A Story of Firsts: Gutchess Lumber Reaches Northern Vietnam

Ho Nai, Vietnam- Dang Nguyen and his furniture shop can list the cases for the existing orders: White Oak cabinets for young Vietnamese couples who just moved from the U.S back to No Nai, Walnut tables for the roof top bars of the Marriott hotels, Hard Maple flooring for the local Japanese temples; so on and so forth, for each order made.

All these orders are signed by Dang, the owner of the workshop. His father opened the shop back in the 1990’s, with only wood sourced from local species like Acacia and Rubberwood. Dang’s father knew that there was one job in the lumber industry he didn’t know how to conquer-finding quality hardwood to bring in from the United States. Dang set out to conquer this challenge.

“It is supper frustrating,” said Dang’s brother, Mr. Nguyen, on the phone. “We thought we were the master of White Oak furniture pieces, but cracks appear after 3 months because the lumber wasn’t dried well. We just wish people will respect our products, not complain and claim us.” Dang added, “Customers in Northern Vietnam will call you at 3:00 AM during the night, because he can’t close the Red Oak door in the living room, and that door comes out of our factory….” Dang paused for few seconds and said, “Wish you were on the phone with him.”

“I won’t understand Vietnamese, but I can guarantee our quality White Oak will ensure your sleep during the night,” Gutchess Lumber salesman Aman Huang replied.

Then, Dang asked, “Where is the region you harvest your White Oak logs? And what’s the color like?”

I told him, “Mostly in New York and Pennsylvania, and all in wheat color…. I mean very consistent color.”

“What’s the MC%?”

“Around 8-10%, but I recommend you set aside the stocks for 2 weeks after you receive the lumber. Lumber needs some time to adapt to local relative humidity.”

Gutchess Lumber reaches Northern Vietnam

After several more conservations, the deal was made. It is the first load Gutchess Lumber ever sold to Northern Vietnam, and it is the first load of lumber Mr. Dang Nguyen bought directly from the U.S. 2-months after Dang received his hardwood from Gutchess Lumber, Dang and I met at a wood convention in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His words to me solidified my promise that he would no longer receive calls late into the night.

Dang simply said, “Now my masterpiece found the final piece, the quality hardwood from Gutchess lumber.”

Gutchess Lumber Premium Hardwood

I started with Gutchess Lumber as an intern. At the time, I was pursuing a master’s degree in Wood Science at SUNY ESF, while also taking supply chain management classes at Syracuse University. When I first started in 2015, I was in the log yard and did not foresee myself working in the lumber industry in the beginning. After more exposure to the mill production, studies of product yields, learning NHLA grades and stack lumber, plus free business trips to China as an interpreter for Gutchess Lumber President and Vice President, Matthew Gutchess and Brian Conklin, my interest was secured. Not only did it align with my education in wood and lumber techniques, but whole industry supply chain management as well.

Upon graduation from college, I was offered a position in the sales department and where I have been through the last 5 years. I am the Asia sales representative, which has continued those free business trips 4 times a year (pre-Covid). Whether I am abroad in Asia or at the Gutchess Lumber Cortland Headquarters, I can assure my customers that the premium quality lumber we provide will guarantee a peaceful nights sleep.

Words from the Woods: Environmental Benefits of Active Forest Management

Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc.’s “Words from Woods” series consists of a monthly article written by our fifth-generation President and Chairman Matthew Gutchess. This is the third article in the series.

In my job as President of Gutchess Lumber, the two questions I am most commonly asked—primarily by those outside our industry—are these:

Number One: “Why does the Gutchess logo feature a pine tree, given that your company primarily manufactures hardwoods?” Number Two is inevitably some variation upon: “Your company must plant an incredible number of trees to replace those which you are cutting down, right?”

I might take a look at Number One in a future installment, but for the moment I’d like to write a few words about Number Two. GLC has been turning standing trees into lumber in central New York for at least 117 years and counting. Surely the only way to stay in business that long is to replant regularly upon completion of a timber harvest, much as a farmer might plant corn, soybeans, or similar crops every year?

