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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tour: Tallgrass Custom Wood Products

Kevin Church says he is probably the first person to move from Idaho to Kansas to start a career in the forest products industry. Though most people think of Kansas as flat and treeless, that picture isn't entirely accurate. Church has started his business, Tallgrass Custom Wood Products, on 10 acres north of Emporia with the goal of applying the principles of conservation biology to a more sustainable application of forest ecology in Kansas and the wise use of area wood.

I was able to visit Tallgrass Custom Wood Products with the Small Farm Management students of the Flint Hills Technical College Sustainability Program on a cold day in February. Church has now joined the Emporia Farmers Market. He brings a selection of local wood to each market and talks with shoppers about the products and services he offers.

Kevin shows students a solar wood kiln he is building. The structure is made from recycled utility poles, hackberry, ash and cottonwood. Two electric box fans will circulate the hot air through the lumber. Wood can take up to 2 months to air dry to 20% moisture. For inside carpentry work, 5-6% moisture is the preferred level.
Kevin says that Kansas is about three times more wooded than it was 80 years ago. About 10% of Kansas is forested, and most of that is contained in the eastern third of the state.

Students examine Kevin's wood pile -- all locally sourced. 

Church says now is the time that Kansas needs to be doing long-term conversation planning. The challenge for Kansas is maintaining a diversity of trees in both age and species.

The saw mill at Tallgrass Custom Wood Products.

As well as an educational display, Church sells small wood products at the market such as these Tomato Towers .

Tall Grass Custom Wood Products website.

We provide high-quality wood products for wholesale and retail with a focus on environmental sustainability.

We offer a full line of services from strategic conservation planning and timber management to logging and milling.

We emphasize and foster the wise-use of more than 20 local native tree species and reclaimed lumber.