Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Low Impact Forestry Workshops Provide Professional Training, Confidence

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Summer 2012 \ LIF

By Andy McEvoy

In this Internet age, all information is only a click away. Or so they say.

Plenty of information, however, cannot be digitized, photographed, filmed or otherwise captured outside of personal experience. Videos abound with “professionals” demonstrating the proper methods for felling and processing trees, operating logging equipment, and even for using draft animals in the woods. Often few or no credentials support the instructors’ “professional” status other than the fact that they are featured in an online video. Moreover, viewers are usually told they now have enough information to tackle these situations on their own.

But every woodlot is different, every tree presents its own scenario, and every operator has his own way of going through motions to safely and deftly work in the woods.

Recognizing the relative lack of information available, despite the Internet, for those interested in harvesting firewood, cutting lumber for a building, removing invasive plants, or working with draft animals in the woods, MOFGA’s Low Impact Forestry (LIF) project is increasing its educational workshops.

For more than a decade the group has hosted an annual event, usually in mid-November, to demonstrate proper techniques for draft animal and small machinery work, talk about forest management plans, teach safe and efficient tree felling techniques, and advocate for needed changes to the forest industry. Students are mostly individuals seeking instruction on modern low-impact techniques with the goal of harvesting their own firewood and lumber; and landowners who want to know more about options for managing their woodlot, and what to look for when hiring professionals.

Several students have gone on to become professional loggers, but most have been able to go home with more confidence and with the information needed to continue working in their own woodlots safely.

This January we expanded our teaching curriculum by inviting six students from the November 2011 workshop to return and work more intimately with professional staff. These students were either aspiring teamsters seeking more time and instruction with a team of horses, or wanted to improve their tree felling and processing techniques. The essential difference in this workshop was that the staff did very little demonstrating; instead, students were given three days of hands-on instruction and practice.

As they were working on the particular skill set, chainsaw and teamster students had to work together in a production-like scenario to safely and efficiently move wood from the stump to the landing. The professional staff tailored instruction to the goals and experience of each student, and the results were profound. By the end of the three-day workshop, staff was gathered in the yard while students were felling and moving trees, pausing only occasionally to ask a question or take a rest.

Throughout the workshop students were learning the skill and the business of logging and woodlot management. They had to make decisions about grading sawlogs for maximum value, or how to skillfully maneuver a load down a narrow trail. They gained a much more intimate appreciation of the skill and hard work that good logging professionals have mastered. No one who has learned woods skills from books and videos can say the same.

The LIF project would love to teach you more about all things related to forests and logging. Please consider attending our annual workshop this November, whether you are a forester, logger, landowner, farmer or other interested party. Remember that managing a woodlot for the future involves several generations of a family; think about bringing the whole family to learn about forest stewardship.

If you are interested in any of our workshops, educational events, or becoming part of the LIF group, please contact Andy McEvoy at

Andy McEvoy, MOFGA’s forestry coordinator, is working with MOFGA and the Low Impact Forestry (LIF) Committee to expand forestry-related learning opportunities and to promote responsible woodlot management among the MOFGA membership. Address your questions, comments or concerns about forestry to

MOF&G Cover Summer 2012