The Oregon Tree Farm System has chosen Dave and Diane Rankin's 194-acre tree farm located south of Florence on South Slough Road as the 2017 Oregon Tree Farm of the Year. The honor is the result of the Rankins' hard work, education and adherence to a well developed management plan.
Diane said, "There are four goals of the Oregon Tree Farm System: wood, water, wildlife and recreation. They want to know what you are doing about those four things, not only for yourself, but also for the community."
Dave said, "The honor we received is called the Tree Farmer of the Year from the Oregon Tree Farm System. They are associated with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association.
"The Oregon Small Woodlands Association nominates one tree farmer from each participating county. We happen to be this year's nominee from Lane County. Five other tree farms were also nominated this year."
According to Rankin, Lane County has 179 Oregon Small Woodlands Association members. The state has more than 1,000 members.
He said one of the biggest challenges to Small Woodland members is how to transfer property to the next generation.
Diane said, "In order to be considered a 'small woodland,' the total wooded acres must be less than 5,000. The larger companies like Roseburg Lumber support the Small Woodlands Association, but they themselves are not members . Most of the association members are our size or smaller, maybe even as few as 50 acres."
The Rankins have between 160 and 165 acres of woodlands with another 30 acres of wetlands.
The state association award comes with some benefits to the Florence business community.
"The county that has nominated the Tree Farm of the Year then hosts the Oregon Small Woodlands annual meeting somewhere in the county. Since we are from the coast, it is going to be over here." "It will be at Three Rivers Casino Resort. We were going to hold it at the Florence Events Center, but they couldn't accommodate the dates," Dave said. Dave said the event could draw 150 to 200 people from all over the state. "People will be arriving on Thursday, June 15. There will be daylong meetings on Friday, June 16, at the casino and then on Saturday, June 17, we will have a tree farm tour here," he said. The Rankins moved here from Eugene in 1963 to teach in the Siuslaw School district.
They bought the 194-acre South Slough Road parcel in 1975.
At that time, they had no immediate plans to log the property.
"This place was logged in the late '50s, after World War II," Dave said. "The loggers at that time came through and pretty much highgraded the land. They took the Douglas fir and red cedar. Those were the valuable species. They left behind the hemlock and spruce that at that time had no value. It doesn't really have much value now."
The Rankins took a fouryear hiatus in 1993 when they circumnavigated the world in their 38-foot ketch-rigged sailboat Ingrid Princess.
After returning home, Dave took an Oregon State Extension Service course called Master Woodlands Manager in 1999.
Diane said, "You've heard of Master Gardeners and Master Recyclers, well the extension also has the Master Woodlands Manager course. He took that class on weekends for almost a year.
"At the end of the coarse, you have a plan for your property and you are committed to giving back to the community."
In 2014, the Rankins harvested the first 20 acres of trees.
According to Diane, ring counting placed some of the trees at 150 years old.
"But," said Dave, "When we harvested, we found that many of the big hemlock and spruce had root rot and rotten hearts. You couldn't tell until you cut them down.
"Finding a market for those kinds of trees was difficult. Domestically it's difficult. They are too big for most of the mills now. So we sold what we could, called 'white woods,' Sitka spruce and hemlock to a company that exports these logs to China. We were able to sell a majority of our logs to the export trade."
Anyone traveling down to North Bend has seen the stacks of logs waiting to be loaded onto ships for transport to China. The majority of those logs are either hemlock, Sitka spruce or low grade Douglas fir.
Dave said those logs are not acceptable to local sawmills.
The large mills, like Georgia Pacific can't get enough local logs right now.
"Georgia Pacific in Coos Bay just brought a barge load of logs in from British Columbia because they can't get enough logs locally," Dave said.
He added, "I think the lumber industry in Oregon is doing very good right now. New home construction is ratcheting up around the country . We see the railroad that goes right by here usually has 40 to 60 cars of lumber on it going back to Eugene. It's basically two-by-fours and two-by-sixes . They are building houses somewhere." In addition to the 20 acres logged off in 2014, the Rankins have another 25 to 28 acres they plan on logging in the near future.
"At the time we logged in 2014, we thought we would be logging the rest in 2016. But we weren't ready and the market fell. The market is coming back now, so maybe in 2018 we might be able to," Diane said.
At 79 and 77, Dave and Diane do not seem like your average retirees.
"I'm pushing 80," Dave said. "I don't know how I am supposed to feel at 80, but I feel pretty good. I tell people that 80 is the new 40."
Diane added, "We love doing this. This is our retirement ."
Having circumnavigated the globe, the Rankins have seen more of this world than most people and they have some advice for others.
"You can live anywhere in the world, but I sincerely believe that the U.S. is the best place in the world to live and that Oregon is the best state to live in. But don't tell anybody, because they will all want to come here," Dave said with a grin.