Buchenroth serves as the assistant operations manager for HMF, which isn’t even a year old yet. The company began in January, born out of the ice storm disaster a year earlier.
Operations manager Dwight Townes said the ice storm of January 2009 did considerable damage to about 50 acres of woods on a farm owned by his father, David Townes. David Townes decided to roll with the punches and entered into the field of timber management.
After bringing in loggers to log the farm, there was still large amounts of leftover wood on the ground.
That was when the idea for HMF was born.
“Loggers leave a mess,” Dwight Townes said. “They drop a tree, cut the top off and the limbs and take the base log out, but leave the rest of it.”
HMF came in behind the loggers and began gathering the leftover wood and chopping it into firewood.
There’s so much wood, the company won’t even be ready to move on to other sources of wood until next fall.
Buchenroth said after David Townes read about the city terminations in the newspaper, he sent Buchenroth a Christmas card and let him know there may be another job available for him.
Buchenroth joined HMF in March, and he, Dwight Townes and the other employees have been working continually on the massive wood stockpile. During the summer, they would work in blistering heat and drink a combined 10 gallons of water a day, Buchenroth said. Now they’re out chopping and moving wood in heavy coats and gloves, their breath visible in the freezing temperatures.
The wood has been selling fast since the winter season began. HMF has two locations it sells firewood out of — one at Greystone Nurseries near Nicholasville and the other at the Chevy garage in Lancaster.
Dwight Townes estimated the company has sold 200 cords of wood so far, and Buchenroth said it’s continuing to sell in this colder-than-usual winter.
“You can see what we’ve got left — it’s just about gone. We are working our tails off to catch back up,” he said. “I prayed for cold so we could sell firewood, and we’ve sold the fire out of it.”
Besides turning around Buchenroth’s fortunes, HMF is also bringing good out of damage from the 2009 ice storm, Buchenroth said.
“I see more people burning wood than I’ve ever seen before,” he said. “So it’s kind of making lemonade out of lemons and turning a bad thing into a good thing and creating jobs around the county.”
Many more people are turning to wood for heat in order to avoid costly utility bills, which is good news for the upstart firewood company, Buchenroth said.
“My dream is to become one of the biggest wood suppliers in Kentucky, and the nation eventually,” he said.
Buchenroth said once the winter rush is over, HMF will begin stockpiling for next winter and selling cedar mulch.
Whenever HMF gets done on David Townes’ farm, its mobile operation can move to wherever the wood is, Dwight Townes said. HMF might find another farm in the area or it might begin following in more footsteps of loggers, gleaning their leftovers. It’s also possible the operation could stay put and ship in “pulp logs” that cannot be used by mills and turn them into firewood.
For Buchenroth, it’s a happy ending to a story that started out pretty bleak.
“One door shuts and a better door opens,” he said. “This past year has just been great. I am in my element now.”