My name is Anna May and I’m a fourth-generation owner of Starker Forests. Right now, I’m working on being a conduit between the family and the company, so can make good decisions to guide the company into the future.
The company got started in 1936 by my great grandfather, T.J. Starker. He was a professor at Oregon State and saw real potential in the second growth of forest, because he was coming in right when most of the old-growth forest had been harvested and the people that had done that thought, “We got the timber and now we’re done.”
He saw the potential for the forest to regrow and to continue to produce a resource, and he encouraged buying these cutover forests to maintain a resource for the future. He was able to do that, luckily, with his professor salary through the Depression. He got to the point where he had enough land to support himself. He always wanted to be a teacher and it was always important to him to be involved with teaching, so that’s a value that the family has carried forward from him, to teach the value of forests.
Then his son joined him, and then my dad and my uncle joined him, and now I’m working here and we’re all OSU forestry graduates. We’ve tried to maintain a close relationship with the college and with the local schools to continue education about forests. Now, we’ve grown to where we have about 20 employees doing most of our work. We’re here to keep guiding the company into the future and managing our resource to provide wood for our society.
Our family knows the forest provides lots of benefits beyond just wood. It provides clean air and the water that we all drink. Our family enjoys being in the forest and we want people to come out and experience it too, so we really encourage recreation. We offer free permits to people to come out and experience the forests. There’s family members who are working related ventures to get people out in the woods and in nature. Our company emphasizes education and helping the public to understand all the benefits of the forest and the science behind the management that we do. It’s really important to us that people can experience the forest and understand that we’re trying to provide for all the benefits of the forest: for wildlife habitat and clean water and air and as resource for people to enjoy. Not just use the wood that comes from it but enjoy it while it’s growing.
I think Outdoor School fits right in with what we try to do. It’s important that kids from Oregon understand the natural resource heritage of the state and that it’s still an active industry. It’s important for them to be able to look up at a tree to see what a 120-foot-tall tree is, instead of just reading in a book that a tree can grow that tall. It’s important that they understand what our resources are, how they can be managed, and how they can be protected so that they can make good decisions, as citizens and as thought leaders going forward. We need a legacy of thoughtful and informed management. I think Outdoor School can provide them the tools to get there in their lives.