Trees have been in existence for 350 million years (give or take), according to our fossil records. Life had not existed for long on Earth’s landmasses before the first trees sprang up. Forests evolved over time, enduring shifting global climate extremes of hot and cold, of wet and dry but also adapting to sometimes rapid and dramatic changes in localized conditions, such as floods or wildfires. While individual trees die, forests themselves have evolved great efficiency at seeding the ground with their eventual successors. In eastern North American hardwood forests today, new generations of shade tolerant species like sugar maple or beech wait patiently to exploit a small break in the canopy, while the seeds or nuts of shade intolerant species like cherry or walnut can’t accomplish much until some sudden transformation floods the ground with sunlight (but then, it’s off to the races!)

The point is, for 350 million years, as continents collided and came back apart and glaciers advanced and retreated, forests marched across the landscape regenerating themselves by themselves. The species which survived did so because they were by and large phenomenally good at regeneration. Humans weren’t around to plant or replant anything until the last few tens of thousands of years, or about the last tenth of one percent of the great unwritten history of forests. While humans can, and do, harvest hardwoods in an environmentally responsible manner—the overwhelmingly common practice today across the eastern half of the United States with which I am most familiar—when it comes to hardwood stands, we tend to be much less efficient than the forests themselves are at deciding how and where and which types of trees should regenerate below the overstory. Our efforts to “outsmart” hardwoods at their own best reproduction fail as often as not.

Even following the heaviest of hardwood timber harvests—“even age” versus “uneven age” active forest management strategy—the trees felled for lumber, firewood, or other end uses have seeded the ground below them and, if the soil isn’t eroded, invasive species and deer haven’t completely taken over, or nobody is financially motivated by high property taxes or other factors to create a new parking lot, native forests rapidly return, and well within human lifetimes. This happens time and again and is easily demonstrable in our records. One hundred years ago, following a brief 19th century period of extensive clearing for agriculture, New York State was about 20% forested. Today’s commonly accepted figure for total NYS forest cover is 65%. Except for a few stands of softwoods here and there, humans did not have the free time or energy to replant the 14 or 15 million acres which would have been required. For the most part the trees did it themselves, and did so far more effectively than we could ever hope to do.

Gutchess Lumber has owned parcels of timberland since the 1950’s which we’ve harvested in some cases five or six times, each time with an environmentally and economically responsible eye out for future forest health and future value through future harvests. The trees continue to come back strong.
The truth of this seems counter-intuitive—or even impossible—to many outside the industry, perhaps with visions of The Lorax and a permanent-looking cartoon field of desolate tree stumps rooted firmly in their minds whenever they think of forestry. To people commuting past familiar hillsides at 55 miles per hour, our forests can appear as static entities when actually they are highly dynamic environments – continually changing, continually growing, and continually pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere at greater or lesser rates. My own 35-acre woodlot—to which my blog will likely return next month—is the best example of this I know of.

Fortunately, the natural regeneration of our forests is observable, beneficial, and best of all explainable and understandable by anyone with or without a silvicultural degree. Judging by the sheer frequency with which I hear Question Number Two, the hardwood industry—and indeed, anyone who cares about the woods—must find ways to improve public awareness of how responsible forestry works. The environmental and economic stakes are too significant not to make the effort.

Matt

Becoming the Vice President of Natural Resources

The following was written by Vice President of Natural Resources John Zemanick. Natural Resources oversees the Forestry and Procurement Departments for Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc.

Our job in this department is to manage our nearly 30,000 acres of company owned timberlands, purchase standing timber and logs to maintain woodyard inventory levels that are needed to provide full production in the mill. This is a very rewarding but often stressful career path and department. We have to work with outside forces such as what mother nature throws us, such as rain, snow, ice, drought, as well as hunting season, harvesting and trucking contractors and once in a while an irate mill manager over species mix (they love to run Hickory), too many or not enough logs and of course Larry Lines !

