Virginia Company Keeps Clean Chips Flowing to International Paper Mill

Astec-Peterson Flail Whole Tree Chippers Are Integral to the Operations of Jerry D. Rose Inc.

One of the Astec Peterson chippers operating at a landing for Jerry D. Rose Inc. The company is equipped with three Astec Peterson flail whole tree chippers – two 5000H models and a spare 5000G – and also an Astec Peterson horizontal grinder.
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COURTLAND, Virginia – When you make your living chipping whole trees into ‘clean’ chips for paper production, you need reliable machines that can keep pouring out quality chips for the mill.

Jerry D. Rose Inc. began using Peterson chippers more than 20 years ago. It is still using Peterson chippers.

Jerry started his business in 1983. Before he began logging, he worked at Franklin Equipment Co. in Franklin, Virginia, which manufactured logging equipment. Later he began working for Ben E. Babb Logging. When a chipping company went up for sale, Jerry purchased it. At the time, the Union Camp paper mill in Franklin would finance equipment purchases for loggers who supplied the mill.

Today the business is operated by his son, Davis, 44, and daughter, Stephanie, 46, although Jerry still comes to work every day and is very involved in the company. Davis and Stephanie both worked for their father while in high school. Davis graduated from North Carolina State University and Stephanie, from Peace College, before they returned home to begin working for their father full-time.

The company has an office where they live in Courtland, which is only about 10 miles west of their most important customer, the mill in Franklin, now owned by International Paper. Courtland is about 50 miles west of Norfolk.

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From left, Stephanie Blythe, her father, Jerry Rose, and her brother, Davis Rose, with one of their Astec Peterson 5000H whole tree chippers. Jerry D. Rose Inc. is operated by Stephanie and Davis, although Jerry is still very involved. Davis oversees work in the field and trucking logistics; Stephanie handles all the administrative aspects of the business.

Davis is hands-on with employees in the field and also oversees all the trucking logistics. “Everything outside the door, I handle it,” he said. Stephanie is the only office employee and handles all the administrative tasks of the businesses. When it comes to investing in equipment and dealing with salesmen and relationships with the mills, they are both involved.

Jerry D. Rose Inc. has two affiliated businesses. Southeast Fiber Supply employs five people and was organized to produce fuel chips. Chip Transit, a trucking business, employs 15 full-time drivers. In all, the businesses have 42 employees, which also includes three mechanics.

Jerry D. Rose Inc. operates two crews that produce chips. The company’s goal is to produce about 5,500 tons per week or about 190 loads, said Davis. In a recent week the company produced 222 loads, and some weeks production has been as high as 250. Round wood only represents about 5-10 percent of the company’s business.

The ‘clean’ chips, produced by the company’s flail chippers, are delivered to the International Paper mill in Franklin, which buys pine chips. The mill makes ‘fluff’ pulp that is converted to make disposable diapers and other products. The company has been supplying the mill since 1983, when it was previously owned by Union Camp.

Jerry D. Rose Inc. is equipped with two Astec Peterson 5000H flail whole tree chippers. One is six years old with 10,000 hours and is “still going strong,” observed Steve Jones, a sales territory manager for Astec. The company also has a spare 5000G flail whole tree chipper that is more than 15 years old and still sees service. In addition, it is equipped with a Peterson 5400 horizontal grinder. Each chipper is a flail whole tree chipper.

The most recent addition to the company’s fleet of chippers is a Peterson 5000H that was purchased from Carter Machinery in December 2021.

Another view of one of the company’s Astec Peterson flail whole three chippers in action. The ‘clean’ chips are supplied to an International Paper mill that manufactures ‘fluff’ pulp for use in making disposable diapers and other products. An Astec Peterson 5400 horizontal grinder is used for processing all the slash material into boiler fuel.

Davis was emphatic when he explained their decision to invest in another Astec machine. “We don’t consider any other companies,” he said. “They make the best product there is.”

He turns to Carter Machinery for service and repairs. “Astec has a great group of technicians,” said Davis. “We fix a lot of our own equipment. We talk directly to Astec (technicians), and they’ll get us pointed in the right direction most of the time if we have a problem.”

In addition, the Peterson machines “are easy to work on,” noted Davis.

The machines have proven their durability and reliability. Davis pointed to the 2005 Peterson 5000G chipper that is still used as a backup machine. When the other machines are out of service once a year to replace some wear parts, “The G model will go back out and work,” said Davis. “It’s still pretty impressive to do 100-plus loads a week.”

The Peterson 5000H whole tree chipper will produce high quality, low bark content chips for feedstock to produce wood pulp and wood pellets. Equipped with a large feed throat, the 5000H can accept up to a 23-inch diameter tree or multiple smaller stems, processing whole trees in one continuous operation.

The 5000H chipper can be configured with a three or four-pocket disc with several optional sheave sizes to make precise chips. The standard three-pocket disc produces chips from 5D 8 to 1-1/4 inches; the optional four-pocket disc produces chips from ½ to 1 inch. The machine can produce up to 100 tons per hour, depending on chip size and wood characteristics.

