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Garner Logging Is Small but Efficient

Barko Loader Key Machine for N.C. Contractor

By Peter Hildebrandt
Date Posted: 11/1/2005


SANFORD, North Carolina — Junior Garner, 62, has been in the logging business for 39 years.

       “We must be doing something right to be in this as long as we have,” he said.

      Garner Logging Inc. performs mainly contract harvesting and conducts tree-length logging operations. The company cuts pine and hardwoods and does both clear-cutting and thinning. Its home base is Sanford, North Carolina, which is about 40 miles southwest of the state capital of Raleigh.

      “The area of North Carolina in which I’m located has made it difficult for me to justify the expense of running any kind of chipping operations,” said Junior. “I just never could see it as something for me. When we cut tracts of timber, we do a lot of grading. The wood is then merchandized. I also do the cruising of the timber myself as well as work with a fellow named Dennis Hearn of Chatham Lumber. He buys a lot a timber, and I work closely with him, too.”

      “I’m not a big outfit,” said Junior. “I’m down to just three people — me, my brother and one other guy who works with us and has been with us about 11 years.” They try to stay within a 50-mile range from home although they will travel more, depending on the job.

      Junior has reduced the size of his business quite a bit from what it used to be. When he used to work with his father, he ran three logging trucks in addition to using contract truckers. He also had about nine or 10 employees. However, the number of workers and trucks has declined steadily since his father passed away. Keeping an eye on his bottom line, Junior finally decided that contracting for trucking was more cost effective for his company.

      “Three contract truckers haul the logs, and I pay them so much per mile,” said Junior. “This way they have their own trucks, and I don’t have any of those headaches. It’s great that I don’t have to worry about truck tires — their repairs and replacement anymore.” Junior has one truck, a trailer and a lowboy — a Peterbilt tractor, White trailer and a Rogers lowboy.

      Garner Logging uses a Franklin 5500 feller-buncher with a 20-inch saw; it can cut trees up to 30 inches in diameter if the operator ‘double cuts’ — cuts one side, then goes around to cut the other side. In small timber, the feller-buncher can bunch and handle four or five trees at a time. “Our Franklin is doing a real good job for us,” said Junior.

      The company also has a Timberjack 660C skidder and a new Franklin Q80 skidder. Trees are skidded to the landing, where Garner Logging uses a Barko 295 loader set up with a CTR 400 pull-through delimber and a CTR slasher saw. Other equipment includes a John Deere tractor, International 318C bulldozer, and two Ford pick-up trucks that are used as service trucks.

      This is the first loader from Barko that Junior has owned. He tried one out and was impressed. “I really liked it,” he recalled.

      Junior chose the Barko loader for several reasons. “It has dual swing motors on it,” he noted. In addition, it has helped him save on fuel. He also liked the way it was built and its capability. The machine has been running four years.

      “It’s been a real good loader,” said Junior. “It’s been an all-around good loader.”

      The company uses the International dozer and John Deere tractor for building roads. “I’ve been involved with road-building ever since the beginning of our operations and do that on the side as well,” said Junior. “The word’s gotten out, and people will just call me a lot of times after buying a tract of land and ask if I can put a road in for them.”

      He also uses his dozer to excavate small ponds for farmers and landowners. “I guess you could call that a hobby in some ways,” he said.

      The Sanford area contains a great deal of mixed forestland although some may be as much as 80% hardwood or 80% pine. This year he has been harvesting more pine. “At present there seems to be a little more production value in pine than in hardwood timber,” Junior noted.

      About 35% of the wood that Junior’s company harvests is low-grade hardwood that normally is supplied to a pallet company. Saw logs, both pine and hardwood, make up about 50% of the wood and are supplied to other sawmills. About 15% of the timber coming off a job is pulpwood that goes to pulp or paper companies. Some pulpwood also is hauled to concentration yards.

      Garner Logging has had no problems with theft or fire. Junior has found over the years that washing all the equipment regularly has helped reduce the risk of fire. “My daddy was always a firm believer in, you keep it clean and you won’t ever have to worry about a fire with your equipment most of the time…Keep it clean is our watchword.”

      When working in hardwood, Junior does his best to harvest as much of the tree as possible. Tops and limbs are scattered over the job in order to be broken up by the machines. “Most of the time we find that the tops will settle down on their own,” said Junior.

      Junior keeps a close eye on the company’s finances. “The main thing to do is to keep a sharp lookout on your income and outcome,” he said. “Make sure that what you are about to buy to do your work is really what you can afford. If you overload your wagon, that doesn’t go too well. I always consider my work week a three day work week when it comes to purchasing items. In the logging business, you don’t always get five days of work in every week. I act accordingly when it comes to making payments on anything.  Figuring a week as three days, you always have two extra days to play with if you do end up working a full five days.”

      When he was growing up his father had a mobile sawmill that he moved to various locations in the North Carolina Piedmont. In 1966, Junior’s father quit the sawmill business and went into logging with Junior and his two brothers. One brother died in a car crash in 1975, and his father passed away 13 years ago.

