Seen from left are Bryce Card, Adam Meng, Lallah Tyler, Mason Rowe and Trevor Couture. The students in the forestry and wood harvesting program at Foster CTE Center in Farmington stand in front of the mini-forwarder purchased with support from a new state grant program. Courtesy Foster CTE Center

FARMINGTON — This spring students in the forestry and wood harvesting program at Foster Career and Technical Education Center have a new piece of equipment to use thanks to a new state grant program.

“The equipment chosen from the grant program will work great, it has updated us quite a bit,” program instructor Rodney Spiller said recently. “People have been working on trying to get funding for some of the tech programs, it took seven years. I took some  kids to talk to the legislators at one time about the need for more valuable training.”

When the Bureau of Parks and Lands came out with the grant which requires a match, Spiller applied and was one of three schools in the state to receive $50,000 grants. The other schools are Oxford Hills Technical School – Region 11 in South Paris, and the Region 2 School of Applied Technology Forest Management and Operations in Houlton/Dyer Brook.

A custom ordered kinetic mini-forwarder from Estonia was purchased, Spiller said, noting the closest dealer is in Quebec. Spiller decided to purchase it before the grant check arrived.

“I am so thankful we jumped when we jumped, we probably wouldn’t have seen it for awhile,” Spiller said. “It will allow us to move wood where we are cutting to the landing. It is going to push the kids more into mechanical logging, go the next step, perhaps lead directly to employment.”

A full size forwarder costs $400,000 to $500,000, an amount Spiller said he would never have gotten funding for.


“We’re starting to see those smaller machines in the state,” he said. Spiller is working with the Quebec dealership which might provide funding to go back into the forestry program.

“This is really, really good stuff,” he said.

Seen from left are Mt. Blue Middle School Principal James Black, Assistant Forestry Instructor Brenda Medcoff, Rob Elliott of RLH Enterprise, former state Senator Tom Saviello, District State Forester Julie Davenport, PLC of Maine Executive Director Dana Doran, Forestry Instructor Rod Spiller, MLOP Instructor/PLC Safety Coordinator Donald Burr, Patty Cormier Director of Maine Forest Service, and Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands Deputy Director William Patterson. They were at Foster CTE Center in Farmington recently to see the mini-forwarder purchased for the forestry and wood harvesting program with assistance from a new grant from the Bureau of Parks and Lands. Courtesy Foster CTE Center

Earlier this month the new equipment was demonstrated to dignitaries who had been involved with the grant program’s development.

“There were eight applicants from around the state in the first round,” William Patterson, deputy director for the Bureau of Parks and Lands said recently. “Each school is purchasing a different piece of equipment, what they had is out of date.”

The bureau encourages young people to enter forestry, similar careers, he said. The bureau has a new curriculum exposing students to how its lands are managed, a forester goes into classrooms for that and to discuss careers, Patterson noted. It will give a personal, professional connection between the two, he added.

“It is extremely important to our industry,” Dana Doran, executive director of Professional Loggers and Contractors of Maine said. “We represent contractors that would hire students. We’ve been screaming for this for years.”


The forestry programs need equipment, funds, he noted. “This is such a positive for them.”

“Maine’s remaining CTE logging and forestry programs are critical to the future of the logging industry in Maine, which is struggling to attract and retain workers in the midst of a general worker shortage, accelerating retirements among the existing logging workforce, and public perceptions that the future of timber harvesting in Maine is in doubt,” Doran wrote in a recent newsletter. “The CTE programs are also a natural feeder system for students enrolling in the Mechanized Logging Operations Program (MLOP) after graduation.”

Former state Senator Tom Saviello of Wilton provided more details on how the grant program came to be.

In 2016 the Bureau of Parks and Land had a $300,000 surplus after selling wood at a very good price, he said. Governor LePage wanted to use it to buy wood and pellet stoves for Mainers and a commission was put together to explore the possibility, Saviello noted.

Saviello co-chaired the commission with Craig Hickman, now a state senator. It was charged with determining how the money could be spent, Saviello said.

It was learned the funds could be used on education, churches and management of the lands themselves, he said. When Maine broke away from Massachusetts in 1820 everything in place from Massachusetts rule automatically carried over if it wasn’t changed by Maine leaders, Saviello noted.


“Think about it, the two things critical at that time were you needed schools and a church,” he said. One way the bureau could spend the money was supporting technical programs at the community college and high school levels through an ongoing grant program, Saviello said.

“I wanted to make sure we put these things into law, I spoke with the Agriculture Committee,” he said. It was a surprise when it got vetoed, Saviello noted.

Saviello put the bill back in, it was again vetoed.

“One of the most important things was the kids from Foster’s forestry program came down and testified on the bill,” Saviello said. “They showed up, got involved. It was because of them we were able to pass it.

“Seven years later there is this piece of equipment,” he noted. “Wow! To see it come to fruition, going outside watching one of the students operating it was fascinating.”

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