The chipper features upper and lower chain flails that remove bark and limbs; replaceable wear liners protect the flail chamber. A high visibility, weatherized cab meets OSHA standards, and joystick controls enable precise control of the two-section knuckleboom loader. End-loading or top-loading spouts are available. The chipper disks are equipped with Key Knife or traditional Babbitt knife systems.

Peterson Pacific Corp. officially rebranded last year to align with its parent company, Astec, which was founded as a business manufacturing asphalt mixing and paving equipment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1972. Astec is known for innovation and has had many successful initiatives throughout the years. As it enjoyed steady success over time, the company acquired nearly 20 subsidiary brands across the forestry, road building, aggregate, and other industries.

Four skidders at work on a job for Jerry D. Rose Inc. The company has an assortment of skidders: three Weiler 350 machines, a Cat 535 and a Cat 525, a Tigercat 620, and a John Deere 748L.

Astec entered the forestry industry with its acquisition of Peterson in 2007. Since then, Astec has continued to grow the forestry equipment product lines, manufacturing complete industry-leading systems, including horizontal grinders, disc and drum chippers, debarkers, and blower trucks and trailers.

Astec chippers can be used for producing biomass from logs and other wood material for other forestry-related applications, such as processing residual materials from sawmills and other wood products manufacturing facilities, salvage timber operations, plantation tree rotation, and producing pulp and paper industry chips.

Astec horizontal grinders also can be used to recycle scrap pallets, used railroad ties, wood material from land-clearing operations, and similar wood debris, processing them into revenue-generating products and diverting wood material from landfills.

(For more information about Astec Peterson equipment, visit

The Jerry D. Rose Inc. Peterson machines are all disc chippers with three pockets. They are equipped with Oregon-based Key Knife chipper knives. “We flip them and sharpen them one time,” said Davis, getting two uses from each side of the knife. They sharpen the knives with a machine supplied by Key Knife.

The knives are good for about a day or a day and a half before they need to be turned, and about the same length of time after they’ve been sharpened, before they are sent to Key Knife for servicing. “We do about 30 loads before pulling them,” said Davis.

The knives can be easily changed out in only about 5 minutes, said Davis. “That’s a very good feature with the Key Knife system.”

Jerry D. Rose Inc. foresters buy timber within a radius of about 70 miles, although most of the company’s operations are within 40 miles. The range also takes them into northeast North Carolina, but that region only represents a very small percentage of the company’s timber purchases. The company buys tracts of timber from 50-500 acres.

The two crews always work on different jobs. Each crew has two Tigercat 724G wheel cutters while a John Deere 903M track harvester is used in wet conditions. The company has an assortment of skidders: three Weiler 350 skidders, a Cat 535 and a Cat 525, a Tigercat 620 skidder, and a John Deere 748L skidder.

The Peterson 5400 horizontal grinder is used for processing all the slash material into boiler fuel that is supplied to the Enviva wood fuel pellet mill in Franklin. A Barko 495 trailer-mounted loader with a ‘spider’ bucket feeds material to the grinder. A Cat D6N bulldozer pushes material to within range of the loader. Another Barko 495 is equipped with a pull-through delimber and slasher saw for processing trees into logs. A Champion motor grader and John Deere skid steers are used to build roads and trails.

At the time Davis was interviewed by TimberLine, one crew was working on a 400-acre thinning in the city of Suffolk, mainly pine timber. He likes doing thinning jobs in the summer when conditions are dry. The second crew was doing a 225-acre clear-cut closer to Courtland; the tract is mostly pine with some gum and poplar. The crew for the affiliated company, Southeast Fiber Supply, will come in later and chip the hardwood pulp. Southeast Fiber Supply, which was organized in 2013, supplies fuel chips to Enviva and Dominion Virginia Power.

Jerry D. Rose Inc. has had its own affiliated trucking business off and on over the years and has sold it and bought it back. The company also uses trucking contractors to supplement its hauling operations.

Logs only represent about 5-10 percent of the company’s business. “We really attack the pulpwood market, which is what we try to go after,” said Davis. Logs are supplied to the Georgia-Pacific plywood mill in Emporia, Virginia, and the Ashton Lewis sawmill in Gatesville, North Carolina.

The chip market is “very good,” said Davis. Log markets are “variable,” he said. “It comes and goes. It’s been pretty good.” He characterized fuel chip markets as “pretty good.” All the mills he supplies have been paying a fuel surcharge to help loggers with the higher cost of fuel in recent months.

Some employees have been with them since Jerry started the business in 1983. “We have the best team in the industry,” said Stephanie. “There’s no doubt.”

“Last year we added a retirement plan for employees that they have really appreciated,” added Stephanie.

Jerry D. Rose Inc. and the affiliated businesses have regular safety sessions. “We do a lot of safety training,” said Davis, who is a member of the Virginia Forestry Association and the Virginia Loggers Association. He conducts safety training sessions in the woods with the crews every month. Truck drivers attend monthly safety meetings, too. In addition, Forestry Mutual conducts safety meetings for all employees twice per year to provide OSHA and first aid and CPR training.

In her free time Stephanie stays busy with her family of teenagers. Davis coaches softball in the spring for Southampton Academy.