The well-known Wisconsin forester and forest owner, Jim Birkemeier, established the Spring Green based Timbergreen shortly after purchasing his first Wood-Mizer sawmill in the late 1980's. Since then, the business has become a model of sustainable forestry and local economic growth with their unique forest to finished flooring system being taught and implemented all over the world. By managing his family's forestland with natural and environmentally friendly practices, Jim has created a profitable plan for the private forest owner, turning Timbergreen Farm into a successful and growing business that is "green" in more ways than one.
Jim was introduced to a life of forestry at a young age when his family purchased timber land more than 40 years ago. Continuing along this lifelong path, Jim studied forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating he recalls, "An old gruff sawmill owner told me as a young forester, if you want to learn about forestry, get a sawmill'. He was right!" following the elder's advice, in 1988 Jim purchased a Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic gas powered sawmill, but explains that it was initially bought to make more money in order to pay for good logging practices on his farm. "Paying a logger well and earning a profitable income for the forest owner is our priority, so we can manage our land for the future," said Jim. "Now I teach others to earn a good income from their forest and trees and have spoken about our business at four international UN Forestry Conferences."
In 1997, Jim established The Sustainable Woods Cooperative Movement on the hillside across from his log home, focusing on methods of utilizing dead, dying, and downed trees for usable lumber and high value furnishings. Throughout the years, Timbergreen Farm's business model has been taught in more than 20 different countries! Jim has found that speaking with other forest owners allows them to learn from each other and create a collaborative education of sustainable forestry practices in the process. "By controlling the entire forest to finished product business system, we all understand trees, forestry, woodworking, and marketing finished products," said Jim. "We get to hear directly from our happy costumers how much they love their wood flooring and finished products, which is really rewarding!"
A large part of Timbergreen Farm's business policy is sawing a large variety of logs that the industry would say was firewood or waste. "I feel great satisfaction in putting local people to work using logs the 'experts; say are worthless," Jim adds. "This allows us to let our forest grow naturally, letting all the good trees thrive as long as they are healthy and vigorous." Timbergreen doesn't just utilize trees from their own forestland, but they are also very active in urban forestry as well, salvaging unhealthy, fallen, or hazardous trees from nearby metropolitan areas. The ability to turn a dying tree into something of high value, instead of it being chipped, split, or scrapped, is a main focus of the Timbergreen Farm philosophy.
Today, Jim operates with an LT40 Hydraulic electric sawmill sawing 500 board feet per day. In this business system, Jim says about 10% of his time is spent on each harvesting, saw-milling, stacking, manufacturing, installing, marketing, teaching, traveling, and "goofing off" at his dead end road family farm. "We love our sawmill and use it in many creative ways to make money," said Jim. "We tell people every day what a wonderful, simple, safe machine it is - allowing us to earn 100 times what a timber buyer would pay for our trees in the traditional timber marker."
Jim says that because of their unique business model, Timbergreen Farm doesn't focus on sawing for volume, but rather making the highest value products possible out of each log they salvage from their land. "To manage our forest in a profitable manner, we have learned to saw small diameter logs, curved/crooked/cull trees, and small species left by high-grading loggers," said Jim. "We have 200 acres of timber and we use some urban trees in the region as well. Flooring, doors, cabinets, gifts, housewares, jewelry, frames, cheese boards, and ornaments are just a few of the things we sell from our forest." Although Timbergreen makes a wide variety of high quality products using eco-friendly methods, Jim specializes in making custom blended species flooring that he also installs in costumers' homes. Timbergreen Farm's seven other employees have their specialties as well as including making picture frames from scrap wood and laser cutting and engraving for the international market presence on the internet.
"100 dead and dying tree were salvaged by Timbergreen Farm in 2013. The potential income from our 200 acre forest is over $1,000,000 per year - if only people would buy more local wood!" - Jim Birkemeier
Timbergreen Farm capitalizes on the rugged durability of Wood-Mizer DoubleHard blades in order to salvage dead and dying trees from their land. To increase blade sharp life, Jim says they utilize their Debarker for occasional dirt and sometimes a pressure washer if thier logs are extremely dirty. "We keep our logs clean while harvesting," said Jim. Keeping logs as clean as possible, lengthens sawmill blade life and limits the sawing downtime from changing blades frequently. Timbergreen also limits the distance logs travel to the sawmill in order to cut down transportation costs. "We use a radio controlled winch, arches, and a pre-hauler that carries the logs an average of a half mile to the sawmill," explains Jim.
Jim touched on what the future holds for the Timbergreen Farm. "I just want to share with other business owners the success we have with marketing our products. We use the good tools of globalization to our advantage so our small family business can connect to the worldwide markets for wood products. Our system can put one person to work with a rewarding job for every 10 acres of forest growth, or for the 50 trees cut in a year in the urban forest. We hope to share with others so they gain the confidence that what we do is not all that hard, and they can do it too."
Timbergreen Farm was awarded First Place in the Hydraulic Sawmills category during the Wood-Mizer 2014 Business Best Contest. Connect with Timbergreen Farm at www.TimbergreenFarm.com and www.TimberGrowers.com.
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