By George Fullerton
Forvico is a family based stump-to-dump harvest logging business based in Plessisville, Quebec, with a strong family focus.
Marc Vigneault established himself as a logging contractor in 1979, working with a John Deere 440 cable skidder. In 1993, Marc and Julie Vigneault established the family business as Forvico, and over the years brought their sons Marc-Andre, Dany, Christian and Alain into the family enterprise.
Through the years, Julie has continued to be an intricate part of the family business, overseeing office work and sharing input on business strategy.
Marc-Andre joined the family business in 1997, about the time the first mechanical harvester started working on Forvico operations. Dany joined the business in 2002, and Alain the following year. Christian chose an alternative career and became a technician working with cattle genetics for Boviteq, a subsidiary of Semex, based in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec.
In 2010, the Vigneaults decided it was time to separate the business office from Marc and Julie’s home. Their search for a suitable building led them to a commercial building which housed a woodworking shop, on the outskirts of Plessisville. After they made the deal for the real estate, they took a hard look at the woodworking enterprise and decided that it would, in fact, make a good addition to the family enterprises.
Consequently, Boisverco was established and their son Alain became the manager and shop foreman. Christian also dedicates his talents to Boisverco, when extra help is required to complete a project.
Boisverco has only a few permanent employees, but relies on the contribution of the extended Vigneault family, including Marc and Julie’s sixteen grandchildren, assisting with custom woodworking projects, from time to time. It is clearly evident that the Vigneault Family is immensely proud of the Boisverco operation, and seeing high end value added products generated from lumber produced from harvest operations like Forvico.
Boisverco carries a large and diverse inventory of kiln dried native hardwood lumber, in addition to hardwood species from the U.S. (white oak, walnut, cherry etc), which are processed in regional sawmills. In addition to utilizing lumber in the shop, Boisverco also retails lumber to other local businesses and crafters.
The shop is equipped with high quality saws, planers, moulders, end matcher, sander, glue racks, and dedicated paint room. One completed project was a series of cooling racks destined for a bakery chain based in Toronto.
Plessisville is situated about midway between Montreal and Quebec City, about 30 kilometres south of the St. Lawrence River. Forvico harvesting operations are generally within a two-hour commute from Plessisville.
Forvico operations are in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest zone, which is a transitional zone between hardwood-dominated forest to the south and boreal forest to the north. The Great Lakes-
St. Lawrence forest zone supports a very diverse tree species mix. The sawmilling industry is equally diverse with both hardwood and softwood, and pressed board, mills scattered throughout southern Quebec.
Forvico’s initial venture into mechanized harvesting was with a John Deere 690E excavator conversion. Forwarding was initially handled with a Tree Farmer F4 and later a Rotobec F2000.
In 2012, Forvico purchased their first Tigercat machine, a 1075B forwarder. The Vigneaults were impressed with the performance of the forwarder, and in 2015 added a Tigercat 822 harvester to the fleet. Since then, they have added two more 822 Tigercats and in 2022, a new 1075 forwarder.
In 2016 Forvico added trucking to their operation, with an International tractor and a Trailex B-train trailer. Currently, the trucking fleet consists of three International tractors, each pulling Trailex trailers equipped with Rotobec loaders. The trailers all run on super single tires, which perform well and reduce the amount of mud the trucks carry on to public highways.
The harvest operations are supervised by Marc-Andre who also handles mechanical issues with the machines, and fills in as operator when required. Dany works as a full-time harvester operator and can also fill in on the forwarder when required.
Historically, this region of southern Quebec was settled and the arable land developed for agriculture, and the less desirable land remained wooded. In addition to commercial timber production on private woodlots, the region is also recognized for maple syrup production.
The forest terrain that Forvico operates in ranges from relatively flat to very steep hills.
Forvico contracts harvesting on private woodlots through different stumpage approaches. About 50 per cent of their operations are by stumpage contract developed between Forvico and the landowner. Stumpage can be agreed to be a lump sum payment for the wood on the block of land or by a percentage of the revenue by scale at the mills.
About 30 per cent of Forvico operations are by contract with private woodlot Groupement organizations. Groupements are an association of woodlot owners who join together to collectively market wood to mills, and to provide silviculture and other management activities to their membership, and sometimes to non-member woodlot owners seeking management work. Groupements employ forestry professionals to supervise woodlot activities. Harvest and silviculture work is contracted with Groupement Agro-Forestier Lotbuniere-Megantic. Groupements represent more than a thousand woodlot owners in the Plessisville region, and south to the New Hampshire/Vermont borders.
