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Articles & Stories

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Family tree farm reaping rewards of sustainable forest management in Philippines



By Bethany Faubion - To reprint this article, please contact Jacob Mooney.


“He’s the yang to my yin—I break things, he fixes them,” Marco says, nodding over at his brother Mario.

“He’s stubborn at times, but sometimes that stubbornness produces good products,” Mario counters with a laugh.



Located about three and a half hours north of Manila, these two brothers, along with their sister, Mara, run one of the largest private sustainable hardwood plantations in the Philippines, MARSSE Tropical Timber, as well as its product brand, SustainablyMade®. 





MARSSE Tropical Timber is a family-owned and operated tree farm in Pangasinan, Philippines. Mario and Marco work together in the farm workshop to manage the farm and produce products. Mara, and Mario’s wife Lyn, handles the sales and marketing operations in Manila for their local business.

The family displays their products at many tradeshows in the Philippines, in addition to online sales into Asia and Europe, and resellers.




Various kitchen items, technology stands, and furniture are just some of the sustainably-made products offered.


Their father, Mario Sr., started the business in 1992, and since that time the plantation has grown to over 125,000 Honduras Mahogany trees and several thousand Teak, Gmelina, and other local hardwood trees. 



“It started out as a hobby for my dad and me,” explains Mario. “When I was in high school, my dad said, ‘Let’s start planting trees.’ So we started planting seeds—any seed, actually…we planted the seeds in our small backyard. When they all grew, we couldn’t fit them in the back yard anymore. So we started looking for a place to plant them. It became an obsession of planting, and expanded into different types of trees.”



After several years, the men purchased barren land where they planted the seedlings they nurtured in their backyard. As the trees grew and matured over the years, they started making use of the trees a little bit at a time. Marco adds, “We looked for funding and around 2013, we got help from a local government agency, the Department of Science and Technology. They provided us a loan for wood-working machines. We started making small items with the wood. We focused mostly on common things like serving boards and cutting boards.”



Various kitchen items, technology stands, and furniture are just some of the sustainably-made products offered.


Various kitchen items, technology stands, and furniture are just some of the sustainably-made products offered.


The biggest difference between MARSSE Tropical Timber and other local hardwood businesses is that Mario and Marco give importance and meaning to the kinds of wood they produce. “We keep them natural in shape and shade,” Marco explains, “and we finely sand and polish the wood to bring out its natural beauty. That’s what we’re known for, really.”



The farm has grown full-circle, where the trees bear seeds resulting in wildlings growing abundantly. Mario and Marco manage the farm so that it can continue to replenish the trees harvested. They practice a less common form of logging called selective harvesting. Bypassing the clear cutting system, they cut a tree based on the products their clients request. “That keeps the farm evergreen.” Mario says, “While trying to maintain the health of our farm, we figure out what we can do with what we have.”





Trees are selected depending on orders for flooring or furniture, but then they make full use of branches, trunks, stumps, and even the roots to ensure that there really is ‘zero wood waste’. The smaller elements are processed into a multitude of high value but smaller-sized products – tablet stands, wooden acoustic speaker boxes for mobile phones, wine holders, meat and cheese trays, cutting boards, candle holders and much more.



Various kitchen items, technology stands, and furniture are just some of the sustainably-made products offered.


The new wooden acoustic mobile phone speaker, Timbre Unplugged, naturally amplifies the music played by a mobile phone for listening.


Initial log breakdown into timber planks is the first step of the process in the workshop, and is accomplished with relative ease. Mario comments, “We keep it simple because the simpler the process, the faster it is, and the less mistakes you can make from it.” 

Mario and Marco chose their sawmill during the early stages of their business. “When we were working on small trees, we used small band saws,” Mario explains. “But eventually the logs got bigger and our saws couldn’t handle it anymore. Most people here mill their logs with chainsaws. So we tried that out and there was a lot of waste—our wood recovery from the log was less than 50%.” That was when the team decided to purchase a Wood-Mizer LT10 sawmill, which allowed them to saw accurately, decrease waste, increase production rates, and scale back on additional investments in band saws. 



“With the Wood-Mizer LT10, the thin-kerf cut maximizes our wood recovery.


“Right now,” Mario says, “people are buying from us because of the story behind our wooden products. Our main focus, as much as possible, is ‘No wood wasted.’”

