Profiles in Conservation

Foresters keeping It in the family

The Coldwells of Columbiana County, OH, have forestry in their blood. Three family members make a living off the land in various occupations, from forest management to consulting and wood product sales.

Jared Coldwell, one of three sons and a forester, said, “There are three major aspects of what we do. First, there’s actively managing our tree farm. Second, there’s the timber consulting business that my dad started around 1990. The third part is my live edge lumber business.” Live edge lumber is wood that has been cut but often has its outer layer of bark.

The Coldwell family has a 689-acre tree farm that serves as their base of operations. It is located in the southern part of the county and features 620 acres of managed woodlands. The farm is owned and managed by nearly a dozen Coldwell family members.

The Coldwells have managed their woodlands since the 1980s. The original parcel was purchased in 1983, and they continued to add acreage until they bought their last parcel in 2008. The American Tree Farm System certified their farm in 2003.

Jared described their family’s property, saying “It’s all one piece. All the parcels connect. We have some very cool rock outcrops, cliffs, and steep ravines. We have beautiful gently rolling slopes and some monstrous ridges. Our land is a gently rolling Appalachian plateau. We also have the Yellow Creek watershed running through our property; it’s a tributary of the Ohio River.”

Jared’s father, Dave Coldwell, started marketing timber decades ago when a lumber company approached his neighbor about selling her timber. Dave happened to be at the neighbor’s property, cutting firewood, when he heard about the proposed timber sale. After the buyer departed Dave told the neighbor that the buyer’s quote was very low, and he offered to try to sell the timber for a higher price, Jared said.

Dave did end up selling the timber for his neighbor, who ultimately received about 10 times the amount of the original quote.

Jared said other friends and neighbors later heard about the timber sale results, and they began calling Dave to help them sell their timber. Dave later founded Coldwell Timber Consulting, LLC, and he eventually became the “go-to” guy in the area to market timber.

“I grew up with him learning to market timber in a wise manner—sustainably. A forest can only take so many high-grade clearings before it’s nothing but low-grade species," Jared added.

Years later, Jared’s brother Jed took over the consulting business in 2005. Jed graduated from Hocking College and Ohio State University with a B.S. Degree in Forestry. The Coldwell’s forestry consulting business now serves most of eastern Ohio.

Younger brother Jared also grew interested in a forestry-related career. While still attending West Virginia University, he met two tree farmers at a forestry field day. Dave Hively and Dick Potts spoke with Jared about a wood salvaging business in Illinois operated by Paul and Kathy Easley. The Easleys sold products from less desirable trees, what some foresters might call “junk” or “cull” trees. The conversation sparked Jared’s interest. After graduating with a B.S. in forestry, he met the Easleys with the intention of starting a similar business, he said. Jared’s new venture, Ohio Woodlands, LLC, was established soon after.

Jared detailed his live edge lumber operation. “We’re all foresters, but I run the live edge lumber business, Ohio Woodlands. My business took off so strongly that I do this full time. In the State of Ohio, I’m one of a handful of live edge lumber producers,” he said.

“When you cut a log on the mill, instead of squaring the log for lumber, you’re slabbing the log," he said. “You’re cutting 2- to 3-inch-thick slabs. Most people sell dimensional lumber. Mine is considered live edge, sometimes with bark on it. About 80 – 90 percent of it is live edge.”

“There was just so much material on our property and I was tired of seeing it go to waste,"  Jared said. “It’s beautiful stuff,” he added. “I sell around 1,000 items a year. I’m a small company, but I’m one of the larger producers of specialty lumber in Ohio. Approximately 50,000 board feet have been harvested in the last 9 years to supply the online store. I spend a majority of time marketing items on our Web site, www.ohiowoodlands.com. I ship most of my items via ground or freight. My slabs come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and species depending on the project requirements.”

Jared said he has sold approximately 9,000 individual, live edge slabs in the last 9 years to weekend woodworkers, interior designers, and high-end furniture makers. His live edge slabs have been sold to customers in all 50 States, as well as in countries across the globe, he added. His complete inventory can be viewed on his Web site.

Managing their land

The Coldwells implemented forest management practices on their tree farm with the goal of maximizing growth rates of desirable hardwoods. In the past 14 years, they completed these practices:

  • Grapevine control on more than 275 acres
  • Various noncommercial thinnings on 180 acres
  • Invasive species control for multiflora rose, bush honeysuckle, and autumn olive on 75 acres
  • Tree planting on 50 acres.

Windblown and undesirable trees of commercial size are often harvested, milled, kiln dried, and sold by ohiowoodlands.com. A commercial timber harvest will take place on a 50-acre portion of the tree farm sometime in the near future.

“Mature and defective trees will be harvested to improve the growth rates of residuals and encourage natural regeneration in the understory,” Jared said.

The Coldwells have planted about 45,000 seedlings since 2002 to increase forest cover. These included a variety of native tree species, such as yellow poplar, red and white oak, and lots of cherry on the farm. They also planted walnut, swamp white oak, and a lot of sugar maple. Most of their already established maples are soft maple.

