Growing Indiana’s diverse hardwood industry


Growing Indiana’s diverse hardwood industry

Indiana continues to develop and grow its hardwood industry, a sector of the state’s agriculture industry that contributes more than $10 billion to the economy.

Bruce Kettler is the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a major economic driver,” he says. “It’s also all over Indiana— It’s not just in our population centers, it’s in places like Jasper, Salem, and these other towns that we’ve been in (on a recent tour) so it offers a lot of job opportunities close to home.”

He tells Brownfield the industry is also very diverse.

“Not only is it diverse in the terms of the activities that happen, but it’s diverse in terms of the end products which is really good because I think it helps from an economic standpoint with some of the ups and downs,” he says.  

The diversity of hardwoods was highlighted on a recent ISDA southern Indiana tour of Salem Hardwoods and Salem Hardwood Sawmill, The Nature Conservancy’s managed forest at Oak Shelterwood, JSI and more.  

Brownfield spoke to Gavin Freel, manager of Salem Hardwood Lumber Company, during the tour.

“We are a hardwood grade sawmill with dry kilns, and we are drying grade hardwood lumber and selling to distribution yards, hardwood flooring manufacturers, kitchen cabinet manufacturers, mill workshops, along with some exporting,” he says. “We’re processing 10 different species with the leading species being walnut, white oak, poplar, red oak, maple, and hickory. Each species has its own application.”

Allen Pursell is director of forest conservation at The Nature Conservancy in Indiana. He talked about the importance of forest management and regenerating oak trees.

“We are trying to regenerate oak and get more oak in the forest,” he says. “We have these big oak trees but very few baby oak trees so someday the implication of that is we won’t have oak trees in the canopy and we’re trying to manage for that.”

To grow this sector of agriculture, an assessment and strategy was completed for the hardwoods industry in 2019. The Indiana Hardwood Strategy will be used to expand current and attract new primary and secondary wood processing facilities to Indiana, better utilize current timber production, and foster growth within the state’s hardwoods industry.