Jim Cota and Scott and Robbie Melcher jointly own Fun Forest in Sweet Home, Oregon.
Jim Cota went to work for Mike Melcher, who owned Melcher logging in 1980. Through his good work ethic, Cota earned respect as one of the best top hillside cable loggers in the industry. Cota thus became a very important part of Melcher’s company. It was during this time that Melcher’s sons, Scott and Robbie, graduated college and began their careers in contract logging. In the early 1990’s, Melcher and Cota partnered to form Timber Harvesting Inc, (THI) and with Scott and Robbie they formed Four M Fiber. These companies still currently run hand-in-hand.
In 1999, after nearly 20 years of working together and building a successful and productive forestry contracting company came an opportunity to purchase a 320-acre parcel of timberland. Although this was a large and expensive challenging purchase, they decided to take the risk. It was from this purchase that the Tree Farm known as Fun Forest began.
Fun Forest’s focus is to plant trees no matter the species, wherever there is space available. The goal is to have 600 to 700 trees per acre. These increases competitive growth which produces a quality formed tree. However, thinning and pruning of primarily competing hardwoods and defective trees has begun, taking care to leave some well-formed hardwood trees to fill the openings.
There is a stream enhancement project underway that will improve the habitat for a large fish stream. A variety of wildlife habitat is being provided, and special projects are being pursued to improve those habitats. Three ponds are also being built for fire protection and more fishing.
There are many recreational activities in Fun Forest such as fishing, hunting, camping, ATV riding, horseback riding, and hiking. There are constant tours of the forest from first grade to college level. Fun Forest has appeared on the History Channel, has been apart of two television shows, numerous news stories have been written about the forest as well as a feature article in Loggers World publication.
Cota and the Merchers willingly share knowledge and demonstrate forestry practices, organized a high school Forestry Club, and serve as advisors and directors. They provided a $1,000 high school Forestry Scholarship, encouraged the use of Tree Farm for school tours, and partnered with Oregon State University Extension.
Cota and the Merchers have purchased 12 parcels of poorly stocked forestland and marginal farm land to convert them into highly productive forest land using their effective forestry knowledge and capabilities. They are leaders in developing techniques to do low impact logging and to utilize biomass material. They are outstanding contributors to Sweet Home Community.
The Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year awards are sponsored by Stihl, Inc. the world's leading chain saw manufacturer and a variety of handheld outdoor power equipment.
Photo of Jim Cota by Rob Amberg.