April 30, 2018 • Jessi Kerner

Spring in Vermont: Where Bad Weather Means Good Wood

April 30, 2018 Jessi Kerner

These last few weeks in Vermont have been gray, wet, cool and grim. Coldest April in Vermont since 1974. Everyone is ready for winter to end and some warm days to arrive. Many folks find this excessively wet and cool spring to be downright unpleasant. Us woodworkers see it as good timber-growing weather.

The ash, maple and birch trees are loving this! Lots of water helps them get a jump start on the growing season, adding wood fiber, another growth ring and green leaves. Vermont is growing healthy trees for future generations to harvest, making way for more trees to grow. To those skeptics who view all logging as bad, consider this: whereas you might have a vegetable garden, the forest is our garden. You weed your peas, we weed our trees. Occasionally we take out the mature trees that have stopped growing, just as peas do at the end of their growth cycle.  We take these trees to be used in many ways, from house framing, pencils and fuel, to toilet paper, fine furniture and of course JK Adams wood products.  Other than food, wood has been the most important natural product used by humans since the dawn of time. 

Trees harvested carefully are the ultimate renewable resource. Removing trees through selective harvesting (thinning) is the method most often employed in New England which makes room for more trees to grow. When a tree is removed, the sunlight that now reaches the forest floor gives life to new seedlings.

These days, strict state and federal guidelines are in place to make sure loggers and forest road builders protect rivers, streams and certain wildlife habitats as well as take serious steps to mitigate soil erosion.  Clear cutting, used primarily in the western softwood forests of North America has given the timber industry a bad reputation and is rarely seen in the hardwood forests of New England and Canada.  In all fairness, western forest management techniques have evolved significantly over the past few decades. The industry has been very progressive and proactive in managing clear cutting in the past few decades to avoid soil erosion and to foster rapid regeneration.

The field of long term forest management started in New England, primarily because the first Europeans cut every tree available in the 15 and 1600s. As they had done in Europe, they became aware around the time of the American revolution that this new country would end up devoid of trees unless they addressed the cause. Yale University established a school of forestry in the 1800s, and New England forests have been under various degrees of care and management ever since.

JK Adams buys lumber only from suppliers who demonstrate responsible forest stewardship. The company even has its own small demonstration "Tree Farm" adjacent to our factor in Dorset, VT. We are proud to be helping the New England forest products industry by being a local user of this wonderful material that grows all around us. Today, much of New England wood is shipped out of the region with plenty going across the oceans.  Yet every month, some of the lumber from those trees arrives in our Dorset factory to be processed into a product for someone’s kitchen or home. 

Words by Malcolm Cooper and photos by Bill Eyre. Malcolm Cooper, Jr. is the owner of JK Adams Company.