John Z's forest homeMany people have asked how I ventured into this profession – I actually started out in electrical engineering, but quickly determined that was not the field I wanted for the rest of my working days. My love for the forest and outdoors started at a very young age. My father and mother would take our whole family out to a property in a remote area of Chenango County, NY. When he was just a young man, my father purchased these 60 acres, which were surrounded by state land. We referred to this place as the “farm house” because it was originally a home and farm stead that was built prior to the great depression on a seasonal road with no electricity or running water (still to this day). We used to have to pump water from a hand dug well and use oil lanterns for light at night. This was the place we would go each fall to hunt with a group of my fathers close friends, “the gang”, and we grew up eating venison/grouse and rabbit that we harvested from this property.

As I got older my group of friends would go out to the farm. We enjoyed the comradery, hunting and serenity of the forest. I decided to follow my brothers path to The Ranger School in Wanakena, the heart of the Adirondacks. As part of SUNY ESF, I attended the 1+1 program to earn an Associates and then went on to ESF Syracuse to finish my BS in Forest Resource Management. After graduation, I moved to North Carolina to start my forestry career with Georgia Pacific a leader in building products. My heart was always set on returning to New York, so I waited for a job to open at a GP run hardwood sawmill on the border of New York and Pennsylvania. I was eventually lucky enough to find my way to Gutchess Lumber in 2004, where I learned from some great, seasoned foresters how to cruise, evaluate and buy quality Northern hardwoods.

For those that have not found the right career path, there is still time to figure it out, to make changes if necessary and to work in a field that you truly enjoy and want to be doing. To this day my brother and I still own the property that had been in our family for over 60 acres and I have bought some adjoining land to add on to this sanctuary. I walk through my woodlots summer and winter and plan on TSI (timber stand improvement cuts), future sustainable timber harvests and building a small cabin so that my boys will be able to grow up and have a place that they hopefully find the same relaxation and peace in.

Words from the Woods: Environmental Benefits of Active Forest Management

Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc.’s “Words from the Woods” series consists of a monthly article written by our fifth-generation President and Chairman Matthew Gutchess. This is the second article in the series, written May 6, 2021.

While I grew up in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk area of eastern New York State, my family would make a three-hour drive to visit my dad’s parents in Cortland from time to time, generally two or three times per year. I have only vague recollections of my grandparents’ original home ten minutes away on Circle Drive, but well remember their house (and swimming pool, and ping-pong table, and winter sledding hill!) on Deerfield Heights/Surrey Ave when it was more or less brand new, built in 1976 by the Streeter family.

The 35-acre woodlot, as it existed at that time, was quite different from today’s. Near the top of that hill alongside a hayfield, my grandfather Homer had planted a great number of Norway spruces—most of which thrive and tower tall today—possibly to help manage some generally wet ground just above the house. At the top of the hayfield near the east corner of the long northern border of the property he had also planted a line of blue spruce; I recall thinking of them as the perfect height for slightly off-color Christmas trees. (In later years as they grew larger these trees failed and were removed, testament to the risks of planting versus natural regeneration. However, a line of twenty-nine beautiful red oaks planted just behind the spruce survived and are already nearing maturity in terms of height, if not in volume.)

I usually describe Deerfield’s main woods as split neatly into “upper” and “lower” sections which are divided by a short skid trail with an attractive small and hidden clearing occasionally used as a campsite. Summer evenings after dinner, Homer would sometimes take us along the fence line running all around the outside of both segments of woods in his pickup truck, driving slowly, looking for deer or other animals, or just studying the landscape. (Much of this “road” or skid trail survives today, especially in its upper half. It’s a perfect weekend morning walk with my dog.)

