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Florida Logger Adds Chipping Operations: Morbark Whole Tree Chipper Enables Company to Get More Business, Increase Revenue

Burgundy Farms – Florida Logger Adds Chipping with Morbark Machine

By Staff
Date Posted: 10/1/2008

HAVANA, Florida — As it is in most parts of the country, logging in south Georgia is a struggle to secure contracts and maximize what little profit margin remains after things like increasingly huge fuel costs take their bite.

      For Clint Beckham and Burgundy Farms, it has meant establishing a new part of the business, modifying an existing one, and choosing equipment that could improve production while lowering fuel costs and machine wear.

      This last change — switching to a pair of self-feeding Morbark Model 30/36 Whole Tree Chippers — is allowing his company to dramatically streamline the loading process and improve production rates. In tough economic times like these, this is the kind of business move that can be the difference between surviving and not surviving.

      For as long as he can remember, the timber industry has been in Clint’s blood. Growing up in Havana, Fla., in a region with abundant timber resources, his father ran a trucking business that served both the logging and paper industries. When he reached college age, Clint set his sites on earning a forestry degree from the University of Georgia. In 2004, armed with his degree and a vision, he started Burgundy Farms, a logging contracting business.

      “At that time, we had only about a half-dozen people working for us,” Clint recalled. “But slowly and steadily, we built the business to where we are today: a logging and hauling operation employing about 32 people.”

      The company’s loggers work within about a 70-mile radius of its offices in Havana, which takes them to the Florida state line, while trucking operations extend to a 100-150 mile radius.

      Clint is considering relocating the main office to nearby Bainbridge, Ga. to meet a number of needs. The majority of Burgundy Farms employees, including Clint, live either in Bainbridge or elsewhere in Georgia’s Decatur County, so driving times would be shortened.

      “In addition to shortening everyone’s commute, we can benefit another way,” said Clint. “Trucks headed to our main haul, a paper mill at Cedar Springs, as well as those hauling back from a Hosford, Florida OSB plant, all have to go right through Bainbridge. Given the price of fuel today, anything we can do to increase transportation efficiency is a direct plus on our bottom line.”


Finds More Business

in Cleaning Up Slash

      Clint’s business operations are traditional in most regards — bidding on timber and harvesting the pulpwood, pine saw logs and hardwood saw logs, and supplying them to mills and other customers.

      Within the last 18 months, though, he launched a new service to landowners that gives Burgundy Farms an edge over competitors: removing the logging slash and debris that is generated from timber harvesting operations.

      “In the past, like most everyone else around here, we would just take the logs and move on. Now we take what was once considered waste, run it through either of our Morbark chippers and make a product out of it. In addition to being a second revenue stream for us, it also really helps us buy timber. Landowners want to see a clean job, and because we use the waste rather than leaving it, we are cleaner than anyone else doing this around here.”

      The chips are sold to various markets for boiler fuel, mulch or other applications.

      Clint is beginning to see a decent return on investment from the chipping operations, but it has taken some time. He added the chipping capability about a year and a half ago and has modified the operations since that time.

      “When we first made the decision to chip our waste material, we purchased a drum-style chipper with a cone-shaped drum from a well-known manufacturer. In all honesty, that was a good machine, but it lacked any kind of infeed system — a real drawback for us. So at every site we worked, we had to run two loaders: one to sort our round wood and load trucks, the other to feed the chipper and help with the sorting. As a result, we weren’t getting the efficiency or the production rates we felt we should be getting.”

      To remedy that, Clint looked at almost all the major manufacturers of chipping equipment, eventually choosing Morbark.

      “We looked at everything that was out there,” he said, “but felt that the Morbark was far more robust than any of the others yet actually came in at a better price than some. The decision has really been a good one for us. Now we can just throw our debris up on the unit’s infeed table and start filling trucks. That’s had a really nice impact on production.”


Expanding Business

      Growth of Burgundy Farms has also meant adding a component of the business dedicated to hauling wood fuel products out of area mills.

      “This area is fairly rich with plants that make wood and wood-based products such as OSB,” said Clint. “Every one of those plants generates some form of waste product — bark, chips, sawdust or fines, and so on. We have seven trucks and roughly 15 people that are committed to that side of the business alone. And we are looking at some other opportunities that will really be a nice shot in the arm if they come through.”

      While cautiously optimistic, Clint said the skyrocketing cost of diesel fuel is putting a damper on growth.

      “We don’t have a lot of profit margin in this business, and what little we do have is being eaten up by fuel costs,” he said. “But we’re working hard to make inroads with the bigger companies around here, largely with our reputation as a company that comes in, does a quality job, and leaves a good looking site when we’re done.

      “The Morbark equipment is helping us do that, and, at the same time, allowing us to make money from a product that was once left on the ground. That’s an advantage we didn’t have before, and it can only help us.”


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