Money Trees

Georgia’s forestry industry generates billions

The numbers alone speak volumes of the importance of Georgia’s forestland. In 2013, forestry’s total economic impact was $28.9 billion, providing the state with $746 million in tax revenues. The same year, it also supported 133,353 jobs and provided $7.24 billion in wages and salaries, making forest-related industries Georgia’s second-largest manufacturing employer.

With 24.4 million acres of timberland available for commercial use – more than any other state in the U.S. – Georgia benefits from valuable timber commodities like pulpwood, lumber, poles and veneer logs. Not forgetting a long list of non-timber products like Christmas trees, food, medicine and recreation, the advantages of this natural resource are truly priceless.

“Above and beyond these figures, the forests provide Georgians with an estimated $37 billion in ecosystem benefits annually,” says Wendy Burnett, public relations director at Georgia Forestry Commission, a state agency responsible for protecting and preserving the state’s forest resources.

By partnering with the U.S. Forest Service, the commission tracks forest inventory measurements across the state to ensure long-term sustainability.

“Forests lost to urbanization have been offset primarily by farmlands being converted back to forestlands,” Burnett says.

In fact, Georgia’s forestland coverage has remained stable since the 1950s.

“This data continues to show that Georgia’s forests are going to be around for future generations to enjoy.”

However, what these impressive statistics can’t tell is the deep-rooted connection between the people and the forests, the farmers and their land – a bond that has provided a livelihood to Georgians for generations.


“My story is the story of a young guy growing up in Georgia with a passion for the outdoors and the understanding that the land has been good to my family,” says Chad Nimmer, a timber business operator and member of the Georgia House of Representatives since 2011. “The land had given my family for four generations the opportunity to work and make a living.”

Raised on the family farm, Nimmer learned the treasures and toils of working the land. Always one to sneak off to the woods growing up, the stars aligned when, as a young adult, he accepted an opportunity to learn about forest procurement by working for Mac Thompson and his son, Hugh, at Pierce Timber Company.

“It was all local guys working together to buy timber and run logging crews,” Nimmer says.

Then in 2005, he was offered the chance to help grow the business further and ultimately became owner and operator of Suwannee Forest Products, a harvesting company for Pierce Timber Co. Ten years later, Nimmer’s excitement for the industry is still contagious, as is his appreciation for Georgia’s bountiful trees. On a typical day, he wakes around 5 a.m. to start checking emails from the mills and communicating with crews. That’s his routine, but he says every day brings its own agenda – from unexpected landline issues to mill meetings to operating high-tech equipment.

“It’s a seven-day-a-week job if you allow it to be,” Nimmer says. “But it’s hard work that is so rewarding.”

He’s so committed to the industry that he works to educate landowners on how they can best utilize their timber and has initiated a Timber Harvesting and Operations Program for high school seniors to learn first-hand about the logging industry and its career opportunities.

“I always enjoy sitting down telling this story – how lucky we are to manage this natural resource,” Nimmer says. “Georgia has some of the best soil to grow timber, some of the best markets and mills to utilize the timber, and we have some of the greatest professionals out there logging and harvesting. I’m amazed that I get to be a part.”

This article was published in Georgia Grown magazine | 2015-2016 (PDF) >>

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Going Global

How trade missions, education and resources benefit Wisconsin exporters

In 2014, Wisconsin hit another record-setting year with $3.6 billion worth of agricultural products exported – a noteworthy achievement because it’s a 13.6 percent increase from 2013, and the fifth consecutive year that agricultural exports have risen.

One reason for this exponential growth is that, with help from Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), small and mid-sized agribusinesses are now going global to meet new foreign buyers. These DATCP-led trade missions deliver invaluable networking opportunities – a benefit even for seasoned exporters like dairyman Tom Kestell of Ever-Green-View (EGV) Farms, who’s been trading for the last 30 years to a variety of countries, including China, Russia and India.

“We started with live cattle to South America and then moved into embryos in the mid-80s,” Kestell says. Now embryos comprise the majority of EGV’s export sales. “Last year, we exported about 2,600 embryos, and the U.S. exports around 10,000, so we’re exporting about 25 percent of the total volume.”

EGV was also one of the first embryo exporters to China in the mid-90s, and in recent years has sold around 1,000 embryos annually to the Chinese.


As one of 10 Wisconsin companies to attend the 13th Annual China World Dairy Expo & Summit in April 2015 in Harbin, China, with DATCP representatives, Kestell was surprised to be treated like a rock star of sorts because of EGV’s legacy.

“We met lots of people who were very impressed by having the world record milk-producing cow,” Kestell says. During the expo, he was able to connect with potential foreign buyers, reunite with former clients and even meet with one of the Chinese provincial vice-governors during the trip. “This was very well- planned by the state. They did a great job connecting people,” he adds.

