behind a farm tractor. That changed in the summer of 2015 when Joel purchased a Vimek 610 forwarder.

“[The Vimek 610] is a good combination of size and impact,” said Joel.

The Vimek 610 is designed for a small-scale operation, explained Joel. As a result, he has a perfect match for the logging he does, not a machine with more capacity than required.

“We are hand-cutting-cutting to length- with chain saws,” said Joel. Stihl, Husqvarna and Dolmar brands are saws he uses.

With the Vimek 610 forwarder in use, there are two important and related changes at Currier Farms. “Clean logs” go to the mill, said Joel. And that is “key to the mill’s efficiency.”

Vimek equipment is manufactured in Vindeln, Sweden. Multitek, North America, LLC in Prentice, Wis. became a distributor for Vimek earlier this year. And Joel worked both with Vimek and Marcus Steigerwaldt at Multitek on his purchase.

Joel also had the opportunity to visit the Vimek plant in Sweden. “My son and I went over and went to the factory to see [the equipment] being made,” he said. On another trip, he had the opportunity to see the equipment in use in Sweden.

Experience with Vimek also led to the purchase of the Vimek 610. “Last year in the fall, we demoed a smaller forwarder for Vimek for the Vermont chapter of the American Society of Foresters,” explained Joel. Being able to use the equipment in the environment where it would be used confirmed for him it would be an excellent fit.

Joel’s Vimek 610 has been running about 30 hours each week in the four months since it arrived, enough time to recognize another great feature. “There’s very low fuel consumption,” said Joel.

The diesel-powered Vimek 610 has an 11,000 pound loading capacity. It has a 60 horsepower CAT engine and hydrostatic transmission.

Multitek distributes 3 sizes of Vimek forwarders including the Model 630 Minimaster which is powered by a 24 hp Honda and is of basic design without an operator cabin. The mid-size Vimek Model 606 is a robust machine featuring a Kubota diesel engine and an operator cabin with electric over hydraulic controls. The largest Vimek 610 is a professional forwarder with a full featured cabin and powerful 60 hp Cat diesel power unit. Vimek also manufactures a four wheeled harvester perfect for small diameter and thinning applications. The harvester can cut to length up to a 13″ tree. Each is purpose built for the forest with rugged duty components, professional grade hydraulic systems, and low impact and sensitive logging in mind.

Joel runs the Vimek 610 much of the time. When we spoke with him in late October, rain and snow were in the air. Yet he explained it was so comfortable in the climate-controlled cab of the Vimek forwarder that he took little notice.

In winter, the six-wheeled Vimek 610 will run with tracks and chains, which were part of the original purchase. There is plenty of snow in the northeastern part of Vermont, where it often arrives early and frequently stays late.

The terrain on which Joel cuts timber is challenging even without snow. “We hardly have a flat acre,” said Joel. The Vimek 610 is a great performer through the literal ups and downs that are part of every day, he explained.

Logs that Currier Farms harvests or buys are maneuvered onto a Wood-Mizer saw with three carriages, which serves as the micro-mill. “It’s a band saw,” said Joel. “We may do 1000 feet of grade hardwood sawing a day.” Two employees run the Wood-Mizer.

Cabinet-grade lumber and lumber for flooring are shipped to secondary manufacturers. Loads going out of state travel via contract haulers.

To date, there has been no kiln drying on site at Currier Farms. However, that is about to change. A dry kiln from Nyle Systems in Brewer, Maine is being installed later this year. It is a small capacity kiln capable of drying 3000 feet in one charge.

The new kiln from Nyle will be important “for quality control,” said Joel. With lumber staying on site instead of going out to be dried, Currier Farms will control the entire process from harvesting to milling to drying to planing.

Currier Farms has a 15-year-old generic planer. It also has a 15-year-old Swedish made Logosol moulder.

“We would like to step into pre-finished flooring,” said Joel. Moving toward the objective, he has just opened up a 2400-square-foot building that will house a finishing operation. The building will be heated. Like all the buildings at Currier Farms, the newest one is framed with timber from the company’s mill.

Currier Farms relies on two boilers from Central Boiler. One boiler heats its buildings. The other is going to be used to preheat the Nyle Systems kiln, which will use electricity to produce drying heat.

Some of the slab waste from the saw mill fuels the boilers. The remainder of the slab wood goes to maple sugar producers. Sawdust from the mill goes to local farms.

Joel did have some experience in a mill when he was growing up. “As a kid, I worked in a circular saw mill,” he said.

In 1981, Joel earned a degree in earth science at the University of Vermont.

The land on which Currier Farms is located produces maple syrup and hay. Members of Joel’s extended family operate the farm.

The motivation for starting Currier Farms Forest Products emerged in part from pragmatism. Wood fiber was an abundant resource on the farm. Doing something with it made sense, explained Joel, especially if in doing so he could add to the vitality of the forested land.

The Vimek 610 is so compact that it has both minimized impact on the substrate and also opened new possibilities in harvesting. “It’s only six and one-half feet wide,” said Joel. “It’s a small footprint. It maneuvers well in the forest. [With the] low ground pressure, we can use it year-round.”

So agile is the Vimek forwarder it has enlarged the area on which thinning can be successfully done. “It allows us to thin aspen and white birch,” said Joel. That thinning, in turn, has presented the opportunity to cut firewood.

Currier Farms produces a bit of firewood now with a Supersplit wood splitter from Supersplitter, Inc. in West Bridgewater, Mass., but Joel is looking at firewood processors from Multitek as he considers expanding his production of firewood.

Joel’s team at Currier Farms consists of two full-time and two part-time employees. He relishes work in the field, but as his business grows he may have to do more management and marketing and delegate more field work to others. “I’d rather be out in the woods,” he laughed. “And definitely, [operating] the Vimek – it’s a joy.”

Currier Farms makes use of all native species. Long timbers are generally produced from pine, hemlock, spruce, fir, and larch species. Shorter timbers are produced from birch, maple, ash and cherry. “We cut a lot of pine – 14 to 20-inch wide,” said Joel. Some will become very high quality cabinet work. Some have even found new life as acoustic guitars.

Included in the special sizes of timbers that Currier Farms can produce are timbers as long as 60 feet. Some timbers are 24 inches deep. Timbers of that kind are used for structural support and architectural detail or aesthetic flourishes. And they are accurately square. The company welcomes custom requests.

Among the wood products organizations to which Currier Farms Forest Products belongs are Vermont Woodlands Association, Vermont WoodNet, Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association (VWMA), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Currier Farms is FSC-certified.

Joel appreciates being part of the wood products industry for an array of reasons. “There’s always something to learn,” he said. “Whether talking to cabinet makers or timber framers – the people are amazing.”

Moreover, Joel takes satisfaction in doing all he can to help keep forests healthy. “There’s a great deal of potential in forests,” he said.

“There are a lot of benefits that come from forests,” said Joel. Healthy forests help maintain clean air, good habitats for wildlife, and places for recreation. And increasingly, he explained, there’s a firmer understanding of the significant role that forests play in the carbon cycle, particularly carbon storage.

Joel sees Currier Farms Forest Products as one part of a whole in terms of the maintenance of healthy forests. The Vimek forwarder supports that holistic view. “It’s a piece of the puzzle,” he said.

When Joel takes time away from his business he enjoys hiking, biking, and hunting deer and turkey. “I’m hiking the Long Trail with my son,” he said, acknowledging the weekend ahead when he talked with us. The Long Trail, constructed between 1910 and 1930 by Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. It runs the length of the state of Vermont from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. After all, where else would you expect to find this devoted farmer, forester and father of three in his free time?