POLK COUNTY — Willamette Valley Firewood is a new forestry and firewood company serving Polk County.
He plans to expand his nonprofit and another called Camp Unity to help people develop the skills they need to be employable.
Ed Scott and Brady Watcherman found there was a growing need for people to reduce the risk of fire and clean up storm damage on their wooded property or large lots. The firm has worked with small private landowners in a variety of situations who also have a wide range of ideas for what the property will look like once the project is complete.
Watcherman says the key to their success is listening 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 is on their property,” he said.
Others only want to eliminate the most visible damage caused by wind or ice storms. Still others want to reduce fire danger 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 broadcast residual brush. Not only does it look attractive, but it also helps the soil retain moisture and keep weeds down. Watchman said, “I find joy in building the relationship and keeping the customer happy.”
As the company name suggests, a large part of Willamette Valley Firewoods’ business involves cutting, splitting, drying and delivering firewood. They have invested in the equipment they need to be successful, including: a dryer, a skidder, a forklift, a log splitter, a commercial truck with dumping capability and industrial bins.
They offer a mix of oak, maple, ash and cherry hardwood. They also offer a “wood burner blend” that is 75% hardwood and 25% fir. The firewood is kiln dried, so it has a consistent moisture content, burns efficiently and is pest free.
Holm oak can be kiln-dried in three days, instead of the approximately two years it takes to air-dry. Kiln drying is also a way to meet phytosanitary requirements for 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 big producer. The clientele consists of restaurants that smoke, dirty and cook with wood. They need a relatively small amount of wood delivered on a regular basis.
Small residential customers, who often heat with wood or only want to burn firewood in their outdoor fireplace a few times a year. All of these customers have similar needs: high quality wood in small quantities, delivered and exceptional customer service that meets their specific needs.
Although the standard length is 16 inches, they will also cut firewood to the particular length that customers require.
“Customers are sometimes surprised at the amount of wood in a full bead,” Scott said. This is because not all suppliers measure and ensure that they deliver a 4’x 8’x 4′ 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 a supportive, drug-free environment.
Scott and Watcherman see that forestry and firewood work goes hand in hand with salvage. They work with people who have completed an inpatient treatment program and can benefit from six months or more of recovery in a structured living and working environment.
They will learn skills on the job: learn to work in a team, get a GED, be on time, 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 good in the moment.
The goal is to give their residents the opportunity to live in a drug and alcohol free environment while they learn job skills as well as job search skills such as interviewing and resume writing.
It’s 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 small private wood owners and the firewood market.
Polk County is an area where they are looking for a location for Willamette Valley Firewood and Camp Unity 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.