CAIRO, Georgia — Nothing can substitute for good working relationships with team, colleagues and vendors. Positive ties promote harmony, invigorating every business and the industry as a whole.
Tracy Walden, president and owner of Walden Logging, knows well the strength in good relationships.
Off the top, Tracy told us about his great crew. “They are Rodney Barfield, Ronnie Frazier, John Sharpe, Timothy James, Cornelio Merida, Frank Stinson, Darren Jones, OC Lurry, Gary Mitchell and Shawn Hart,” he said. “Very important” are they all to his company, he explained.
In addition to the ten individuals on the Walden Logging team, Tracy also relies on an important vendor, Knight Forestry in West Whigham, Ga. Jason Knight is president of the company and co-owner Johnny Knight is vice president.
How long has Walden Logging done business with the team at Knight Forestry? “My father was trading with their father before I began logging,” said Tracy.
Tracy’s father, Donald Walden, started Walden Logging in 1970. Tracy joined the company fulltime in 1990.
“[Walden Logging] is a small family-run business, trying to be good stewards of the land,” said Tracy. The company has changed across the years. Donald began to adopt mechanized methods in the 1980s.
Today, Walden Logging is mechanized with an array of equipment that allows it to undertake both select cutting and final cuts in pine. Tracy operates a Tigercat 720G buncher. Lengths are skidded to a landing with Tigercat skidders – one 620E and one 620C, where CSI delimbers and Barko loaders are deployed.
The CSI delimbers “are one of our most important pieces of equipment,” said Tracy. Walden Logging works one job site at a time.
Tracy owns two CSI delimbers, each one is paired with a Barko loader. One Barko 495 Magnum, trailer mounted on a Pitts, works with a tag-a-long CSI delimber. A second Barko 595 Magnum Plus, trailer mounted on a Pitts, also works a tag-a-long CSI delimber.
The Barko 595 is the most recent machine purchase Tracy made from Knight Forestry. He bought the 2015 model in November 2014. One of the many features that drew him to the machine was the opportunity to realize fuel savings, he explained.
One way the Barko 595 conserves fuel is via its load-sensing system. Because it can match the power to the load, fuel is not wasted.
Ability of the Barko 595 to deliver power to match load derives from load-sensing valves and pump that meter, thereby measuring pressure and flow. The grapple on the loader is built for precision, so the operator need not make unnecessary moves. That, in turn, reduces operator fatigue. The Barko 595 provides a reach of 32 feet.
Barko Hydraulics LLC is based in Superior, Wis. Knight Forestry has a full range of Barko ML loaders in stock. It also sells Pitts, CSI and many more brands.
“The [Barko] 595 [is well-suited] to bigger wood, [yielding] more production,” said Jason. That makes it a good fit for Tracy’s company.
Jason knows Walden Logging very well. “We’ve been selling them equipment for years and years,” he said. Moreover, the good relationships extend to friendships outside of business transactions that have developed across the long interval.
Knight Forestry will service almost any brand of equipment, unless it is under warranty, said Jason. It’s prepared to keep loggers up and running by providing ready access to parts.
“We also do all service on the scales, SI brand, on Tracy’s trucks,” said Jason. SI/Allegany truck scales are a product of Sonich Industrial Sales Co., Cleveland, Ohio.
Tracy’s company does its own trucking, hauling the sawlogs, poles, chip-n-saw and pulpwood to their buyers. All trucks are Kenworth models.
Most job sites for Walden Logging are within a 75-mile radius of its home base in Cairo, Ga. Located in Grady County in the southwest portion of the Peach Tree State, Cairo is fewer than 40 miles north of Tallahassee, Fla. The town has approximately 9,600 residents.
The Tigercat 720G feller buncher that Tracy runs is designed for tight fits. Riding on four rubber tires it can maneuver well in plantation stands, maximizing grab and bunch while minimizing disruption.
