Jennifer DeFrancesco is a true advocate for sustainable forestry in our local communities. Her father, Bill Fabian started B&B Forest Products in Greene County over 35 years ago. Their business employs 38 people and serves as a marketing conduit for small, independent loggers to get their harvested logs to buyers across the country and around the world.
“Logging in our region is significantly different than what many people outside our industry imagine”, notes Jen, who wears many hats in the business, but is officially titled Export Manager. “Unlike operations in southern and western states, the vast majority of logging in our area is done on private properties, 50 acres and under. This makes it unfeasible for large, corporate logging operations to operate effectively, as specific care must be taken in selecting the trees to be harvested, and leave the property able to support new growth.”
Jen has always wanted to be part of the family business and has worked side by side with her parents and siblings since junior high school. She earned her degree in Small Business Management from the College of St. Rose in Albany and has been applying those skills to the business ever since. Her two brothers and sister, as well as her Mom & Dad serve in various leadership and administration roles, from operations to forest management.
“It’s very difficult for independent loggers to get their harvests to the right customers by themselves”, Jen explains. “A load of logs from a single property most always has multiple species of wood, with multiple levels of quality, all of which have different markets. Buyers are looking to source logs of the same species in quantity, and a single logger may need months or even years to stockpile enough to fill an order alone. That’s where we come in.”
B&B Forest Products serves as a central depot where loggers can bring a load of various woods and get paid upon delivery. The team at B&B grade and sort the logs and assemble them into shipments that fill standing orders from large manufacturers. Jen continuously cultivates relationships with buyers all over the world, and they know her personally as a reliable source for the types of wood they need to run their operations. B&B works with their logger-suppliers to identify opportunities to harvest the woods that are in demand by buyers, and handles all the shipping and delivery requirements to get logs to their destinations.
“People may be surprised to learn that a major international manufacturer of concert grand pianos only uses Catskill Mountain Hard Maple for their sound resonators, and sources it from B&B exclusively”, says Jen, who goes on to state that education of public is one of her primary challenges. “In recent years, State and Federal legislators tend to label logging operations as bad for the environment”, she continues, “and to be sure, some corporate logging practices result in negative impacts, but that’s not how we do it here.”
The loggers that utilize B&B to get their harvests to market often have long-term relationships with private property owners, helping them to manage not only the productivity, but overall health of their forest assets. Jen’s husband, who is one of these loggers, refers to it as “Farming the Forest”. Over his career, he has fostered many of his client’s properties, harvesting the mature trees, and creating space for younger trees to flourish. This type of small-scale stewardship is what makes logging sustainable in our natural environment, and provides a steady source of revenue for sellers, harvesters, and brokers.
Educating the public (and public officials) on the benefits of sustainable forestry operations like hers is a daily focus for Jen as she was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Empire State Forest Products Association in December of 2021. Notably, she is not only the youngest person to serve in that role, but the first woman since the association was established in 1906.
“It can be frustrating to see new legislation introduced and enacted with little or no thought to including New York’s Forestry Industry”, Jen admits, “especially when the intent of new policies and laws are to help address the effects of climate change. Our industry relies on a healthy environment and predictable climate, and our insight and experience should be part of any efforts to protect both.”
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Topics: Success Stories