CF timber program holds inaugural completion ceremony

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By Sean Arnold

Six pioneering students were recognized at the College of Central Florida’s first-ever Timber Harvesting Equipment Program Completion Ceremony last Friday in Chiefland.

The new non-credit program is aimed at preparing students for jobs in the field of logging and timber, an expanding industry in North Central Florida.

Students went through five weeks of classroom instruction and three weeks of hands-on field experience. Upon completion, they received Master Logger Certification, OSHA 10-hour Certification and CPR Certification.

The six students receiving certificates of completion at the Haven Hospice Community Center included: Guy Bowers; Garrett Bowker; Thomas Conrad; Hunter Matus; Charles McCullar; and Joshua Randolph. CF Levy Campus provost Dr. Rayanne Giddis delivered opening and closing remarks, while Levy Campus manager Holly McGlashan and program instructor and consultant Bryan Olmert also spoke and issued certificates.

“This has been an incredible experience,” McGlashan said. “I’m so incredibly proud of these six gentlemen. Some of them have overcome some extra barriers and have powered through.”

The course includes an introduction to the forest industry and instruction on basic forest management, timber harvesting operations, wildlife management, and safety and equipment operations.

“This program is the first of its kind in Florida,”Giddis said. “It was a difficult path, but these six graduates have done an exceptional job.”

Giddis thanked individuals and companies who helped support the program, including Ken and Lynetta Griner and Eric Handley of Usher Land and Timber, the Florida Forest Service, the Florida Forest Association, and Gary Beauchamp, who developed the curriculum for the program.

She noted the material support from places such as Deer Equipment, Ring Power, Tidewater Equipment, Tri-County Oil, Lyme Timber and Prep, The Conservation Fund, Suwannee Timber and Ward Timber as well as support from the CF Forest Advisory Committee and Career Source.

Of Olmert, she said, “he’s our most valuable player. He was sent from heaven to be our instructor for this program. He was more than an instructor, I think he was a guide and a leader for these students.”

Olmert thanked Giddis and McGlashan and his students.

“All of these names made my job very easy because the logistics of putting something like this together – getting fuel, getting equipment, getting everything to flow – was made possible by all those people Rayanne mentioned,” he said. “The curriculum was so well laid out that it was not an issue for me.

“I really have six great guys. They all gave me an awful lot of themselves. They’ve got some learning ahead of them, but they’ve got the basics.

“I couldn’t be prouder of all of them. I think they all have a bright future.”

Some of the program’s graduates have family that are linked to the timber industry, while others entered out of curiousity for the industry and a potential career.

“My teacher in high school told me it might be a good program for me because I’m more hands on,” Matus said. “Coming out of it, I think I have a better perspective on the industry.”

“I was already going to the school and (Levy CF adult education coordinator) Ms. (Leah) Gamble had told me and my wife about the program and I decided I’d see what it’s about, take it for a spin, and it turned out to be pretty good,” Randolph said. “I learned a lot.”

Bowers was also a student at CF when he learned about the program.

“My family has been in the logging business for a long time,” he said. “So I figured if I go in I better get all the requirements I need.”