Career Tech with a Twist: ALF Senior Fellows Team to Revive an Industry

Reprinted from the August 2017 edition of the American Leadership Forum Mountain-Valley Chapter Newsletter Caribiner.

When the workforce is skilled, new businesses are attracted to the region. That premise has led to many public and private workforce development efforts in our area to support students as they choose and prepare for their job future in new industries. One such effort, led by an ALF-MVC partnership in our foothills of El Dorado County, is taking a slightly different approach — they plan to train students to revive a homegrown industry gone dormant.

Career educator Jeremy Meyers (Class XVII) and Matt Boyer (Class V) are setting out to foster a career choice that could instill a new respect for an indigenous industry, and improve the health of our state’s forests by repurposing dead and dying trees.

The targeted new skillset is an answer to a lumber industry dilemma. When California went out of the timber milling business, the state lost a generation of skilled workers who could topple trees and work the mills.  Now, there is an insufficient labor force to combat the dangerous situation caused by dead trees. The state needs more people trained to do the work.

“Meanwhile, we push kids into “white collar” tech-type jobs, not realizing that there are good paying jobs in construction and tree falling,” says Boyer.

Boyer, an ALFer who has spent a career bolstering entities by consulting in executive management, public policy, advocacy, and project management, is also a serial, social-enterprise entrepreneur.  His current quest to save the forest by repurposing dead and dying trees fits well with another life-long passion. Boyer is a career-tech cheerleader from way back.  In his capacity as a trustee of the El Dorado County Board of Education (2003-2014), his pursuit of more trades/crafts and vocational education became a signature achievement. Now he as eyes on a new one.

Boyer’s Forest Innovation, a business that identifies markets where more than 104 million dead and dying trees in California can be repurposed and become a resource for a new economy, is partnering with Principal Jeremy Meyers’ Golden Sierra High School in Garden Valley to provide an on-campus portable sawmill for a student-operated timber milling operation. Meyers, also superintendent of Black Oak Mine Unified School District, is bullish on the concept, and is looking forward to ushering approximately 40 students through the program starting this fall.

“Jeremy is so passionate,” says Boyer.  “He is willing to veer away from traditional bureaucracy if there is a chance for innovation. He is eager to bring a portable sawmill onto his campus so his kids can mill timber.”

“Matt and I were talking about the bark-beetle epidemic,” says Meyers. “I thought it would be ideal to involve schools in the solution. Let’s deal with a local problem locally, while providing an entrepreneurial opportunity for our schools.”

The two met through their shared appetites for providing meaningful education to all the students in the foothill communities of El Dorado County, and built a friendship with the help of the common ground they share as senior fellows. Senior Fellows Don Harris (Class II) and Tim Murphy (Class XVI) are also Forest Innovation believers; Harris acting as outside counsel for the endeavor, and Murphy is a board member at Community Services 2050, the parent nonprofit of Forest Innovations.

Meyers and Boyer also share the belief that kids don’t learn the same way, and all are not cut out to be scholars.

“We are trying to graduate well-rounded students. And to do that, we need to provide well-rounded educational experiences that give students a chance to explore,” says Meyers. “We continue to sell the myth that everyone must go to a four-year college. That is just not the case.”

And with the new on-campus sawmill, many of Meyers’ students will be exploring an industry that has historical roots. El Dorado County’s western slope has many communities that once were thriving lumber communities.

Boyer and Myers envision the sawmill as an instrument that can accomplish a solution to a multitude of problems. Milling lumber can be a career learning opportunity for those not on a traditional path; milling can be a recycling solution to the environmental hazard of bark-beetle infested dead trees, and milling can become a cottage industry for the school.

The sawmill, to be delivered in the next couple weeks, is being paid for by career education innovation grant dollars from the California Department of Education.

“It was because of my conversations with Matt that we were able to come up with this innovative way to utilize those categorical dollars,” Meyers says.

Forest Innovations has several partnerships with schools, artisans, and UC Davis in arrangements where Forest Innovations procures the free wood to fuel creativity for repurposing the resource.

