Pisgah Hardwood puts together a plan that is based on scientific forestry principles, follows all best management practices, and carefully considers the owner’s needs. Once they determine what is best for the site, they then assess the timber market value to help determine cost. “Pisgah Hardwood seeks a win-win plan for both parties. We try to honor and celebrate the resources of our Tar Heel State, by keeping the forests sustainable and the landowner in a position to continue to own the forest. We always try to do what is best for the environment, according to scientific forestry principles, so all parties are thriving and happy at the end of the day,” John says.
Pisgah Hardwood is a commercial business, requiring an owner to have a minimum of 20 acres. They have the horsepower and the manpower to work the mountains of Western North Carolina—sometimes not an easy task. They do not clear cut, unless the site requires that treatment. Pisgah Hardwood will clear areas for development or subdivisions in certain situations. Over the years, they have done a lot of work for the U.S. Forest Service, which of course goes out for bid to many people. With these jobs there are always pages upon pages of detailed regulations to follow. Unfortunately the recession starting in 2008 hit the company hard, but they were able to clean up after an ice storm at Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee, which kept the company alive.
Another Step Forward
Over many years, John Fletcher has brought high grade hardwood logs to the Canton Sawmill, which he is now reorganizing and retooling for greater efficiency. A sawmill goes hand in hand with forestry management. They both need each other to be effective and efficient in production. The logs brought to this mill are being cut only for the highest and best quality items—not mass produced. In this way the Canton Sawmill can be thought of as a “boutique” sawmill, that concentrates on quality material for quality construction and possibly in small quantity.
The sawmill is an amazing operation with enormous machines cutting mature timber into lumber. There are 19 full time employees who have extensive sawmill experience. “They are a talented group of men. Experience around a sawmill is hard to find, and we have a great group. We cannot run without these dedicated people,” says John. The sawmill runs four, ten-hour days and handles maintenance work on Fridays. The logs are loaded onto a log deck and taken to be debarked. A chain conveyor moves the logs to the in-feed deck. The logs are then placed onto a carriage and cut on a seven foot McDonough band mill. Once converted into boards, they are carefully stacked, marked as to length, width, and thickness, and then sent to dry carefully and slowly in the kilns. Some lumber is also sold green to various markets. Every part of the tree is used. Nothing goes to waste. Smaller pieces are cut into chips for paper, and even the bark is used for mulch. As John says, “This is a rough, mean business, but timber is the backbone of the housing industry. Just look around, wood is everywhere. Western North Carolina is blessed to have these amazing forests.”
The sawmill annual lumber production is between 6.8 and 7.2 million board feet. Twenty percent (20%) is pallet core production, 20%-25% is flooring oak; 55% is used in the manufacturing of furniture, cabinetry, trim, and paneling. Pisgah Hardwood tries to maintain a standing timber inventory of 2-4 million board feet at all times. This insures a steady supply of logs to the mill, which allows the mill to cut particular species for the current market demand.
According to the North Carolina Forestry Association, a well respected conservation organization, in a recent report on the forest products industry in North Carolina, “The forest products industry continues to be North Carolina’s second largest manufacturing industry, employing over 118,000 North Carolinians with an annual payroll of some $3.8 billion. There are over 3,000 forest product manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, and the forest products industry impacts every North Carolina county. When applying an economic multiplier, the total economic benefit of this industry is $29.7 billion and represents over 312,000 jobs.”
With housing starts in January up 23.8% from a year ago, hopefully the tide is turning, and the economy in the United States seems to be recovering slowly. Home Depot in February announced that their quarterly profit had jumped 32%, and they are hiring more employees. Prices for framing lumber, plywood and paneling all seem to be climbing. With the Canton Sawmill up and running, no one will have to haul their Appalachian logs for miles and miles to be cut into useable timber. So hopefully this added responsibility for the Fletchers will contribute to the overall business’ bottom line. “Pisgah Hardwood had the opportunity to help Sierra Nevada in their quest to use the trees from their construction site by assisting in the felling of the timber. Canton Sawmill milled the wood according to the desired specifications, and the finished Appalachian lumber will be showcased at Sierra Nevada’s East Coast facility. To be a part of something that started in the woods and now can really take it to the second and third steps is amazing. But I must give thanks and credit to the family friends that made this whole trip a reality. We all need support and help, and I am truly grateful for all the assistance in this critical endeavor,” John said.