Crafton and his team, Max and Tom, are now traveling across Minnesota on Highway 10 towards Little Falls. They move about 17-25 miles each day, weather permitting. "I meet 30-75 people every day and hundreds when I stop in a village. Everybody helps me along the way, providing hay, water, or whatever I need. At 4 pm I start looking for a good place to park my wagon for the night. I have a heater and plenty of space for me and my Giant Pyrenees - Kerrmutt and Katie."
Crafton is among others who have traveled to Timbergreen Farm. "People now come from all over the world to see our operation," said Birkemeier. "One woodworker came from Russia, looked around at the solar kilns, and then said 'Now I Get It'. Our most recent visitor was a man from Ghana, with others scheduled to come soon from Liberia and Scotland."
Birkemeier also travels to teach his system of forest management. His most recent trip was in October to Vietnam, to make a presentation at the UN sponsored International Conference on Managing Forests for Poverty Reduction - Capturing opportunities in forest harvesting and wood process for the benefit of the poor. Small businesses are now starting up all over the world following Timbergreen's Forest to Finished Floor example.
"My message is there is now an alternative to the traditional timber industry and forestry system," states Birkemeier. "Today, there is no excuse for any forester or forest owner to be ignorant of the best possible methods - everything is freely available on the internet. This business is now thriving because the tools, information, and markets are all available to forest owners. 100,000 small portable sawmill have been purchased in the U.S. the last few decades. Small logging equipment, lumber kilns, woodworking machines, and computers all pay off quickly due to the high value of wood products. Compared to other agricultural crops, the needed investment is low and the income is high."
"Forest owners suffer from 'Low Forest-Esteem'. We don't value our forests in the U.S. like they do in Europe. My passion is to encourage other forest owners to learn to earn a regular income from their woods. The government forestry system is basically a welfare program, I say the forest should make money and pay its' own way," said Birkemeier. "We don't do anything new, we just use every good idea we can find for our own benefit. When people visit here for training, they leave saying, 'I can do that!'"
Birkemeier encourages other timber owners who sell forest products direct to customers to join the new Timber Growers Alliance. Their mission is to promote the use of locally grown and manufactured wood products. "Buy Local is a national movement today. When I shop at a small business in my local community, the prices are usually much higher that at the big stores in the city. But in our wood business - because we have eliminated all the brokers, shippers, and retailers - our wood is the same price or lower than the big box stores. Our customer satisfaction is guaranteed as we really know our own wood."