“What Jeremy is doing is the coolest of all of them,” says Boyer.

To start, the high school sawmill class is being matched up with locals who have fallen trees on their property. Yet to be decided, are the products that will come from the lumber milling. Meyers likes the idea of creating park quality, picnic table and bench kits. 

“We have an opportunity to run these dead trees through the high school to make good products. “We could package a kit, shrink wrap it, put it on a pallet and drop ship it anywhere.”

Because the wood is free, there are profit margins in the equations.  Community nonprofits could benefit from the proceeds, including ones directly related to campus life such as sports team boosters.

Boyer’s ambitions are nothing short of wanting to be the person that significantly contributes to the next generation of economic development in the Central Valley and the Gold Country.

“The sawmill idea is a real community tie to an industry that can be revived. It’s a wonderful story,” he says.


2018 Photography Exhibit Details Announced

Official Rules and Guidelines for the 2018 Photography Exhibition are now available.

The purpose of the photography exhibit is to increase and spread awareness of both urban and rural trees challenges through story-telling images that capture the tree die-off, the impacts to ecosystems, and the consequences for property owners and entire communities.

A range of prizes in categories for both urban forests and natural forests will be awarded, including a top prize "Best in Show" of $1,000 for the photo that best depicts the collective crisis, within the objectives of the exhibit.

Details and entry requirements can be found at:

Good luck to everyone!


Forest Innovations Donating Materials for Parklet!

A student-designed concept for a temporary parklet on Main Street in historic Placerville, CA will be unveiled in a few months. Lumber will be provided by Forest Innovations which is being milled from trees that were victims of the drought and bark beetle infestation.

We are extremely excited to be a little part of a very cool community partnership!

A parklet is a sidewalk extension that provides more space and amenities for people by repurposing 1 or more parking spaces. Usually parklets are installed on parking lanes and extend out from the sidewalk at the level of the sidewalk to the width of the adjacent parking space.

Oak Ridge High School student Emily Bobrowsky submitted the winning design to the El Dorado County Healthy Living Parklet 2016-2017 Design Competition. 

We love the fact that El Dorado County thought to hold a competition for school students to submit designs. That is exactly the type of win-win solution we think is needed to give real-world opportunities for students to learn while doing. And in the end a cool community amenity is born.


Reclamation Art + Furniture, American Tree Medics Come Aboard

The last few weeks have been hectic and we are behind in announcing new, cool things. So here is a start!

Reclamation Art + Furniture has been doing things with reclaimed wood for many years and we are looking forward to supplying them with a new stream of material that can be repurposed. We are also looking into a kiln operation to make each of our operations more efficient.

We love this line from their website: "The modern objects created here are meant to be touched, used, worn and talked about." Yes!

Please visit them at

American Tree Medics, Inc. are consulting arborists with substantial experience throughout the tree mortality region. ATM is a woman-owned, public benefit corporation serving clients throughout Northern California.

The professional leadership have a combined 50 years experience in utility vegetation management (UVM), arboriculture and emergency response. Each of their foresters holds a certification from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and/or utility line clearance.

We also anticipate that ATM will lead our grant-writing efforts.

Check them out at

To reach our goal of re-purposing 25 million trees, we will need many partners. Are you one of them? Contact us at

Announcing Design-a-Stick 2017!

Forest Innovations invites students from elementary schools, middle schools and high schools -- across the United States -- to participate by submitting an entry to the 2017 Design-a-Stick contest.

Innovative entries from young people will be used to design and produce low-cost musical instruments and drumsticks.

Through this contest we hope to bring additional attention to the Sierra Nevada portion of the drought-caused tree mortality catastrophe.

As important, we also strive to support efforts to sustain music education at home, on school campuses, and as part of after-school programs.

Multiple studies directly link music education and aptitude to academic success and successful vocational and professional careers.

Entries will be received through May 12, 2017.

Contest details will be posted at no later than 12 noon Pacific Time, March 11, 2017.

Good luck to all!