Phillip Hankins of Pikeville learned the logging business from his father, who learned it from his father before him. As a high school student, he worked at the family’s sawmill and timber operation doing whatever jobs were required. His senior year, he earned the Tennessee farmer’s award for timber from FFA. Forty years later, he was named the state’s Master Logger of the Year for 2016.
It’s a career that brings Hankins much personal satisfaction. “I enjoy the work and the opportunity to be outside every day,” he says. “I love the smell of the mornings in the woods and the changing of the seasons. I feel lucky to have a job where I have a lot of independence, where I can complete a hard day’s work and make a difference for a landowner.”
Making that difference begins with attention to detail. When working with private landowners, for instance, Hankins will inspect the property and provide an estimate of the costs, timing and services required to harvest the timber. Those services include first creating a plan with the landowner to construct roads in the harvest area. Next, he selects a site for a landing deck – which is used to collect harvested trees or logs and stage them for transport – and builds it to ensure protection of the environment. Hankins also consults with local foresters as needed to ensure best management practices before and during harvest. And the job isn’t done when the timber is harvested.
“It’s important to leave the land as close to natural as possible,” Hankins says. That includes re-grading or re-graveling roads, or re-sowing land areas.
Committed to Excellence in Tennessee Forestry
While the tasks of the job remain much the same as when Hankins started in the business in 1975, equipment advances have created significant efficiencies and far less manual labor. Another constant in Hankins’ business is his commitment to hiring local logging professionals for his crew and ensuring they are properly trained.
For Hankins, that training focus started in 1993 when he signed up for the Master Logger program. It was the first year of the program, which is sponsored by the Tennessee Forestry Association (TFA), the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the University of Tennessee Extension and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
“I had been logging for 20 years by then and thought I knew all I needed to know,” Hankins says. “But the program did me a favor. I learned a lot about new techniques, safety, and the best practices for building roads. And I keep learning more when I go back for the program’s continuing training.”
Candace Dinwiddie, executive director of the Tennessee Forestry Association, explains that the Master Logger program begins with a five-day training that focuses on safety, best management practices for water quality and soil erosion, CPR and first aid, silviculture, which is the cultivation of trees, and business-management practices. Additional training is required every two years to maintain the Master Logger designation.
“The continuing education component allows us an opportunity to cover any new areas and address questions or topics in the industry that will benefit our logging community,” Dinwiddie says.
In addition to managing the Master Logger program, the TFA selects a Master Logger each year, recognizing commitment to the standards of the profession. Hankins’ longtime career, safety record and reputation in the industry made him a deserving choice, she says.
“Loggers are the backbone of the forestry industry,” Dinwiddie says. “We greatly value the work of professionals like Phillip Hankins and the thousands of other Master Loggers who work hard to ensure the high standards of the industry.”