Clyde Tree Farm & Northwest Sustainable Wood Products, Silverdale, WA
By Jennifer Whitelaw
Helen and Drew Daly have 154 acres of Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) certified forestland near Silverdale in Kitsap County along the Hood Canal. Helen inherited the property, where she grew up, from her parents, who purchased it in the 1930s after the government decided to build the Bangor Naval Submarine Base, thereby displacing her family from their former residence. Her parents, Clyde and Bernice, got a deal on the land they purchased, now known as Clyde Tree Farm, thanks to the economic downturn at the time. If not for their purchase, the forest land was slated to become small housing plots with roads paved through a little neighborhood to be known as “Landis.”
Clyde Tree Farm, now owned by Helen and her sister Nancy, as well as eight minority owners within the family, is home to just about every species of tree native to the area. Their specialty for lumber production, however, is Douglas Fir.
Helen’s husband Drew and their long-time family friend Mike run a second business at Clyde Tree Farm, Northwest Sustainable Wood Products, LLC. They produce a wide range of wood products, especially custom molding from Clyde Tree Farm’s Douglas Fir, Grand Fir, Cedar, Alder, Maple, Cascara, Cherry, Pine and Madrone trees. The farm is, in fact, one of the few Northwest Certified Forestry members to grow Madrone.
As an FSC certified forest through the Northwest Natural Resource Group’s (NNRG) Northwest Certified Forestry program, the Clyde Tree Farm is permitted to market wood products with the FSC label. With limited FSC wood sources in Kitsap County, many locals have had to travel to Seattle to find certified wood products.
“Folks love having a local option,” said Drew, adding that their specialization in Douglas Fir trim and molding also helps set them apart. Most trim and molding found in conventional lumber stores is made from pine, eastern hardwoods or a composite material, none of which comes from the Pacific Northwest.
For now, Helen, Drew and Mike are concentrating on amassing a healthy supply of FSC wood products so that they can be ready when the economy rebounds. They’re building a website for the wood products business and doing a small amount of word-of-mouth and advertising through Craig’s List, but they plan to meet directly with architects and builders when they kick off a bigger marketing push.
Drew and Mike mill, dry and finish the wood at Clyde Tree Farm, and they converted some barn structures on the property to accommodate their operation. Trees from the property supplied the raw materials they needed to modify one of the barns and build a storage loft. Over the past year they built a solar wood drying kiln and added a Woodmaster edger/molder to turn their lumber into high value trim and molding.
In addition to the 154 acres of forest, Clyde Tree Farm includes seven acres on the Hood Canal side of the property. Clyde and Bernice divided the two-plot, seven-acre piece of land so that Helen and Nancy each inherited one plot. When Nancy decided to move away, Helen and Drew purchased Nancy’s plot and turned her home into a guest cottage.
While Drew and Mike busily cut and shape wood, Helen oversees Forest Enchantment Cottage, a guesthouse on the property.
The secluded family getaway cottage faces the hood canal, offering magnificent views of the hood canal from the west side of the house, including the deck. The master bedroom features a bed frame made by a local craftsman from driftwood reclaimed from Kitsap beaches and a picture window looking into the forest.
“The cottage is all about love of the forest,” said Helen, who is always thinking about how to make the guesthouse even more remarkable.
Cottage guests can meander along trails throughout the property, including one that goes all the way to the beach. Drew has a pile of new trail marker signs stacked in his workshop, waiting to be posted around Clyde Tree Farm. Satin, the resident horse, watches over Drew and Mike’s work from her room in the workshop barn, and Anna the dog, is a constant companion. A handful of chickens, which were saved from being the main course many years ago by Helen’s children, provide fresh eggs for the Farm.
Clyde Tree Farm is home to less tame creatures as well. Helen reports seeing cougars, bears, foxes, coyotes and a variety of birds passing through, including bald eagles that sometimes carry away chickens.
In recent years, herons have shown interest in setting up their rookeries at the Farm rather than by the water as their habitats become more disrupted. Helen reports seeing more and more coyotes, which may have been pushed closer to the Farm by encroaching development.
For Helen, certifying their forest was just “formalizing what I already knew,” she said, adding that she, Drew and Mike already shared a love of the land when they learned about the Northwest Certified Forestry program at a workshop in Chimacum hosted by NNRG. They joined Northwest Certified Forestry in January, 2009 and completed the FSC certification process in May after finishing a forest stewardship plan for the property.
Helen, who has studied forestry extensively, also restarted the Washington Farm Forestry Association chapter for Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson and Clallam counties a number of years ago and then served as president for several years.
She remembers one meeting of the association, years ago, where someone came to talk about sustainable forestry. “I felt sorry for him,” she said. “Our members were so suspicious. They were afraid of rules that wouldn’t let them make a profit.” Many in her association have still not certified their forests, but more and more are considering doing so, says Helen, who understands the challenges facing forest owners trying to make a living off their property.
“I wish everyone would treat their land carefully,” she said. “It won’t belong to us forever. We’re just custodians. We’re just using it and taking care of it.”
Clyde Tree Farm has been designated as “timberland” by the county, which means lower property taxes in exchange for the lumber tax the state and county eventually receive when landowners harvest timber. This designation, and the associated lower taxes, help them keep their tree farm financially feasible.
Mike, Drew and Helen agree that in 20 years, they want Clyde Tree Farm to look just like it does now, and plan to use sustainable forestry practices to achieve this goal. They also hope that their heirs will have enough interest to take over the farm one day. Mike’s daughter, a University of Washington student at the time, created the forest management plan, which earned Clyde Tree Farm’s FSC certification through the Northwest Certified Forestry program in early 2009.
“Who knows what the future holds,” said Mike.” You give the kids an education about the land and put something into it so they love it.”
While stewardship and legacy motivate everyone at Clyde Tree Farm, most importantly, says Drew, “We’re having fun.”