Florida Company Gives Multiple Lives To Logging “Leftovers”
Originally published on Rayonier.com
The logging company owners use leftover pine shavings in more ways than one to provide a circular business model that benefits their bottom line, the horse community and the earth.
One company we work with, Derby Gold Pine Shavings, makes and recycles pine shavings in Williston, Florida.
The shavings, made after logging our forests and others in the area, make excellent horse bedding. The soft, absorbent lining is ideal in horse stalls. When it’s time to remove the bedding, Derby Gold collects it and then uses it to fertilize the company’s own land.
Derby Gold’s business model forms a “complete circle,” the result of years of organic development.
Humble origins and heartbreak
Derby Gold is the brainchild of Florida businessman Eddie Hodge. But horse bedding wasn’t part of the original plan when he and his brother, Johnny, got their start working as loggers in the 1970s.
The Hodge brothers founded Williston Timber Company, building it on sweat equity with rented equipment and a small logging crew. Early on, they reinvested all of their profits, adding more workers and a trucking company.
Eventually, they shipped logs throughout the state. And as they expanded the business, other family members came on board.
Eddie says he and Johnny played to each other’s strengths. Eddie was the “business visionary” while his brother was a self-taught mechanical engineer—he even invented specialized forestry equipment.
Tragically, Johnny was killed in an accident in 2003.
“We lost more than a brother,” Eddie says. “We lost a loved one and a best friend. Our loss of Johnny struck to the very heart and soul of our business as well.”
Adapting to life without Johnny wasn’t easy. But Eddie and other family members who worked at Williston Timber carried on with the business in Johnny’s honor. Today, the company is still very much a family affair.
Using pine shavings to adapt to slowdowns in the logging business
Eddie has seen many ups and downs in the economy and the logging industry since he started in the 1970s. During one slowdown, he realized it was time to diversify.
He found the idea for his next business venture in the stalls of nearby horse farms.
“There’s a big horse farm community in our area,” says Phil Parker, marketing manager for Derby Gold. “Eddie saw the need for bulk wood shavings and they’d load them up on a semi and take them around to the local horse farms.”
Now, when there wasn’t a strong market to sell the logs for others to make products, the new pine shavings business could use the logs from Eddie’s logging company and sell them to local horse farms.
Florida horse owners were glad to have a local bulk supplier and the business has grown steadily for 20 years.
Derby Gold expanded the bulk business into the bagged shavings market and is currently one of the largest producers of manufactured shavings in the Southeastern U.S.
Eddie’s resourcefulness in finding ways to get the most out of every tree he harvests helped the business thrive during uncertain times. As it turns out, it was better for the environment, too.
Completing the circle
Next, Eddie realized he could provide his local customers with another benefit. Instead of hauling the used pine shavings 60+ miles to a Class 1 waste facility, Eddie allowed the shavings to be brought back to his land that adjoins the shavings manufacturing facility. It would minimize the carbon footprint associated with disposal and provide another step in the full-circle business: a natural enrichment for the soils.
Eddie and his crew spread the shavings out on his land, allowing them to decompose naturally. Much of the lands treated were recently surface-mined for sand. The addition of the shavings over time made the soils rich, improving them naturally.
“After six years, it looked like some of the richest soil we’d ever seen,” says Phil. “We did soil samples and found that it was very, very rich.”
Phil says the lands are greatly enhanced and will be more productive for growing timber and sod in the future.
We look forward to the next chapter in the Williston Timber / Derby Gold story and wish the family many more years of healthy and sustainable growth!
You can learn more about Derby Gold by visiting their Facebook page here.