POLK COUNTY – Willamette Valley Firewood is a new forestry and firewood company serving Polk County.
He plans to expand his nonprofit business and one called Camp Unity to help people develop the skills they need to be employable.
Ed Scott and Brady Watcherman have found that there is a growing need for people to reduce fire danger and clean up storm damage on their wooded property or large lots. The company has worked with small private owners in a variety of situations who also have a wide range of ideas on what the property will look like when the project is completed.
Watcherman says the key to their success is to listen to what the customer really wants.
“Some people want their property to look like a park and have very little (or no) evidence that equipment has been on their land,” he said.
Others just want to eliminate the more visible damage caused by wind or ice storms. Still others wish to reduce the risk of fire by reducing the overall fuel load, thinning trees, clearing brush and removing all vegetation near structures.
Watcherman meets with landowners at their sites to learn about their needs and help them understand how to have a healthier forest. One method they often use is to mulch, shred and spread the brush residue. This is not only attractive, it also helps the soil retain moisture and prevent weeds from falling. Watcheman said, “I find joy in building the relationship and keeping the customer happy.”
As the name of the company suggests, a large part of Willamette Valley Firewoods’ business involves chopping, splitting, drying and delivering firewood. They’ve invested in the equipment they need to be successful, including: a dryer, skidder, forklift, log splitter, commercial truck with load unloading capabilities, and industrial bins.
They offer a blend of hardwoods of oak, maple, ash and cherry. They also offer a “woodstove blend” of 75% hardwood and 25% fir. Firewood is kiln-dried, so it has a constant moisture content, burns efficiently and is free from pests.
Holm oak can be kiln dried in three days, instead of the roughly two years that air drying requires. Kiln drying is also a way to meet the phytosanitary requirements of seasoned wood by maintaining the heat at 160 degrees for 90 minutes.
Their goal is to supply firewood to a small niche market instead of being a large producer. The clientele consists of restaurants that smoke, dirty and cook with wood. They need a relatively small amount of lumber delivered on a consistent basis.
Small residential customers, who often heat with wood or only want to burn firewood in their backyard a few times a year. All of these customers have similar needs: high quality lumber in small quantities, delivered, and exceptional customer service that meets their specific needs.
Although the standard length is 16 inches, they also cut firewood to the particular length required by customers.
“Customers are sometimes surprised at the amount of lumber in a solid cord,” Scott said. In fact, not all suppliers measure and ensure that they deliver a 4ft x 8ft x 4ft stack.
The non-profit organization called Camp Unity was created to help people develop the skills they need to be employable. The company focuses on people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction by providing them with a supportive, drug-free environment.
Scott and Watcherman find that forestry and firewood work goes hand in hand with salvage. They work with people who have completed an inpatient treatment program and may benefit from six months or more of recovery in a structured living and working environment.
They will learn skills on the job: learning to work in a team, earn a GED, be punctual, have excellent attendance, be reliable, set goals, work hard and be responsible.
Scott sets expectations, including: “Your word is worth something. It’s not just something that sounds great at the moment.
The goal is to give their residents the opportunity to live in a drug and alcohol-free environment while they learn work skills as well as job search skills, such as interviewing and writing a resume.
This is something the folks at Camp Unity have never experienced. Willamette Valley Firewood is in a temporary location a few miles north of Polk County and they are looking for a permanent location close to the small private timber owners and the firewood market.
Polk County is an area where they are looking for a location for Willamette Valley Firewood and Camp Unity in order to find a permanent home.
The properties they are currently evaluating are those with large structures such as pole barns, arenas or small industrial buildings to house the firewood business.