The well-known Wisconsin forest owner, Jim Birkemeier, established the Spring Green based Timbergreen Farm shortly after purchasing his first portable sawmill in the late 1980s. 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.
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 customers 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. “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.”
Today, Jim operates with a Wood-Mizer sawmill and says about 10% of his time is spent each on harvesting, sawmilling, stacking, manufacturing, installing, marketing, teaching, traveling, and “goofing off” at his dead end road family farm. 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 all 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 things we make and sell from our forest.”
Although Timbergreen makes a wide variety of high quality products, Jim specializes in making custom blended species flooring that he also installs in customers’ homes. Timbergreen also makes use of a "Simple Solar Cycle Kiln" for drying their lumber on the farm. "This kiln idea could revolutionize the timber industry by empowering the rural farmers of the world to dry lumber at home — using the power of the sun," said Jim.
“100 dead and dying trees were salvaged by Timbergreen Farm in 2013,” said Jim. “The potential income from our 200 acre forest is over $1,000,000 per year – if only people would buy more local wood!” Jim touched on what the future holds for Timbergreen Farm.
“I just want to share with other business owners the success we have with marketing our products. Our system can put one person to work with a rewarding job for every 10 acres of forest growth. 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.”
The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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