I’m not completely certain, but believe from the general “pit and mound” topography that the upper section of these woods has never been cleared for farming. This is certainly NOT true of the lower section, which except along its western fence contains no obvious older growth trees. Indeed, I vividly remember a very large chunk of this south-facing acreage as a sunny patchwork of blackberry bushes interconnected by many winding and interesting trails, which diverged from a common point between two large rocks near the gate at the entrance to the driveway. Much less clear in my memory were the four distinct tree species which Homer—and possibly others alongside or just before him—had planted near or among these bushes: more regimented Norway spruce along with red oak, poplar, and black walnut.

When I walked through this “lower” area in June of 2017 following an absence of nearly thirty years, the blackberries and their bright, cheerful trails which I was half-expecting to find were gone as though they had never existed. Instead, a canopied riot of white ash and black cherry—good native pioneer hardwoods—some scattered sugar maples, and dense patches of scaly black locust mixed with the four taller planted species mentioned above, along with—more ominously—various invasives including grape vine, swallow-wort, garlic mustard, and tenacious thickets of honeysuckle.

Homer died in 2006 at the end of a very successful life and career. Walking through these woods today occasionally feels like journeying back through his mind. Why did he plant the trees he did in the locations he chose throughout the woodlot, instead of allowing the lot to naturally regenerate? What was he hoping to accomplish, and what would he think of the startling transformations which have taken place since his initial interest and early work in this property?

Matt

Lady Lumberman: One Woman’s Story in the Hardwood Industry

One of the few women in the lumber industry, Trudy Burdge, shares her journey on how she became a leading saleswoman at Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc. This is her story:

My journey in the hardwood lumber industry started early: I was born into it.  My father owned and operated a small sawmill. A few of my uncles owned and operated sawmills as well. Several of my cousins worked in one of the family sawmills or were loggers cutting trees for them. Some drove truck, either hauling logs or delivering lumber. Almost every single one of my relatives was involved in one aspect or another in the lumber business. It was more than just their livelihood, it was their life. As I grew up watching them work and listening to their stories, I knew I wanted to be a part of it myself. I wanted it to be my life as well as my living.

After high school graduation, I got a job with a local hardwood concentration yard. I started out working in the plant, first stacking lumber and a few months later, driving a forklift. I spent a year in the plant before moving into the office. Over the next several years, I went from being an office worker to becoming the office manager. That role eventually led to a position working with the company IT department to develop software for the entire organization. My time in these different areas gave me a broader understanding of the business. Those opportunities provided a great learning experience that made it possible for me to ultimately move into sales, which was one of my career goals. To that end I’ve been fortunate. A lot of people took an interest and guided me along the way.  Every step I’ve taken, someone – a co-worker, a manager – has taken with me. So many have shared their knowledge. They gave their time and effort to help and teach me. For that, I am and always will a be grateful to them.

While there are still fewer women than men in the hardwood industry, we women are gaining in number. My path to sales may differ compared to other women selling lumber, but we all have a common goal of doing the best we can for our company and our customers. I am proud to represent Gutchess Lumber and to sell Gutchess Lumber products.  I am proud to be a part of an industry where a man – or woman – does business “on a handshake”. That’s how my father said it was done in his day and I’m glad it’s still done that way in mine. I was born into this; I have sawdust in my blood.  And I want to encourage and assist other young people, especially women, into joining this great industry.

Words from the Woods: Environmental Benefits of Active Forest Management

Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc.’s “Words from the Woods” series consists of a monthly article written by our fifth-generation President and Chairman Matthew Gutchess. This is the first article in the series, written April 6, 2021.

Hello!  I am Matt Gutchess, President and Chairman of Gutchess Lumber and its affiliated brands, including our online retail division Forest 2 Home.  I’m also a first-time blogger who is looking forward to discussing various topics which I hope could be of interest to readers.  As a reader, you could be a real or potential employee, a family member of an employee, a customer (or a customer of a customer), a supplier, a contractor, a competitor, an associate of the industry, an acquaintance, a friend; the possibilities are limitless.  It is quite outside of my current experience to write for such a diverse audience, but I hope to change that.

