Introducing the Next Generation to a Career in the Forest Products Industry


UKIAH, CA (May 14, 2018) – On Tuesday, a group of students from the Ukiah School District who are a part of the Graduate and Prosper (GAP) program, toured the Mendocino Forest Products (MFP) Sawmill and learned about career opportunities and industry practices. Black Bart Club #181, a local chapter of the Hoo-Hoo Fraternity for the Forest Products Industry worked with MFP to organize the day. Mendo Mill and Lumber Co. also helped with the event.   


The Graduate and Prosper program was originally created by the Twin Cities #12 chapter of the Hoo-Hoo Fraternity in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The program’s goal is to introduce students to the Forest Products Industry and the various career opportunities that are available. Black Bart Club #181 picked up the Graduate and Prosper program and brought it to Napa county last year in 2017. Then, in 2018, they took it to Ukiah.


Jeffery Ward, Vice President of Mendo Mill & Lumber Co. and a 40-year veteran and board member of the Black Bart Club #181 explained that “We believe [the GAP program] is a wonderful way to educate young men and women about the lumber industry, wholesale, and retail side of this business.” He also pointed out that “There are options to go to college if students are looking for that as well; there are jobs within the industry in many different fields.”


The other board members from Black Bart Club #181 who also attended the event included Kent Bond, All-Coast Lumber Co.; Jim Lewman, All-Coast Lumber Co.; Edgar Massoletti, Central Valley Lumber Co.; and Dave Dahlen, Redwood Valley Lumber Co.


The students arrived for the day at the Mendocino Redwood Company Forestry Office at 8:45AM were welcome by MFP employees, Black Bart Club #181 members, and other forest products professionals. Bridget Pedersen, VP of Human Resources for MFP, and Victor Balestrieri, Human Resources Recruiter, explained that “MFP has over 900 employees; there’s really a job option for everyone here. There are countless opportunities for entry level and there’s room to grow. In addition to jobs in forestry and at the mill, we also have jobs in HR, Marketing, and Finance for example.”


Dean Kerstetter, VP of Operations for MFP shared a few stories of employees who started as entry level and eventually earned management positions: “If you show determination, hard work, and an interest in wanting to move up, we will always work with you on achieving that.” He then pointed to John Crosswhite, manager of Mill Operations for MFP, and shared that Crosswhite is an example of how determination leads to upper management.


After highlighting the career opportunities, the students were given a presentation on the essentialness of environmental practices in the Forest Products Industry. Sarah Billing, Director of Stewardship at MFP discussed with the students how forest management and restoration directly correlates to the business.


“Do you guys know what happens if too much dirt and sediment enters the waterway?” The group looked up to hear the answer. “Salmon have to lay their eggs in gravel. If there’s dirt in the stream, they can’t lay their eggs. One example of restoration is that it helps ensure dirt doesn’t overtake the waterways and the salmon can still lay their eggs” explained Billig.  She made it clear that environmental stewardship enables “our success: we are in the business of growing trees and caring for habitats.” 


Then it was time for the sawmill tour. The group put on their gear—a hard hat, ear protection, and safety vests—and were led by John Crosswhite. The company provided special ear equipment that functioned as both protection and a headset so that students could hear Crosswhite speak through a microphone.


The group spent an hour going through the mill where they learned the names of equipment, had a chance to ask questions, and witnessed the overall operations of the facility. One student asked, “Do mechanics need to have training prior to employment?” Crosswhite explained that “you can get training prior, but we always train internally with our maintenance staff because a lot of the equipment we use is different from other industries; we train our own employees to use our equipment the way we want it. So the short answer is, either way works.”


Upon ending the day, Crosswhite asked the group one final question: “After seeing the whole process here, how long do you think it takes to mill a log from start to finish?” One student guessed three minutes, and another guessed five. “It takes 60-90 seconds total” Crosswhite informed. Everyone was surprised. The GAP day was successful in teaching the students about the Forest Products Industry, career opportunities, and it introduced them to industry leaders.


Mendocino Forest Products takes pride in maintaining a cohesive and influential work environment with equal opportunities. For more information on the company and to view open positions and an application, visit