Benjamin Harris has worked in forest management for more than a decade. He works every day the weather is good.
His focus is on sustainable forestry. Harris says Sinking Creek Horse Logging doesn't do clear cuts in the forest, only select cuts taking twenty to seventy percent of wood. He aims to leave the area better than he found it going in. "We don't need big roads for tractor trailers to get in."
Instead of tractors and bull dozers to cut paths, Harris uses draft horses. "They're a lot smaller, a lot more maneurvable," he said. "We can kind of fit in between the trees. You can turn them around on a dime."
Horse logging, he says reduces the overall footprint in the forest. "If I use one horse, I can fit through a three foot space and go through the woods and avoid damaging the trees that we are trying to let grow."
Harris has raised Tug since he was born. He talks to him and Charlene like a loving father talks to his children, training and guiding them as they work. "An average skid, pull through the woods might be 2,000 to 3,000, 4,000 lbs per pull. At times it can be as high as a 6,000 or 7,000 lbs load," he said. "They hardly notice it."
Harris uses a two wheel cart called a logging arch. It provides front end suspension and helps the horses pull about fifty percent more. He says the horses are doing what they were bred to do. "They love it. They've been bred for centuries to do this kind of work. It's just like a sheepdog that loves to herd sheep. They just love to work."
Harris says when customers are looking to buy lumber, many look for wood that has been sourced in an environmentally friendly way.
Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for the Blue Ridge Music Festival.