      “It was a real blow to lose my brother,” said Junior. “We used to work real closely together in the woods.”

      Now it’s Junior and his younger brother, Ricky, 45, who run the business. Ricky has been involved with the logging business since he was 17. Like Junior, he knows the business inside and out. “I really think that Ricky would be lost doing anything else,” said Junior. “I think he’ll stay in the business as long as I do.”

      Junior is a member of the North Carolina Forestry Association. He stays updated in forestry practices by taking courses periodically with the association’s ProLogger program.

      Junior buys a small volume of timber — about two to three tracts per year each ranging in size from 25 to 100 acres. “Doing things this way, you can set a little better price for yourself,” Junior said. “Now you have something to negotiate with.”

      He tries to produce about 40-45 loads of wood per week. The crew typically works nine hours a day but on Friday may quit at noon. They check the oil and tires on all the machines each morning before starting work. At the end of the day, they re-fuel all the equipment so it is ready to go the next morning.

      “We are always doing our best not to waste any time or any moves on anything that’s not necessary,” Junior said. “We simply cannot afford to. We used to run closer to 75 loads per week with our nine workers when we had a lot more saws running. Back then, even with more work, there were fewer headaches than there are today.”

      When Junior was interviewed for this article, he was working on a tract of timber that had not been cut for 60 years, and it contained a lot of big trees. He typically evaluates each job site beforehand to determine where to build access roads and to locate the landing. The Barko loader normally works at the landing, and the operator delimbs the trees, bucks the logs, stacks the wood and loads the trucks.

      Junior always tries to have the delimber set up so that the trees can be delimbed easily when they get to the landing. Usually the delimber is set up so the tops and limbs point in the direction of the woods. With that arrangement, “There is less chance of these limbs getting in the way of the truck you’re loading,” said Junior. “This way the skidder has clear access to the limbs to keep them out of the way, too.”

      Barko Hydraulics has been manufacturing knuckleboom loaders for more than 40 years. Its new ML series of loaders are designed and built for fuel efficiency, excellent lifting capacity (up to 38,180 pounds), withstanding extreme forestry operations stress, and to provide maximum swing torque. The company offers several models, including trailer-mounted loaders and crawlers.

      For example, the Barko 295ML trailer-truck mount loader is powered by a Cummins 150 hp diesel engine. The hydraulic system features a triple gear pump producing 119 gpm and a main system operating pressure of 3,000 psi; it also features continuous rotation, heavy wall tubing and multi-wire braided hoses and quick disconnect diagnostic ports.

      The all-welded construction boom with fabricated box type design features aluminum bronze bushings with grease grooves at boom pivot points. The boom has a 30-foot horizontal reach and a 37-foot, 6-inch vertical reach. At a 30-foot radius the boom can lift 5,420 pounds; at a 10-foot radius, 19,960 pounds.

      The operator’s cab of the Barko 295 ML features a forward-sloping design, pressurized cab with sound suppression insulation, windshield wipers, washer and dome light, heating, air conditioning, dual joystick controls, and tinted glass on all windows.

      In addition to its line of log loaders, Barko Hydraulics also manufactures
feller-bunchers, harvesters and processors, material handling equipment, and other forestry machines.

      Garner Logging has Stihl and Husqvarna chain saws that it uses occasionally for removing large limbs on hardwood trees. “I have, over the years, run all kinds of different chain saws,” Junior said. “But now we run mostly Husqvarna chain saws.”

      Junior’s wife, Brenda, is the company vice president and secretary. The couple has been married 43 years. When Junior takes time off, they like to travel. He and Brenda have three daughters and four grandchildren, and Junior’s main hobby is his grandchildren. “My oldest grandson wants to be a logger when he grows up,” said Junior. “He goes with me every Saturday and knows everything about the operations. I’m going to try to talk him out of it!” he said, chuckling.

      “I never had many hobbies,” he added. “I guess I always had too much of a work ethic and just ended up working most of the time.”

      Junior purchases all his skidder tires from Thomas Tire in Asheboro. Tires for the skidder and feller-buncher usually last about two years. “If you abuse the tires on your skidders, you might get only six weeks out of them,” said Junior.

      With fuel prices rising sharply recently, Junior has found it necessary to concentrate as much as possible on short nearby runs for his trucks. “Right now I’m trying hard to keep all my trucks close,” said Junior. “I’m doing my best to offset some of this added cost by using shorter hauls. When you contract, it’s hard when dealing with the mills to get any sort of adjustment for fuel increases and the trucking expense…When they have plenty of wood on hand, they don’t want to pay you any extra — despite the fact that they will raise the price for the wood when they sell it.”

        Although Junior sees a bright future for the forest products industry, it still has its challenges. “It’s harder now than it was years ago,” said Junior. “The thing is that the labor is so hard to get for this type of work. It doesn’t seem like people work like they used to. This is the reason we are down to three workers. For me, though, I see no other work. I was raised outside, and that was always my profession. I don’t have any plans of retiring from it yet. My philosophy is that if you are able to work, why not keep at it?  I truly enjoy it.”


 






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