Meet the Loggers
The pace at which the industry is growing adds a extreme level of stress and pressure for anyone involved to keep up. Follow their stories to see them work to reach their goals and try to achieve their version of the true American dream.
Coming from a long line of Finnish loggers, Pekka grew up with logging in his blood. Upon completion of high school and after his military service, he traveled to Sweden and Germany for several years of working in the woods running a chain saw. Back in Finland he returned to school earning a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry Business.
In 1998, Pekka came to Louisiana to be a machine operator running Ponsse machines for a local contractor. Since that time he worked his way up through the Ponsse organization to become President of Ponsse North America. This position requires him to be able to perform just about every aspect of the trade. In a standard week, Pekka simultaneously takes on grueling professions such as Equipment Operator, Mechanic, Operations, Logistics, Employee Manager, Service, Parts, Marketing, Operator Trainer and Salesman for machines deals than run in the millions of dollars. Pekka’s position and role gives Ironhorse Loggers the ability to capture scenes ranging from intense and risky business decisions to downright hilarious pranks on his friends and employees.
Pekka can easily be described as “The glue that holds it all together”.
Logging wasn’t a career choice for Mark Kleiman, it was a life choice that he made as a young boy. At eight years old, Mark was cutting balsam brush with his parents. By nineteen, Mark was employed as a forwarder operator. At twenty-two, Mark started his own logging business by purchasing his first cut-to-length harvester. His father became his first employee in 1994, a year later his wife joined the company.
Within the next few years, Mark purchased his first log truck which made it possible for him to cut and haul in his own products while hiring his youngest brother and purchasing yet another harvester.
As the storms came in down south in 2004, Mark traveled down to Florida and Texas to help clean up the damaged areas from the hurricanes.
After coming back from the southern states, Mark decided to purchase his first brush chipper to utilize waste from logging operations for fuel chips. While the chips expanded Mark’s company, oldest son Cody, was also added as an employee.
Five years later, Mark’s other son, Kyle, decided to also join the team. Today Mark’s business, Kleiman Forest Products, Inc. has eight full time employees, three harvesters, two forwarders, one grinder, one log truck, three chip trucks.
Born in 1986 in northern Wisconsin, Eli grew up looking over his parent's shoulders as they worked side by side rebuilding automotive transmissions. He took in what he could from a short distance while absorbing their more prominent traits of extremely high standards and taking utmost pride in one's work.
In 2005 after a tragic loss of his older sister, Eli quit college deciding to continue growing his small business already established doing roadwork for woods crews. At 18, with help from a local logger he worked for through high school, he purchased his first harvester. A year later Eli went on his own with his first forwarder. While literally sleeping in his machines at times, for several years, he operated both his harvester and forwarder to get the business on its feet.
In 2014 Eli's family suffered another hard loss when his father was taken quickly from cancer. "Trying to prove myself and earn his respect gave me the endless drive I had when I started", Eli claims of his father. Today he says as much as ever, thinking of making his father proud still pushes him on the most stressful of days.
Currently Eli runs every end of his multimillion dollar company. All bookkeeping, machine maintenance, lowboy driver, dozer operator, employee manager, and training operators, are just a few of the positions he fills while running harvester or feller buncher full time ahead of the two other harvesters. He agrees he's certainly "spread thin". But claims it's a work in progress getting guys trained into the extra positions.
In early June of 2016 he married the love of his life Kelsey. He jokes in the nine years they've been together she's "put up with quite a bit", referring to his work schedule of long hours, often seven days a week. 2016 will be no exception in a roller coaster industry, with tight Midwest markets and endless unfavorable weather, 4Seasons will face the ultimate test of time. After adding 3 new machines throughout his operation within the last year in efforts to aggressively grow and meet supply demands, Eli stands to prove his company has the efficiency and strength to remain strong through hard times. He admits his crew is young and at times lacking valuable experience only time can instill in them, but says its also what gives them the eagerness to learn and thrive in challenging times.
Zack Sheets grew up in a rural small town in southern Oregon. He spent most of his time as a teenager working in the forest cutting and selling firewood in the winter and fighting wildfires in the western states during the summer.
After meeting a local logger who took Zack under his wing and taught him the basics of the trade at a young age he knew the timber industry was his future. Zack spent his early years working under yarders along the west coast and worked his way out of the brush from cutting timber and setting chokers and earned his spot in a machine.
After a few short years of operating various types of equipment like yarders, skidders, loaders and processor/delimbers, he eventually went on to explore other forms of timber harvesting such as shovel logging, helicopter logging and cut to length logging. This young logger is packed with energy and is fiercely ambitious. Zack has set his sights on the timber industry and he won't stop until he succeeds at reaching his goal of owning his own company.
Owner of Timber Valley, Aaron Nowak of Eagle River, WI, has always had a passion for logging. It was at the young age of 5 that he sold his first bulldozer. At age 18, it was obvious Aaron had a skillful ability to run logging equipment, and by age 20, he was hired by Ponsse North America as an equipment trainer. At the age of 21, Aaron founded Timber Valley in Prattville, AL, making him one of the youngest owners of cut‐to‐length equipment in the industry.
Aaron’s vision and leadership brought Timber Valley back home to Wisconsin in 2008, where its rapid success and growth continues. In addition to logging services, the company is now a buyer of land and standing timber. Timber Valley has become the standard of professionalism, environmental responsibility, and eminence in the Great Lakes logging industry.