Annual forestry show gathers industry, highlights best logging practices
Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson
Year after year, the Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show attracts thousands of visitors. Canceled in 2020, as most large gatherings were because of the COVID pandemic, the show opened in 2021 with about 3,500 former and new attendees ready to discover the latest forestry equipment, safety guidelines, and timber-harvesting methods.
One participant, who’s attended the forestry show since 1998, got his first opportunity to judge the annual loader contest at the 2021 event. Ronny Prewitt never even competed in the contest, but that, according to show organizer Dr. John Auel, made him the perfect choice for the job.
Auel, coordinator for the Professional Logging Management program delivered by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, has been offering educational and professional development opportunities for loggers for more than 25 years.
“I’ve known Ronny for years; he’s always willing to help out,” says Auel, also an assistant Extension professor. “I needed a reliable person, and Ronny is reliable. He’s a great representative of the logging industry, a stand-up guy, and a very good logger.”
A Choctaw County native from Ackerman, Prewitt has worked for Chambers Logging since 1997. Owner Eric Chambers developed and trademarked the Chambers Delimbinator, which removes limbs from tree trunks, and, in 1998, the Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show gave Ronny the chance to demonstrate it in front of a few large crowds.
“There was some pulpwood up here to cut. That’s what the Delimbinator does: it delimbs small pulpwood—the trees that are thinned from forests, the ones that are too small to make logs,” Prewitt explains. “The Delimbinator still has a booth here at the show, even though there really isn’t as much pulpwood to cut.
“This forestry show, with Extension and John, is important because there are a lot of people who come to this show who have never been on-site to a logging job,” he continues. “They know all about buying and selling lumber, but they have no idea how they get it. It’s good to talk to them about their issues and troubles they face in their industry.”
As judge for the loader contest, Prewitt made sure the competition remained safe and fair. Featuring a Tiger Cat 234B, the contest tests how fast a user can pick up precut logs, swing them around, and stack them neatly.
“Quite a few people compete,” Prewitt says. “There’s a lot of loader operators out there. There’s not much chain-sawing going on anymore for loggers, but because of this mechanized equipment, it is a lot safer.”
But logging is still a dangerous business, and Prewitt stays up-to-date and encourages other loggers to maintain safety protocols and participate in safety trainings.
“We’re required to have a total of 12 hours of continuing education every 2 years, so we need 6 hours a year. You can get those hours by coming to the Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show each day and go through the classes offered here and get those 12 hours. Coming to the show can get you caught up quickly with the best safety information,” he explains.
One of the key takeaways Prewitt hopes forestry show participants leave with is a better understanding of how logging conserves and protects natural resources instead of destroying them.
“A lot of people think we’re just out here destroying the earth, but we’re not,” Prewitt emphasizes. “We’re actually managing what God has given us to be good stewards of.
“That’s the way we look at it. As for our company, we don’t make a mess, and what mess we do make, we clean it up. We’re not in the business to go out and destroy and leave a mess; we thin timber, and we manage forests.”
The show gives Prewitt a chance to spread awareness about what loggers do, and one of his most important messages is to slow down when there’s a truck full of logs on the highway.
“Just remember, that driver rolled out early, and he’s probably going to be late getting home, so just be safe around them,” he says. “We can all benefit by just slowing down and being a little more courteous to our fellow men and women.”
Safety is critical to success in the logging industry, explains Ken Paine, with Chambers Delimbinator. He explains that attending the Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show offers great opportunities for learning and networking.
“The loggers get to see what new equipment is available and what’s coming out of the market,” Paine shares. “We talk about the mills, and it’s a great opportunity for everyone to gather in one place. The industry is evolving rapidly, so it’s good to come together and visit with each other. All loggers are facing the same challenges.”