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Agro-forestry gets boost

“What’s better than buying your hardwood flooring from someone in rural Manitoba?”

– SHANE TORNBLOM

Two different interest groups are working together to add value and economic growth to the community surrounding Morris.

The Pembina Valley Water Cooperative Inc. is constructing a backup water retention pond as drought protection. The pond will be located east of Morris, just south of Hwy. 23.

The well-treed area had to be cleared before construction could start.

Shane Tornblom, business development specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives said a staff member approached him with the idea of harvesting the wood rather than letting it be pushed into piles and burned.

When wood is burned, it releases harmful greenhouse gases. The option of producing valuable wood products from the trees is seen as carbon sequestration.

Tornblom knew the idea was a winner and PVWC didn’t need much convincing.

Gord Martel, chief systems engineer of PVWC said it is a win-win situation for the area.

He said right now the area might look terrible as no one likes to see trees removed. But in this case, there will be many benefits.

He credited MAFRI for helping put small woodlot owners to work harvesting the trees at no cost. In return, these loggers will be able to sell the wood to waiting customers.

The woodlots are reaping big benefits and the PVWC will have an alternative water source when the next drought hits.

The PVWC supplies water to the town of Morris, and the rural municipalities of Morris, Montcalm, Thompson, Roland, Stanley, Winkler, Miami and Dufferin.”It’s an extensive network,” he said.

“Eventually I hope to be able to survive any major droughts.”

Martel said people tend to think of the area surrounding the Red River as flood prone, and that does happen. But the area has also seen its share of devastating droughts.”We need to have a backup plan,” he said.

Martel said he is pleased that the wood won’t go to waste.”It helps them establish a market and hopefully everybody comes out happy,” he said.

The timber was offered free to about 190 small operators in various wood-related businesses. About 10 loggers are harvesting for their own needs and one is harvesting to supply other small wood businesses.

“It’s nice to see the wood actually used,” said Tornblom.

He said there will be many more who benefit, as not all small operators in the business are capable of doing the actual logging. But they will be quite anxious to pick up the Manitoba timber.

“This is a great opportunity to give, not just individuals, but really the whole micro-forestry industry a big boost,” he said.

He said they really want these small operators to see the tremendous opportunity to have a Manitoba micro-forestry industry.

“There’s a great opportunity for people to start producing, taking the lumber, kiln drying it, and going as far as producing finished product like hardwood flooring,” he said.

The “buying local” aspect of marketing the product has Tornblom thinking the industry can’t lose.

“What’s better than buying your hardwood flooring from someone in rural Manitoba?” he said.

Lester Friesen is both a logger and a miller. He was approached early in the summer about the opportunity. He will be able to mill some of the wood at his home near Grunthal, but because of the surplus, he has also cut more to sell directly to others.

“For me it’s a very large opportunity to access different markets,” he said.

Taking the trees and removing them will also give him a nice supply of firewood to use and sell.

Once the small businesses are done, there will be an auction so larger businesses can bid on the timber.

The wood should be cleared by mid-November. [email protected]

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