The late Al Koeppel, retired head forester of Kretz Lumber Co., Inc., was a master of Silviculture. Additionally, Al was one of the best teachers all of us knew. He loved talking about Silvicultural practices to anyone and everyone.
In the winter of 1997, Al had an idea to invite landowners and loggers to Kretz Lumber for a Silvicultural Seminar. On September 12, 1998, 81 participants joined the Kretz forestry staff for a three-hour discussion. That year, the talk began in the Kretz office basement. Then, two school buses hauled everyone to Kretz property, eight miles away to company land on State Highway 52 and North Pole Road. A silviculture and chainsaw demonstration preceded a box lunch that day. Participants reported the lesson was valuable and encouraged Al to do more of these demonstrations.
The 1999 seminar increased to 150 participants with the same results. Many people wanted to garner more knowledge about their woods. This year the Silvicultural Seminar was also renamed Forestry Field Day (FFD).
The wrap-up meeting regarding FFD in 1999 left the Kretz forestry staff with some problems to tackle. It was evident that the program was valuable and could grow. The challenge became getting everyone to the property eight miles away and parking cars on the state highway. In the winter of 1999-2000, when Kretz foresters were trying to solve this problem, Al walked into a forestry meeting and announced he had the perfect location for FFD. The company’s sawmill location had a 17-acre parcel behind the mill that was logged 18 years prior and had primarily needed to be addressed. Everyone thought Al was crazy. So, he hauled everyone out to the wooded lot and started preaching silviculture. Al thought the lot was perfect because of its neglect, various timber and soil types, proximity to a class A trout steam, and it was right here. Most agree that they gave in to get Al to quit preaching. But the 2000 Field Day went on as a huge success.
In 2001, the Ray Kretz Industrial Forest was dedicated as a commemorative working forest to Ray Kretz, a founder of Kretz Lumber Co. Inc., in 1929, along with his parents and two brothers. In later years, Ray Kretz became the President of Kretz Lumber, eventually passing the leadership onto the family’s third generation Ray’s son, Dan Kretz, in 1973.
The Great Recession ended the 10-year annual event in 2008 as the company took on significant challenges to stay in existence. By this time, Kretz was entirely employee-owned and needed to conserve resources. In 2009, FFD resumed, and the Kretz staff agreed that a bi-annual event would be feasible.
The 2023 Forestry Field Day, hosted in late September, celebrated the 18th event in the history of FFD!
Pictures from Forestry Field Days over the years