I also happen to own a small woodlot—35 acres or so—adjacent to my house here in Cortland, New York. Through multiple generations of family ownership, we have been growing high quality Sugar Maple with smatterings of Ash, Beech, Cherry, Hickory, Red Oak, Walnut, and other species of hardwoods (with a little White Pine thrown in, and even a Cottonwood, a Quaking Aspen, and a Butternut or two).  Harvested midwinter in 2018 by a single area logger—a top professional—the natural regeneration in these woods since has been both personally and professionally interesting to observe.  It had been many years since true sunlight had reached any part of this forest floor; lack of light combined with severe deer browse doomed any new trees from any possibility of growing.  Prior to 2018, the few trees shorter than 20 feet tall in these woods were badly suppressed.  The harvest did not solve my deer problem—harvests rarely do—but four spring seasons of significant new light reaching the ground are nevertheless doing wonders for the transformation of my forest.

Several months prior to this 2018 harvest, the experienced forester who walked these woods with me commented that they were park-like.  Today, tree-tops cover wide stretches of the ground, returning essential nutrients to the soil from which they came and hopefully also sheltering seedlings of true native hardwoods against the deer and encroaching invasive species.  Time will tell how successful these regeneration strategies will be.  Time will also soon break down and obscure these tops, and evidence of the harvest will become difficult for non-experts in forestry like me to find.

Matthew Gutchess mixed species woodlot. Species include: Sugar Maple with smatterings of Ash, Beech, Cherry, Hickory, Red Oak, Walnut, and other species of hardwoods with a little White Pine thrown in, and even a Cottonwood, a Quaking Aspen, and a Butternut or two.

Matthew Gutchess’ woodlot

I’d like to focus much of my blog on this woodlot, in which I spend so much of my Saturday and Sunday mornings, rain or shine.  Sticking to a reasonable budget, how can I best help these beautiful native species to overcome the challenges which surround them?  Is it a lost cause, or can I prove to myself that basic principles of active forest management can help save 35 acres, or by extension save upstate New York’s world-renowned native timber, and maybe even our environment along the way?

Matt

Community Solar 2

Community Solar Installations on Gutchess Lumber Land Set to Open in Early 2021

Clean solar energy will offset carbon emissions equivalent to over 2,000 homes in the region

As solar energy efforts have risen over the past decade and continue to rapidly increase, Gutchess Lumber is proud to open five community solar installations located on sites in Cortland County, bringing the advantages of clean, renewable energy to more people in the region. These solar sites are expected to begin feeding power to the regional electrical grid in early 2021.

“Gutchess Lumber has a five-generation commitment to the environment,” President Matthew Gutchess said, “and we’re excited to build on that legacy with solar power.” Gutchess Lumber is hosting the installations on cleared land adjacent to our logging operations.

McLean Site

McLean Site

Solar power is created by harnessing the sun through panels and is then converted to usable electricity, which can now be shared throughout the local community. Community solar, also known as “shared solar”, generates renewable photovoltaic (PV) energy that feeds directly into existing utility energy grids. This method is growing rapidly nationwide. In fact, 40 states have at least one community solar project and there are nearly 2 gigawatts of community solar installed across the United States.

Shared solar is gaining popularity, as it gives renters as well as home and business owners equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy. Here are a few of the many benefits of community solar:

  • Ease: No panel instillations and no interruptions to service
  • Savings: Overall electricity costs are lowered after applying credits to electricity bills
  • Environmental impact: Solar power does not contaminate water sources, pollute the air, nor does it utilize traditional fossil fuel combustion (a leader in greenhouse gas emission)

Developed and owned by C2 Energy Capital, these installations will each produce slightly more than 2.6 megawatts —for a total generating capacity of 13.6 megawatts. “With nearly 37,000 solar panels, we’ll produce enough electricity to offset the carbon emissions of 2,300 households each year,” said Candice Michalowicz, C2 Energy managing member. C2 Energy Capital owns and operates 130 solar projects across the country, including 20 megawatts of community systems, that offer subscribers cost-effective renewable energy.

