Hauger Forest Products
Article #236, June 2016
By Dave Wellman and Bill Cook
In working with the Michigan Forest Association as their magazine editor, I am regularly exposed to interesting aspects of forestry and the forest industry. Earlier this year, I learned from colleague and friend Dave Wellman about a manufacturer of USDA certified firewood for the food industry and recreation purposes. The “heat-treated” firewood has legal-standing, comes with a label, and is insect and disease free, which serves an emerging market, given the recent increase in exotic forest pests and subsequent regulations.
Hauger Firewood, of Levering, Michigan, originally developed their certified firewood production as a way to use low-grade sawlogs that they bought for their main business of producing lumber at a family sawmill. Eventually, the firewood business grew to the point where it took time away from the lumber production. It was then that they started purchasing hardwood pulp from local producers. About the year 2000, Hauger Forest Products got serious about firewood. The firewood business is now year-round with three full-time mill employees and a bookkeeper/order taker.
Located in the northwest part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the region is rich with ski resorts, campgrounds, recreational houses, and similar sites. Warming fires and campfires are integral parts of the “up-north” experience. However, emerald ash borer, in particular, led to legitimate concerns about transporting untreated firewood. There are, of course, other forest pest concerns, too, such as oak wilt, gypsy moth, hemlock woolly adelgid, balsam adelgid, Asian long-horned beetle, and the list seems to grow each year.
As the firewood regulatory environment tightens with increasing forest health concerns, there will be even more demand for heat-treated firewood from large grocery stores, big box stores, restaurants with wood-fired ovens, state parks, and other outlets. Hauger Firewood plans to expand into the Upper Peninsula.
Heat-treated firewood is kiln-dried. USDA regulations specify 160˚F for 60 minutes for food industry use. This process kills all molds and larvae that must be excluded in food areas. Wood used in the food industry must carry the USDA certification label. For a “dry firewood” designation, twelve hours are needed to reduce moisture below 20 percent. There are other heat schedules for different product labels.
This is where the somewhat exclusive heat-treated firewood idea comes in, as odd as it might first seem. The “Kiln-Direct” firewood kiln is manufactured in North Carolina. This particular kiln is 30’ long, 8 feet wide and 13’ high and can produce 265˚F heat. This kiln will hold 12 cages, at 1.5 cords/cage, for a total of 18 firewood cords. Sensors measure both temperature and heat time. Those data are recorded at the mill’s computer and then forwarded to Washington, D.C. for certification verification.
The kiln is propane-fired. However, a better marketing angle could be had by using wood to heat the kiln, and it would be more sustainable and carbon-friendly.
The American Firewood Producers and Distributors Association (http://afpda.org) has a good explanation about the need for certified firewood. The process can be found under the USDA APHIS (Agricultural Plant Health Inspection Service) “Treatment Manual” chapter six.
Finding certified firewood vendors can be difficult. In Wisconsin, the WDATCP (Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, Consumer Protection) lists several “heat treated” firewood dealers located throughout the state. In Michigan, one might be able to find a heat-treated firewood vendor through the Firewood Scout website.
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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Forest Biomass Innovation Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: email@example.com
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