Another added-value benefit was the education. “We visited a facility dedicated to training Chinese dairymen in the process of caring and feeding cows,” Kestell says. “We visited another facility testing the feed. They’re trying to upgrade their whole dairy industry, and we want to be a part of that.”

With dairy among the state’s top agricultural export products and China ranking third in agricultural product sales in 2014, after Canada and Mexico, Wisconsin is in a good position for future export growth.


Wisconsin is home to nearly 10,000 dairy farms, more than any other state, making it the perfect location for VES Environmental Solutions LLC, which has found success increasing milk production, animal health and conception rates through its ventilation and lighting systems. As a result, the company started exporting ventilation systems in 2008 with markets in Canada, Japan, Mexico, the Middle East and counting.

“Any country where we get a chance to put in one of our complete systems creates a huge trend and interest,” says John McBride, CEO of VES. To help meet new foreign buyers, VES has also attended numerous trade meetings arranged by DATCP.

“Recently we signed a new distributor in South Korea, Indonesia and Europe at the China Expo,” McBride says.

By coordinating with Jennifer Lu, economic development consultant with DATCP’s International Agribusiness Center (IABC), VES received assistance for booth space and signage.

“We’ve also received assistance verifying that companies in other countries are legitimate and have good financial strength prior to doing business with them,” says Jennifer McBride, owner at VES.

Whether the business is experienced or new to exporting, the IABC has a wealth of resources to tap into including navigating through the maze of export regulations and accessing new markets – making international trade easier for agribusinesses statewide.

This article was published in Growing Wisconsin magazine | 2016 (PDF) >>

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For the Love of Plants

The people and plants behind Wisconsin’s green industry

According to a survey done for the Wisconsin Nursery Association by the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service in 2002, the economic impact of the state’s green industry is $2.7 billion. But many Wisconsinites would argue it’s the native flowers, trees, shrubs, evergreens, grasses, and the dedicated professionals behind the scenes that reflect the true value and beauty of the state’s green industry.

“We love to grow plants. That’s what we’re all about,” says Tom Buechel, who’s been in the industry for almost 20 years and is head of production at McKay Nursery Company based in Waterloo, Wis.

Established in 1897, McKay Nursery leads by example with sustainable practices for plant products grown on its 2,000-plus acres. This includes growing a range of native plants such as silky and gray dogwoods, eastern hemlock, and the popular aronia shrubs, also known as chokeberry.

Using native plants in Wisconsin gardens and landscapes has become a growing trend among customers that preserves the past and protects the future by maintaining natural habitats and preventing soil erosion.

“It’s all about trying to find a balance, and the industry has made great strides at becoming better stewards of the land,” says Buechel. “We’re using cover crops to cushion the land, and we’ve seen great improvements in recycling water.”

For Buechel, it’s more than growing an excellent product; it’s understanding how that process affects the land that makes a difference.

Over the years, he has watched the industry face numerous challenges from adapting to online shopping to monitoring and preventing the spread of new insects and diseases.

“One of our best plants was autumn purple ash, and we no longer sell it, or any ash. It’s pretty detrimental.”


To better ensure plants are pest-free before they’re sold or shipped, Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has partnered with the National Plant Board to pilot a new program called SANC, or Systems Approach to Nursery Certification. McKay Nursery is a partner in the pilot program.

“To beat the pests, we have to do these things,” Buechel says. “SANC will help us look at all the procedures that affect the ways we ship plants.”

Through the program’s risk assessment protocol, growers can identify and control critical areas where pests are likely to be introduced.

Looking to the future, education and training will be key for nurseries to grow the most vigorous, healthy and pest-free stock available, and certifications like SANC may well become standard procedure throughout the industry.

“Continuous improvement has always been a focus at our company, so we’re ready for it. Likewise, I see Wisconsin’s nursery industry continuing to strive to keep plant quality high,” says Buechel.


With quarantines issued in place across the state for gypsy moth, emerald ash borer and pine shoot beetle, most nurseries are well-versed in phytosanitary certification; however, they are also required for a variety of agricultural products, including lumber and grains.

“In order to obtain a phytosanitary certificate, the shipment must be free of certain insects and diseases that the importing country deems to be injurious,” says Bo DeLong, vice president of grain operations for The DeLong Company, which has been exporting grains overseas since the late 1980s. Whether the company is shipping to China, Indonesia or Mexico, DeLong says, these certificates are vital to ensure unwanted pests don’t enter the export channel.

DATCP’s efforts in setting records for certificates issued not only signals more products being sold and shipped, but also the reassuring fact that due diligence is being practiced across the state’s agriculture industry.