Equipment choices are made carefully at Walden Logging, which cuts mostly on private land. We asked Tracy what philosophy guided him in his work. “Treat everyone’s property as if it were your own,” he said.
Working as gently as possible requires equipment that operates with great efficiency. It also helps to have vendors that understand requirements.
Knight Forestry has a deep knowledge of the needs of loggers not only from its long history as a dealer, but also because Jason and Johnny are truly immersed. “We know the business very well because we have our own timber company, Mid-South Timber Company,” explained Jason. At Mid-South, Jason serves as vice president and Johnny is president.
The dual experiences in the wood products industry give Jason a keen appreciation of the necessity to banish downtime. He explained the attention and service given to Walden Logging is the rule. “We try to do the same for all customers,” he said.
“Dealer service and reliability [of machines]” are first and foremost what Tracy looks for when buying equipment. By working with Knight Forestry and choosing most recently the Barko 595, he is confident he gets both.
Tracy has always been on the logging side of the industry. He helped his father part time before graduating high school. Then, he went to Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. and earned a bachelor’s degree in business.
“My parents wanted me to go to college,” said Tracy, adding he is happy he did. But he also was happy to return fulltime to logging. “From an early age” he had the idea he would log.
Committed to the industry, Tracy wishes understanding of the importance of wood products were greater. “I would like to see a better public image of logging and more producers striving to promote that better image,” he said.
Walden Logging is a member of the Southeastern Wood Producers Association (SWPA), which is headquartered in Hilliard, Fla. SWPA has given voice to loggers in Georgia and Florida since 1990. The organization aims to advance the understanding of logging and foster the positive image that logging merits.
SWPA also provides members with legislative and economic updates and offers continuing education workshops. It envisions involvement as an integral part of professionalism.
Georgia is a special place in terms of wood products. “Georgia Forest Facts” issued by the Georgia Forestry Commission tell the story in brief. It is Georgia that has more timberland available for commercial use than any other state.
The state of Georgia has a land area of 37 million acres. Sixty-seven percent of the land area (24.8 acres) is forested. Sustainability defines the industry in the state, as it does increasingly throughout the nation. And tonnage of standing timber has been growing each year, given the focus on doing what it takes to replenish forests, including innovative approaches. For example, in some places fallow farms have been converted to forests. (The figures are from 2011.)
Southern pine is a valuable resource in every way. Some facts from the Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA) in Metairie, La. illustrate just how much so.
We all know that southern pine has long been favored for pressure treatment. SFPA reminds us that the unique cell structure of the wood makes it particularly suitable for such treatment. The cell structure allows the preservative to penetrate in a more uniform way.
Yes, southern pine has beauty and abundance. It also has a high specific gravity, one that exceeds most common lumber species used in structures. That translates into notable load-bearing strength and fastener-holding power.
Sustainability is more-or-less built into southern pine – longleaf, loblolly, shortleaf and slash – because of the ease with which trees can repopulate areas that have been harvested. Then, there’s the significance the southern pine species have
in sequestering carbon. (Physicist Freeman Dyson once suggested that instead of fretting about adding carbon to the atmosphere, everyone should plant more trees. True, some scoffed at him. But planting is part of the answer to any question that involves carbon balance among air, land and water.)
Tracy enjoys being part of the wood products industry, especially immersed in southern pine. He also appreciates having a partner in Knight Forestry.
“Knight Forestry is a great family-run business that strives for customer satisfaction,” said Tracy. That sentiment is reciprocated by Jason.
“They are very good loggers and very good friends,” said Jason of Tracy and his team at Walden Logging. Getting to know loggers is part of doing business at Knight Forestry, with members of the Knight team going out to visit job sites of customers just to get to understand their needs better.
There are many things to relish in his chosen profession, said Tracy. They include the “outdoors, meeting different people and seeing different places.”
In his free time, Tracy enjoys spending time with his family, in his church, and fishing and hunting.