The Firewood Business Is Big Business

Although the upstate New York property he bought was a fully functioning farm, Lloyd Otis quickly discovered his cash cow in the firewood business.

| November/December 1979

  • 060-firewood-business2.jpg
    A tremendous asset to his firewood business, Lloyd Otis's automatic sawer/splitter can cut 50 face cords of firewood in one day!

  • 060-firewood-business2.jpg

Nearly everybody knows someone who occasionally cuts and peddles firewood to bring in a few extra bucks. But, during the 1979/1980 winter alone, Lloyd Otis—manager of Douglaston Manor Farm in Pulaski, New York—will market 4,000 to 5,000 face cords of hardwood at $25 per cord wholesale and $28 retail.

And—since it's not unusual nowadays for Mr. Oils to receive a single order for 1,000 cords—his ultimate production and marketing goal of 10,000 cords a year may be just around the current energy-crisis corner.

A Modest Beginning

Lloyd's fast-growing firewood business began—quite modestly—in 1975, when he took over the operation of the 4,000-acre farm owned by New York State Senator H. Douglas Barclay. He found that the farmhands—in clearing trails through the property's hardwood forests—had cut and stacked some 100 cords of maple, beech, cherry, and ash. Not being one to let potential income go to waste, the new manager got permission to sell this energy resource to the local community.

The 100 cords sold so rapidly that Lloyd decided to have 600 more cords cut by the following fall. However, even he was a little amazed when vehicles from as far away as Syracuse and Oswego overflowed the farm driveway and waited patiently in line to cart off the suddenly popular product.

That demand, though, was just fine with Mr. Otis. He figured he could simply increase the supply to meet the slew of orders that were sure to come in during the following season. To do that, the manager sold timber rights on sections of the farm's abundant woodland to the highest bidder, then arranged to buy back the cull timbers (which the loggers delivered right to the farmyard) for a small per ton price. And to insure a continuous supply of wood, he bought culls from other area loggers as well.

Once the logs were delivered, Lloyd and his helpers used chain saws and hand splitting tools to turn out 10 to 15 face cords a day. Yet despite the fact that 2,000 cords were stacked and waiting for the third season, firewood-hungry New Yorkers had purchased the farm's entire stockpiled supply by the beginning of the New Year!

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