This article was published in Growing Wisconsin magazine | 2016 (PDF) >>

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Horsing Around

College equestrians balance classes and competition

From schoolwork to saddling up, the life of a college equestrian is very busy. Many equine programs require a minimum of 15 hours a week beyond the average student. Then, students have to juggle personal training workouts, part- and full-time jobs, community service, campus activities and extracurricular clubs that quickly fill up their schedules.

“For most of us, practice is five times a week or sometimes twice a day depending on the schedule,” says Courtney Gardner, an agribusiness major at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) and former rodeo queen…

Read this article in Go Texan | 2015 magazine (PDF) >>

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Cheers to Science

OSU teaches the science, business and technology behind good drinks

With more than 220 breweries and 550 wineries, it’s no surprise that Oregon has a national and international reputation for growing some of the best hops and grapes in the industry. In addition to this achievement, Oregon State University leads the nation with its integrated food science curriculum, which includes the option to learn the science, business and technology behind fermentation.

“Our department is the second-oldest food science department in the United States. We are also one of two national programs in fermentation sciences,” says Dr. Robert McGorrin, head of the university’s Food Science and Technology Department since 2000. Launched in 1995, enrollment in the fermentation science program has expanded exponentially over the past 20 years. In 2015, about 65 percent of students majoring in food science pursue this option.

Read this article in Growing Oregon | 2015 magazine >>

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Expanding Export Opportunities in Florida

Agricultural exports to benefit from Panama Canal expansion

The largest project at the Panama Canal since its original construction should be complete in 2016. To determine how the state’s agriculture industry can best capitalize on the opportunities tied to the expansion of the canal, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam visited Panama City in January 2014. Joining him on this briefing and tour was Joel Sellers, international sales manager for Florida’s Natural Growers, one of the largest cooperatives of independent citrus growers with more than 60,000 acres of groves located in the heart of Central Florida…

Read this article in Fresh From Florida | 2015 magazine (PDF) >>

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Not Your Average Summer Camp at okPORK

A complete pork industry experience at okPORK Youth Leadership Camp

There were 15,000 jobs and counting in Oklahoma’s pork industry as of 2013, yet when students are asked about career paths within the industry the answers are always the same: vet or ag teacher.

Now, that’s all changing with okPORK Youth Leadership Camp, a hands-on, in-depth training program for rising juniors, seniors and precollege students that provides a 360 degree look at the pork industry and its multiple career opportunities.

“We felt like it was important to get students involved and knowing what the pork industry is like in Oklahoma,” says Kristin Alsup, communications specialist for Oklahoma Pork Council and an instrumental player in all aspects of the camp since its inception in summer 2012.

Each year, up to 12 students are accepted, and although the finalists are typically leaders at their schools’ 4-H/FFA programs, no prior experience in agriculture is required – just leadership skills, excitement and a strong interest to learn more about the industry…

Read this article in Oklahoma Agriculture | 2015 magazine (PDF) >>

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Home Sweet Oklahoma

Meet the Van der Laans: Dairy Pioneers

At the heart of Oklahoma’s farmlands are families like the Van der Laans. Passionate, resilient and teeming with love for the dairy cow, the Van der Laan family is no stranger to hard work or hardship, and they carry the strong, unbeatable spirit that defines Oklahoman farmers.


It all started with 40 cows when Pieter and Anita Van der Laan married and today, it has grown into the second-largest dairy operation in Oklahoma, producing 380,000 pounds of milk daily. But their story is one that actually started long ago in the Netherlands, where Pieter’s grandfather traded cows.

“The way I’ve always been told is he bought some cows and wasn’t able to sell them, so he had to start milking them,” says Pieter Van der Laan…

Read this article in Oklahoma Agriculture | 2015 magazine (PDF) >>

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On the Horizon – An Overview of Minnesota’s Ag Exports

Department of Agriculture aids businesses seeking export success

As a giant in agricultural production with a relatively small population, Minnesota has developed into an export powerhouse, selling a large portion of its agricultural products abroad.

From establishing new markets to gaining global brand recognition, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture works closely with businesses, both large and small, to further grow and optimize the state’s agricultural exports…

Read this article in Minnesota Made | 2015 magazine (PDF) >>

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Minnesota’s Immigrant Farmers – Avoiding the Struggle

Agriculture community helps immigrant farmers overcome production barriers

Farming has never been easy. For people new to the United States, the hurdles can be insurmountable. In Minnesota, obstacles include limited access to capital, equipment, markets and affordable land with long-term availability.

“The most pressing challenge is access to land,” says Becky Balk, principal planner and land use program manager at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“Without secured farmland, investing in large-scale farm machinery that can optimize production or soil nutrition to increase yield doesn’t make economic sense.”

With this in mind, Balk set out in 2011 to determine how the state could better serve the immigrant farming community…

Read this article in Minnesota Made | 2015 magazine (PDF) >>

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