St. John Valley tech center acquires new forestry equipment to train students

1 month ago

FRENCHVILLE, Maine – A $946,140 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission has enabled the St. John Valley Technology Center to purchase a sophisticated logging machine for the school’s forestry program. The machine is worth over $800,000, according to school officials.

The Frenchville-based center offers 11 different programs for high school and middle school students in the St. John Valley. They accept students from schools in Fort Kent, Madawaska, and St. Agatha. The Northern Border Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership for economic development in distressed counties in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

SJVTC Director Kevin Lavoie said the machine, a 2024 TimberPro TF830D Forwarder Combi-Unit, has multiple functions. Prior to obtaining it recently, students were using machinery from as far back as 1990. 

The new machine is versatile and a staple of the logging industry, which should help students learn the technology necessary to find employment.

“It’s pretty much two pieces of equipment in one,” Lavioe said. “It acts as harvesting equipment. It has a processing head where you cut the tree, you de-limb it, and then you can interchange that head to a grapple, and it has a forwarding body. So you can take your wood from after it’s been laid down from the processing methods and load it onto the unit and bring it to a field area where trucks pick it up and bring it to a processing plant.”

“It’s multifaceted and multifunctional,” he said. “And it’s a game changer for our students.”

Students interested in forestry will have a chance to use this machine in the field. The SJVTC recently entered into a collaborative agreement with Irving Woodlands which will let them cut on about 100 acres of their land. This will give students an experience nearly identical to work in the field.

“We want to give real-life experiences that are true to form, so that way when they leave our program, they can have the job offer right away,” Lavoie said. “They’ll have had time in the seat. They’re acclimated. They may not be experts at that time, but they’ll have a good understanding of operating the equipment and maintaining it.”

He said this could give them experience necessary to start out a large firm, or even to break out and start their own independent forestry business.

Much of the forested area in the St. John Valley area is owned by Irving Woodlands. If students decide to work in Aroostook County, the program provides an opportunity to work with one of the area’s largest employers.

The remaining funds from the grant will be used to purchase a field truck that will be used for diagnostic and repair work, as well as supplies for the new equipment.

Lavoie said that a donation of this size is practically unheard of for a school the size of the SJVTC.

“You have to take every opportunity you can to make things work,” he said. “And a lot of it has to go on the shoulders of grant writing and grabbing any opportunity you can. This is a big deal for us, because we’re a very small facility.”