Another 20 per cent of Forvico operations are on land that Forvico purchases. After harvest is complete, Forvico typically sells the cutover land. In southern Quebec there is a strong demand for cutover land by city residents seeking property for recreational uses including cottages and hunting.
About 70 per cent of Forvico operations are clearcuts, 20 per cent are commercial thinning, and 10 per cent are represented as natural regeneration release cuts.
Forvico has developed a reputation for plantation thinning, and has been at it long enough to have done second thinning interventions on some plantations. Since the 1960s, many Quebec woodlot owners have developed spruce, pine and fir plantations, either to regenerate cutovers or to reforest unused agriculture land.
The majority of Forvico’s log delivery to various mills is within an hour to ninety minutes away from their harvest operations. Forvico delivers hardwood logs to two hardwood sawmills, a series of six softwood sawmills, one cedar mill and two mills which saw tamarack.
Currently, Forvico is working with its original Tigercat 1075 forwarder (20 tonne), along with a new Tigercat 1075C forwarder purchased in October 2022. The harvester side of the operation incudes a Tigercat 822D with a modified Log Max 7000XT head, a Tigercat 822D with a Tigercat T570 head and a Tigercat 822C equipped with a Waratah 415 head. The 822 Tigercats, with their compact structure, can fit and operate effectively on narrow trails, and still have the power and stability to handle big timber.
On a recent visit, the Forvico operation was split to two sites. The two 822 harvesters (Tigercat and Waratah heads) were operating on two neighbouring woodlots near Megantic, southwest of Plessisville. The cutover retained a good deal of immature hardwoods and softwood trees, as well as emerging natural regeneration. Machines work to form trail and take care to keep forwarders on one track across an agricultural field, to pile down wood at roadside.
On a woodlot about an hour to the east of Plessisville, their Tigercat H822D with Log Max 7000XT was operating alongside the 1075B forwarder. Forvico was just completing a harvest which selected the ‘well’ matured softwood, leaving immature maple and other hardwood trees. This addressed the landowner’s desire to develop a maple sugar operation down the road. As the operation neared completion, the landowner was left with a well distributed stocking of young maples. Forvico had built a temporary stream crossing to protect the water quality in a stream adjacent to the public road.
On the woodlot next door, Forvico had just completed a second intervention thinning in a spruce plantation.
Observing the second thinning, it was evident that Forvico took a great deal of care in the operation. Crop trees were evenly spaced and there was virtually no machine damage to the crop trees. Also evident was the versatility and agility of the Tigercat 822 and the operator’s talents. Compliments were also in order for the forwarder operator for avoiding contact with crop trees and assembling tidy, well situated piles of product for the truckers. Forvico had also supervised major truck road improvement in order to access and complete management harvesting throughout the woodlot.
The Log Max 700XT head has been heavily modified. Michel Thibeault, sales rep for Wajax Quebec, explained that the Vigneaults’ long experience with mechanized harvesting allows them to see opportunities where equipment modification will improve productivity, and their mechanical and design work is first rate.
The Tigercat 570 head has not received much enhancement, with Marc-Andre pointing out that it is a very heavy duty product, which requires less maintenance than other harvest heads. He points to the large and tough measuring wheel which works extremely well in all weather conditions, and the continuous 360-degree rotation as a couple of the attributes which make the 570 a great performing product.
Dany noted that the newest Tigercat 822D brings all the size, power and stability characteristics as the older model 822 machine, and additionally some advances including cushions on all the hydraulic cylinders, which makes it a very comfortable machine to operate, and in the long term reduces wear on the machine.
Marc-Andre declared that along with the great performance they get with Tigercat machines, they also see the great support they get from Wajax and Tigercat as very important for the business.
“When we have an issue with equipment, we get fast and accurate responses from Wajax and Tigercat,” he says.
“Wajax in Quebec City keep a large and comprehensive parts inventory, and if the part is not at Quebec City, the factory in Ontario can get a part to us within a day. We get great follow-up from the Tigercat factory on any issue we share with them. And they are very good on providing us with continuous technical updates on the equipment we run,” he added.
This all helps to keep what is a thriving family business operating, with many Vigneault family members involved, moving forward.
On the Cover:
Michel and Christine Parent have built MDA Foresterie from a single machine slashing wood at roadside to a five-machine cut-to-length operation which produces 75,000 to 80,000 tonnes of wood annually. Their plans call for cutting back their current operation by selling their cut-to-length processors and forwarder to their sons David and Anthony, and offering them guidance on how to build their own forestry contracting business. cover photo by George Fullerton).
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