Did you know that sawmills in Maryland have evolved into efficient, zero-waste operations?
Updated: May 23
Meet Doug Wolinski, President of Edrich Lumber, Inc. located in Baltimore County, Maryland
Edrich Lumber, based in Windsor Mill, Baltimore County, is much more than a lumber yard. What started as a standard grade sawmill has evolved into a multi-faceted family business and a zero-waste operation maximizing the use of all forestry resource byproducts.
It was founded in 1962 by Doug Wolinski’s father-in-law Richard Stanfield and his brother Edward Stanfield. Fast forward to 1985 when Doug married Richard’s daughter and was running a nursery and landscaping operation. His new father-in-law got to chatting with him and encouraged him to move and expand the business on Edrich Farms, so they began building the nursery in 1986 and started up in 1987.
“The nursery business is pretty much like taking care of children…the nursery stock has to be watered and fed no matter what’s going on,” Wolinski says. Noting the labor-intensive business that it is, after 20 years of little to no breaks tending to the “children,” he had an opportunity to sell the nursery, and he did.
In 2006, Wolinski joined up with his father-in-law to help out at the sawmill and came to do a lot of work with the mulch and recycling area. “Over the six years prior to me becoming president, I learned an awful lot about that operation,” he says. His father-in-law suddenly passed, and unbeknownst to him, the business was left for him to run as president for Ed Stanfield the owner of Edrich Lumber.
At that point, their business was grade lumber and recycling of wood waste into mulch and different products like sawdust and shavings, but mainly mulch, topsoil, and lumber. “When I was given the reins of the company, I had to make sure that we stayed viable,” says Wolinski. With that in mind, he did a comprehensive study of the operation. They looked at what it cost them to produce all of their products, including drilling down to even their rental business with multiple houses and businesses on the property that they rent. “We really dug in deep,” he says, just to figure out where the profit centers were.
“The results were very eye-opening,” Wolinski notes. They found that the sawmill was not profitable for various reasons, including older equipment, downtime, the nature of urban forestry and the abundance of different species of trees to deal with, labor costs in a metropolitan area like Baltimore, as well as contaminated wood that can come through the mill causing equipment damage. “All of these things together made us take a real hard look at how we ran the lumber mill and what could we do to move ahead and keep lumber a part of our operation and look for a value-added way to go about this,” he says.
Utilization was vital, and Wolinski went about it in a groundbreaking way, using every last bit of forestry product that comes into the yard, from scragg logs, or low-quality logs, to the wood waste and storm debris that comes through and is converted to mulch. When looking at the low-quality logs out there in the supply chain, “which nobody is ever going to have a shortage of,” says Wolinski, it was another appealing forestry byproduct option. By the end of 2014, they had finished putting in a $2 million scragg mill that is running full time. “We had a lot of scragg logs coming in to be processed and recycled into mulch,” he notes. Now a good percentage of these logs are processed through the scragg mill to make pallet lumber. His father-in-law pioneered the Edrich mulch operation in the Baltimore area back in the late ‘60s. “There was a point of time where we gave away our bark just to get rid of it, and it was a byproduct. Dick had so many people coming in for the bark in the late ‘60s that he finally started charging for it,” says Wolinski.
Even wood from other sawmills is put to use by Edrich Lumber, with wooden stakes crafted close to 100% from good quality lumber bought from other MD and southern PA mills. “I saw a developing need for more and more stakes, for enviro purposes…tree planting, silt fence and erosion controls, it all utilizes wood stakes. Which prompted the addition of a new stake mill in 2015. I saw stakes being in big demand,” says Wolinski. Their stakes have been shipped as far south as South Carolina in what are quite bizarre times, but business is thriving, he adds.
Making their machinery more efficient at the mill is always a priority, and they’ve cut down on their fuel consumption with some new screening equipment. “If we can take products away from the diesel fuel production and make it electric, we do that, if viable” he says. An even more groundbreaking approach to their business is the addition of thermally modified lumber, which is a technology they’re beginning to look at and research. Using a kiln of sorts, lumber is heated to a point where the molecular structure is changed while oxygen is removed from the heating chamber, increasing the field durability of wood that would eliminate the need for chemical treatment to prevent decay. It’s early in the game, but Edrich has tested some poplar through the process with the University of Minnesota. It looks encouraging as an environmentally sustainable and safe way to create durable lumber from native tree species. These efforts have been helped by the MD Department of Natural Resources and a grant through the Maryland Agricultural & Resource Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO).
From benefiting the industry and environment to helping the community, Edrich Lumber has its hands in a little bit of everything. For example, the Sawmill Cafe, located at Edrich Lumber run by Progress Unlimited, is a deli run on-site by physically and mentally challenged individuals to help them gain skills and enter the workforce. Edrich Lumber donates the facility and equipment to them, and the individuals are paid through Progress Unlimited. “It’s nice to see them be able to have success and be able to make it out in the workforce,” Wolinski says with a smile. Edrich Lumber has been a longtime supporter of the Maryland Forests Association. MFA offers an annual scholarship in honor of Mr. Dick Stanfield. The scholarship provides a $500 cash award to an MFA member, child of an MFA member, or employee of Edrich Lumber to continue their education at the college level.
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
Edrich Lumber, Inc.
What is thermally modified wood?
Maryland's Forests- Great for the Environment and the Economy
Dick Stanfield Scholarship
Why Join MFA