Gutchess Lumber and our employee owners have a long history of sustainability and responsible forest management. Our land holdings already supply renewable timber resources, which sequester carbon from the atmosphere, drawing down additional carbon through natural regeneration and supplying many local government programs with critical tax dollars. By utilizing solar, Gutchess is helping to further reduce the demand for fossil fuels, a major contributor to global warming.

Create your own environmental legacy by subscribing today. Help ensure a bright, clean future for our entire area and learn how to take advantage of this exciting opportunity by visiting www.sunscribe.com.

Community Solar

As solar energy efforts have risen over the past decade and continue to rapidly increase, Gutchess Lumber is proud to open five community solar installations located on sites in Cortland County, bringing the advantages of clean, renewable energy to more people in the region. These solar sites are expected to begin feeding power to the regional electrical grid in early 2021.

“Gutchess Lumber has a five-generation commitment to the environment,” President Matthew Gutchess said, “and we’re excited to build on that legacy with solar power.” Gutchess Lumber is hosting the installations on cleared land adjacent to our logging operations.

Solar power is created by harnessing the sun through panels and is then converted to usable electricity, which can now be shared throughout the local community. Community solar, also known as “shared solar”, generates renewable photovoltaic (PV) energy that feeds directly into existing utility energy grids. This method is growing rapidly nationwide. In fact, 40 states have at least one community solar project and there are nearly 2 gigawatts of community solar installed across the United States.

Shared solar is gaining popularity, as it gives renters as well as home and business owners equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy. Here are a few of the many benefits of community solar:

  • Ease: No panel instillations and no interruptions to service
  • Savings: Overall electricity costs are lowered after applying credits to electricity bills
  • Environmental impact: Solar power does not contaminate water sources, pollute the air, nor does it utilize traditional fossil fuel combustion (a leader in greenhouse gas emission)
McLean Site

McLean Site

Developed and owned by C2 Energy Capital, these installations will each produce slightly more than 2.6 megawatts —for a total generating capacity of 13.6 megawatts. “With nearly 37,000 solar panels, we’ll produce enough electricity to offset the carbon emissions of 2,300 households each year,” said Candice Michalowicz, C2 Energy managing member. C2 Energy Capital owns and operates 130 solar projects across the country, including 20 megawatts of community systems, that offer subscribers cost-effective renewable energy.

Gutchess Lumber and our employee owners have a long history of sustainability and responsible forest management. Our land holdings already supply renewable timber resources, which sequester carbon from the atmosphere, drawing down additional carbon through natural regeneration and supplying many local government programs with critical tax dollars. By utilizing solar, Gutchess is helping to further reduce the demand for fossil fuels, a major contributor to global warming.

Create your own environmental legacy by subscribing today. Help ensure a bright, clean future for our entire area and learn how to take advantage of this exciting opportunity by visiting www.sunscribe.com.

Introducing Forest 2 Home

Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc. is proud to introduce Forest 2 Home. While Gutchess provides lumber worldwide, Forest 2 Home was created to support individual woodworkers and crafters across North America. Forest 2 Home’s goal is to make Northern hardwood accessible and affordable to all, while adhering to Gutchess’ strict quality standards.

There has been growing demand for quality and sustainable lumber, which is why Forest 2 Home is pleased to initially offer four species including Cherry, Hard Maple, Red Oak, and Walnut in a variety of widths and lengths, with other species, including Ash, Bass, White Oak, and more, coming soon.

“As many of Gutchess Lumber’s multi-generation employee owners and extended family members are woodworkers themselves, the solution to their experienced pain points became obvious: offer them the best product in this market. We take pride in carefully managing our renewable Northern hardwood species, carbon sequestering, and forest regeneration to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Forest 2 Home brings environmental benefits of responsible forestry directly home to woodworkers, which makes our lives more beautiful and enjoyable,” President Matthew Gutchess said.

Learn more on the Forest 2 Home website.