Jacobs TFOY Tour: Diverse Owner Management Goals
The annual Tree Farmer of the Year (TFOY) Tour gives WCSWA members and others interested in outstanding tree farm management a chance to see what their peers are doing on their tree farm. The 2006 Tree Farmers of the Year, Dirk and Liz Jacobs were this year’s tour hosts. They treated a large gathering of local tree farmers to some very interesting presentations and demonstrations at their tree farm on Shearer’s Hill Road in the Gales Creek area.
The morning started off with an intriguing presentation on truffle growing by Charles Lefevere, a local expert in truffle growing, harvest, and marketing. Charles caught the audience’s attention early by stating that a revolutionary event occurred recently: Oregon truffles were shipped to French markets! In the past Oregon truffles were not thought worthy of European palettes, but now the European markets are beginning to show interest in our local truffles. Charles explained that there are three types of native Oregon truffles: 2 white truffles and one black. The value of Oregon truffles varies considerably according to the species, ripeness, and other factors, but can range from $150 a pound to over $800 a pound.
Truffles are harvested by raking in the duff beneath fully closed forest canopies. Douglas-fir is perhaps the most common location for truffle patches. In Europe, dogs or pigs are used to sniff out the ripe truffles (from pea to baseball sized) beneath the duff layer.
In the U.S., raking is the method most used, but it does unnecessarily disturb large areas in order to find the truffle patches. Truffle hunting may occur from mid-December through May, depending on the species of truffle.
Small woodlands are excellent places to grow and harvest truffles, according to Lefevere. The 15 to 30 year old plantations found on many small tree farms that used to be pasture land are ideal places for truffles to grow. On these better sites, 10 pounds per acre may be harvested regularly, with up to 50 pounds per acre if the site is managed. There have been cases where 250 pounds per acre have been produced. Jory soils are well known for truffles. Moisture is important, so on some sites some irrigation may increase yields. Higher Ph’s are also better. Charles explained that truffle hunting is characterized by a “cult of secrecy”, where truffle locations, harvest methods, and even markets are closely guarded in order to reduce competition. However, he offered his web site (www.truffletree.com) as an information source.
Bob Browning, a Forest Grove attorney who deals extensively with land and property law, also gave attendees a lot to think about. Bob likened property law as akin to a “teeter-totter”, where finding a balance is important. In the case of property law, both the rights and responsibilities of the property owners must be considered. Bob explained that finding that balance, one that leaves both parties in a state of mind that allows them to continue to co-exist side-by-side, is important. He explained that in the world of property law, reality often trumps legality, where winning may actually make you a loser. Bob encouraged property owners to get advice on problems early, before the situation escalates, or options are lost.
Liz explained the retail grocery market firewood operation that she and Dirk operate. They noticed after their first thinning operation that once the logs were hauled off, they were left with a lot of wood still on the ground. They also knew that blow-down and other silvicultural operations would generate even more wood that was not suitable for the mill.
Liz came from a family background in the grocery business, and knew the ins and outs of marketing to grocery owners and managers. The answer – create a value-added firewood bundle that could be distributed at groceries. Over time they have added supporting equipment, such as a flatbed truck, a log splitter, and a plastic wrap machine.
They now market to a group of groceries, delivering on an as-sold replenishment basis. Liz estimates they have turned the previously near worthless wood to firewood worth about $435 a cord. Liz and Dirk display their firewood bundling operation. Dirk then demonstrated how he creates personal use lumber from small diameter bolts using a portable, electrically powered band saw that slices boards from a bolt, using a guide to keep the saw aligned and at the proper thickness. Liz provided the lubrication for the band saw with their son’s “Super Squirter” water gun! Dallas Boge brought his Alaskan chainsaw type mill along, and demonstrated a similar operation for creating boards for personal use.
Tours of the diverse timber stands on the Jacob’s 14 forested acres followed. The diversity of the stands matches the diversity of the Jacobs’ management goals, demonstrating that even small woodland properties can provide many opportunities to generate income while satisfying their owner’s desires to live and work on their woodland.
Thanks to Dirk and Liz for putting on a great
tour! Thanks also to those who helped them.