We see our forest as a living solar collector. A healthy, full arrayed tree canopy catches the available sunlight and converts the sun's energy into wood. We see each tree as a living solar collector. Hardwood trees are shaped like a funnel. Conifer trees have the cone shaped funnel upside down, collecting the light on the sides of the crown. A tree with a large "funnel" crown exposed to the sun can grow quickly, where a skinny tree with a small leaf surface will grow slowly. Our goal is for the good trees to be growing ¼" to ½" in (6mm to 12mm) diameter each year. A crown width that is about one third of the trees height is optimum. For conifer timber, a crown width to tree height ratio of one to four seems optimum.
Sunlight is the main requirement for tree growth, followed by water, and then soil nutrients. We control the amount of these ingredients each tree gets by controlling tree spacing. We start with a tree spacing guide that is developed from the crown/height ratio. Spacing is then fine tuned by observing the individual tree diameter growth. Maintaining vigorous diameter growth is a key goal of FVF. A small annual harvest keeps the forest canopy intact and at maximum production.
Common sense forestry is understood and controlled by the forest owner.
Forest management is simple, similar to growing a vegetable garden or any agricultural crop. Thinning and weeding are common sense principles most people relate to. Trees are primarily affected by the other trees surrounding them. We manage a small group of trees by thinning and weeding, move on to another group, and soon the whole forest is well managed. Tree diameter growth determines the amount of thinning that is needed. We have demonstrated that all species respond to release and can be selectively harvested.
When choosing to harvest timber, the FVF motto for the last 20 years has been simply - take the Worst First. My German teachers have described the decision making process differently - harvest the lesser tree. Every tree has many values; aesthetic, wildlife habitat, stand diversity, resource protection, regeneration potential, wood products, etc. When comparing two trees that are competing, a forest manager assigns points to each tree, taking into account all the different values that are important. Then you harvest the lesser value tree.
Our annual harvest potential is about 400 board feet sawtimber plus another 100 board feet from small diameter trees per acre here in Wisconsin. This is the volume of one oak tree 24" (60 cm) diameter and 80 feet (24 m) tall. This could produce 500 square feet of flooring per acre each year (100 square meters per hectare) Normally we would take several smaller trees of a variety of sizes per acre, always taking the worst first. A forest growing with Full Vigor will produce logs of all sizes, from 6" (15 cm) diameter inside the bark, to 36" (1m) diameter or larger. We have no maximum size or age for a tree, they are allowed to grow as long has they have their vigor.
In the process of restoring a high-graded forest to Full Vigor, most of the harvesting will be small diameter, damaged, and deformed logs that the loggers passed by. Often, 80% of the harvest will be logs less than the 12" (30 cm) diameter normally accepted for sawlogs.