Mario adds, “With the Wood-Mizer LT10, the thin-kerf cut maximizes our wood recovery. For example, we can mill logs with diameters of only 2.5 – 3 inches. We mill one side of the log, cut it into lengths, bore a hole through it, sand it, lacquer, and it’s a candle holder.” For most companies, such small diameter branches are simply chipped, but each 25 cm (10”) candle holder sells on their website for $12 (600 Philippine pesos). 



“With the Wood-Mizer, we can mill logs with diameters of only 2.5-3 inches... cut it into lengths, bore a hole... lacquer, and it’s a candle holder.


“With the Wood-Mizer, we can mill logs with diameters of only 2.5-3 inches... cut it into lengths, bore a hole... lacquer, and it’s a candle holder.


“With the Wood-Mizer, we can mill logs with diameters of only 2.5-3 inches... cut it into lengths, bore a hole... lacquer, and it’s a candle holder."


Aside from the candle holders, MARSSE Tropical Timber offers beautiful, innovative, and modern wood products that range from cutting boards to custom-made furniture. 

“We’re very into gadgets,” Marco comments, describing their newest wooden acoustic mobile phone speaker, Timbre Unplugged. “And the selling point there is that everybody has a phone. The Gadget Stand idea came from our nephew.” In fact, most of the company’s product lines come from customer suggestions. Marco and Mario make it a point to listen to their customers and use their ideas wherever they can incorporate them.

Another new development has been electrocuting wood to burn various patterns into the surface. The resulting furniture is eye-catching and truly unique, but the process itself is fairly straightforward. The wood is wetted, and an electrical current passed through it. The wood burns as the electricity blazes a path across the surface. 



The wood burns as the electricity blazes a path across the surface.


Electrically-burning patterns in the wood is a simple process of wetting the wood with a special solution and passing a current through it.


Electrically-burned patterns in the wood are a customer favourite.


Their products are sold through a variety of channels, including local exhibitions and fairs in the Philippines, a host of retailers, online through their website and online retailers, and even as far away as Europe with their products listed on European Amazon websites.



MARSSE Tropical Timber has been awarded the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Likas Yaman (Natural Resources) Award for Environmental Protection in 2011, and for Responsible Forestry in 2003. They have also been recognized for their achievements in good business and forestry management practices by the country’s leading broadsheets (Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Standard), glossies (StarWeek Magazine, Yummy Magazine, Philippine Airline’s Mabuhay in-flight Magazine), and TV feature shows (Mornings at ANC, ANC Green Living, The Workplace by GNN, OA AKO Telemagazine, and IBC13 Good Take).



Within the next few years, Mario, Marco and Mara hope to grow the business by exporting their products to other countries and growing the farm. “For a greener Philippines, we would like the younger generation to take us into consideration,” Mario says. “Get out of the city, use this as a side investment for their future. That way it can give them more opportunities.”



For Marco, Mario, and Mara, they believe that each generation should have something to contribute to the next. With MARSSE Tropical Timber, it is sustainability. “My dad planted so that I could harvest,” says Mario, “so I should keep on planting so that the next generation can continue harvesting. It gives future generations a livelihood.”



MARSSE Tropical Timber is unique in a lot of ways, but one thing that really stands out to customers is how Marco and Mario choose their workers.
“We have different processes compared to other manufacturers,” Marco explains. “We keep it simple and try to tailor our manufacturing to the capabilities of the community. We want to give opportunities to people who have limited opportunities elsewhere.” Most of the Filipino workers are men and women who were not able to finish high school because of finances, so the tree farm is supplying them with a good work environment and good pay that they may not have found otherwise.





MARSSE Tropical Timber is truly a role model of environmental sustainability, local economic viability and global reach now available to plantation owners across Asia. 

More Information:
https://MarsseTropicalTimber.com
https://www.facebook.com/MarsseTropicalTimber/ 

Instagram @MarsseTropicalTimber

https://Sustainably-Made.com
https://www.facebook.com/SustainablyMade/ 

Instagram@SustainablyMade

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Welcome to the stories and articles section of our website.

Here you will discover how Wood-Mizer sawmill owners worldwide are actively growing local economies by processing wood more sustainably and profitably. 

I invite you to contact me for any questions about these articles. 

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