Praise for loggers, some of the hardest workers anywhere, comes far too seldom. So it’s especially heartening to see a young logger honored twice in the past six month.
MFPC chose Dean Pepper of Fayette as Maine’s Outstanding Logger at last fall’s annual meeting and now he’s also sharing in the Pine Tree Camp’s award as the state’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year for 2016. The camp also has been nominated for the American Tree Farm System’s national award.
“We very much enjoyed the work that he did here at camp,” said Harvey Chesney, facilities manager at Pine Tree Camp. “I had a chance on many occasions to watch the harvest in action and thought that it was done in the utmost respect for our land and what needed to happen in terms of the forestry.”
What’s written on his MFPC award encapsulates his excellent work. “In recognition of exemplary on the ground performance and a strong commitment to meeting the management objectives of the landowner through innovation and sound business management, the Maine Forest Products Council is proud to present this award to: D.R. Pepper Wood Harvesting.”
Pepper accepted the MFPC award with just a simple, “Thank you.” After the ceremony, however, he did add, “I’m very honored and I would like to thank my parents for bringing me up around the forest industry and also my wife, Catherine, for helping me through the tough times.”
Although he once dreamed of being a bush pilot, Pepper took up the family business instead. He’s the son of Bill and Becky Pepper, who own a log trucking business in Livermore Falls.
His older brother, Tim, also is a logger and so are several uncles in the Augusta area.
“Needless to say, the timber business is in Dean’s blood.” said Joe Stevenson of Sappi, who along with John Starrett, nominated Pepper for MFPC Outstanding Logger.
His dad owned a 540B John Deere cable skidder. After high school, Dean started work with it and eventually bought it. He also operated heavy equipment, including a construction excavator, for others.
“I have to give my father a lot of the credit to starting my own business,” Pepper told Timberline Magazine in 2014.
He soon added a forwarder to his business, which led to a partnership with his brother-in-law, launching a cut-to-length harvesting system. Around 2010, he purchased a processor and began working with Stevenson and Starrett on Sappi procurement projects. Several years ago Justin Dube began operating Dean’s forwarder, bringing his own quality skills and work ethic to the business.
“The two of them are an ideal team, even-tempered, hardworking, quality and results driven,” Stevenson said. “It’s a real treat to work with D.R. Pepper and I feel this award is very well deserved.”
Recently, Pepper added a new employee, Coby Smith, and a processor to his business.
Starrett has worked with Pepper on about 20 projects in 15 towns and also had high praise for his work. Two “especially noteworthy” projects were harvesting a deer yard under permit and his work at the Pine Tree Camp.
“In fact, the harvest site (at Pine Tree) was used as a backdrop for the Healthy Forest training program, particularly for forest aesthetics,” Starrett said, adding that Pepper “also is great with utilization and market specifications.”
Running a business from the seat of his harvester is a challenge, but if Pepper didn’t enjoy a challenge he never would have become a logger. Being a bush pilot might have been just a little more relaxing.