Following a log-moving demonstration with a $1.5-million forwarder at Friday morning's Paul and Genie Mortenson Forestry Expo, Miller Timber Services' Matthew Mattioda threw out a general question to a group of local eighth-graders.
"Who thought that was cool?"
One of the first hands to go up belonged to Jordan Corcoran. And he was chosen to be among a few students who went for a ride.
"It was interesting, it was pretty tight," Corcoran said after climbing out of the cab with a smile on his face. And when asked what he liked most about the morning's activities, he responded, "I like the forestry part, the logging was very cool."
It was all part of the second annual staging of the forestry-focused event.
"My advisory group, which is made up of industry and professionals and community members, we wanted to try to fill a gap with eighth-graders going into high school and knowing about the opportunities in career technical education, especially forestry and natural resources," said Simon Babcock, Philomath High School forestry and natural resources teacher. "We wanted to make sure it gave them a good hands-on experience of what it's like if they go into that program or take those classes."
Mattioda said there are a lot of forestry-related jobs available and the future looks good.
"Right now, we're looking for folks who want to work in the forest products sector, either in the forest operating machines or as a forester, or actually in mills or marketing of wood products," said Mattioda, a forester and cut-to-length manager for Miller Timber. "There's going to be a bunch more in the future as the baby-boomer generation retires. There's going to be a lot of upward momentum for a lot of folks in the organization; there's going to be demand."
Last year's inaugural version of the program seems to have influenced students to get excited about forestry with good numbers of those incoming freshmen in the high school program.
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"There were great numbers and that showed the success and that we wanted to do it again and will continue to do it," Babcock said. "This also exposes the kids to a lot of job opportunities after high school. People that are here need to hire new kids ... it's a win-win for everybody involved."
Besides the Miller Timber demonstrations, the Oregon Department of Forestry had two stations going for the kids — one on reforestation and the other on fire suppression. Nearby, Oregon State University students were staging stations on wildlife as well as UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles.
Organizations such as Philomath Fire and Rescue, Starker Forests, Thompson Timber and B&G Logging contributed. Babcock said he also appreciated cooperation from middle-school teachers and administrators for the event.
"I think that it really should increase the interest because it shows the coolest aspects of all of the forestry programs," said PHS senior Jack Lehman, vice president of the Forestry and Natural Resources Club. "It provides a good outlet for a lot of people as an alternative to classroom work at the high school, because it really is helpful to get out in the field and do stuff like this."
Another component of the program is connecting local students with the community's history. Even though Philomath was founded with the establishment of a college, its primary past that has impacted and supported generations of families revolves around the logging industry.
"They understand where and how things got established here, why we have mills here, why we have all these foresters here and log trucks going down the road," Babcock said. "They see the log trucks, but need to know there's a lot of investment and a lot of time and care that goes into that resource."
Miller Timber's forwarder proved to be one of the event's biggest hits with its demonstrations. The company's willingness to bring the monster piece of equipment to the middle school represented a commitment to educating the children.
"It's important to us, it's important to us to be involved in the community in a positive way," Mattioda said. "It's our way of giving back."