“If we have any open areas, we’re planting,” he said. “There’s hardly any open field left at this point.” Today, only a small portion of their land remains open field.

Most of the forest management practices completed on the tree farm within the past 14 years were accomplished with financial assistance from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), which is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers, to plan and implement conservation practices. These projects improve soil, water, plant, animal, air, and related natural resources on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forest land.

The Coldwell Tree Farm has been part of another Natural Resources Conservation Service program, Conservation Stewardship, for the last 5 years and was just signed up for an additional 5 years. All of the thousands of man hours of work on the tree farm have been documented in Dave’s work journal.

Jared also said they work closely with the Ohio Division of Forestry, and Dan Bartlett is their service forester.

Wildlife diversity and habitat

With Dave being retired from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, managing for wildlife is an important part of their tree farm, Jared said. The Coldwells also use their land for recreation. They have several miles of trails and do a fair amount of hunting on the farm.

Hunting with permission is allowed for friends, family, and neighbors. Deer hunting is closely monitored by the Coldwells, since the property is managed under the Quality Deer Management philosophy. This entails making sure there is quality habitat, proper population density, and standards on what age and size deer may be taken. In the past couple of years this philosophy has paid off with some very impressive specimens being taken from the tree farm.

Additionally, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Botany and Natural Areas Division staff members James Bissell, Larry Rosche, and Judy Semroc surveyed the Coldwell property on 7 days in 2010. Below are some of their findings:

  • Reptiles: 3 species of turtle including 1 species of concern, and 1 species of snake
  • Odonates (an order of carnivorous insects that includes dragonflies): 23 species
  • Butterflies: 36 total species
  • Moths: 24 total species
  • Trees and shrubs: 63 total species, of which 1 is potentially threatened

The Coldwell Tree Farm area helps protect various State-listed aquatic species that inhabit the Yellow Creek watershed, including the eastern hellbender, cavespring crawfish, and Allegheny crawfish.

A diversity of habitat on their land also allows for a healthy population of resident and migratory songbirds, raptors, and other nongame species, he said.

Taxes and water quality

Some concerns, such as tax burdens, can create challenges for landowners.

The Coldwell family has invested countless hours fighting for fair taxation of private forest lands in Ohio, Jared said. Recent changes in the valuation of both farmland and forest land in Ohio have caused property tax bills to triple, creating a huge backlash of upset landowners demanding fair taxation.

“It can be a little overwhelming with tax issues,” he added, “but we actively pursue tax issues that help protect farming in Ohio. Taxes have increased dramatically in 15 years. It makes it very hard to keep a farm together. It’s a balance of revenue versus conservation.”

The Coldwells went so far as to take their landowner tax concerns to court, and in 2007 they won a court ruling.

They also work to improve and maintain the water quality on their land in eastern Ohio.

The continuous forest cover of the Coldwell lands flanking several headwater streams and the main channel of Nancy Run are delivering clean, cold water to Yellow Creek—one of the finest quality tributaries to the Ohio River.

Coldwell said the western portion of the State could benefit from more forest land buffer zones to support water quality filtration for Lake Erie drainage and runoff, though it’s a complex issue.

Family legacy

Jared’s parents still live on the land where they grew up, along with Jared’s brother Jed and his wife and two children.

Jared and his family lived on their family farm up until 3 years ago. He and his wife, Carly, now have a girl, 3, and a little boy born in August. “We live about a half hour from the farm, but this is where I work every day,” he said.

He said he would recommend owning land to other people.

“They’re not making any more land. It’s a great investment. I thoroughly enjoy the whole process.”

Their family has worked diligently in recent years to share the positive outcomes of their forestry and conservation efforts. Their tree farm hosted one Statewide and three regional tree farm tours between 2004 and 2014. They also hosted three Rural Scholars field days, where junior high students learn about a working tree farm, as well as a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service forestry training day for their local district conservationists.

Jed Coldwell is a regular at Ohio Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, where he teaches forest measurements to high school students.

Dave Coldwell has served on several county, regional, and State committees on topics relating to forestry, timber, landowner interests, taxes, farming, and education over the years. He is currently a member of the Ohio Forestry Association Board of Directors.

Jared said their tree farm was also featured five times between 2004 and 2011 in the publication Farm and Dairy. The publication covers Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia and has a circulation of about 96,000 subscribers.

Jared’s business, Ohio Woodlands, is featured on the WoodMaster Tools blog at Houzz.com. It is also referenced in the July 2012 issue of WOOD Magazine, which discusses natural edge slabs.

For their outstanding forestry work, the Coldwells received the Ohio Tree Farmer of the Year award in 2014.

Coldwell said they plan to keep the land in their family for generations to come.

“We’re doing this for our kids and grandchildren to always be able to produce timber and to protect water quality. At some point, we’re going to make an easement out of it so that it can never be developed. We just haven’t found the right easement yet,” he said.

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