GREENWICH, N.Y. — The forest has always captivated Keith Atherholt’s attention. Keith grew up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. He did not grow up in and around the forest, but was always fascinated by it. “… [I] became enamored with the Smokey the Bear commercials at the time. I was intrigued by the thought of managing a large area of forest,” he said. As Keith got older his interest in the forest continued to grow despite his lack of experience in them as he said, “I began my interest in the forest probably in my teenage years. I am not sure why. I had no experiences in the forest or hunting experiences. Just fishing in the local streams.”
Keith decided to pursue this interest further and graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Wood Products. Just out of college he began working in the hardwood lumber industry. In 1991 he joined Lewis Lumber Products based in Picture Rocks, Pennsylvania. Today, Keith is the president of Lewis Lumber Products. Lewis Lumber Products is a hardwood lumber distributor that supplies architectural moulding and wood components to cabinet makers, furniture makers, and mill workers in the Middle Atlantic region. Some the company’s other products include flooring, paneling, decking and live edge flitches. Keith oversees the marketing areas of the company and is responsible for overall performance.
Keith described hardwood lumber as “a byproduct of the forest” and mentioned that, “it is the only renewable and sustainable natural resource building material out there!” Using trees to make their wood products requires planning and stewardship to determine what to cut, how to cut it and how to treat the land after the cut. Keith and Lewis Lumber Products do this by working with other forest industry professionals, like foresters for example, and by sourcing their domestic wood from PA Forest Steward Council certified forests. Measures like these ensure their products are made from forests that are managed in an environmentally sustainable way. “Pennsylvania produces more hardwood lumber than any other state,” said Keith. “Today, there is more forest growing than there were 50 years ago. On an annual basis there is a net gain each year in forest growth over harvesting. This industry has always been ‘green friendly’.”
Like other areas of agriculture the different facets of the forest industry are connected, and Keith stressed the variety of positions that exist with the forest industry. “Our company and those involved in the forest product industry offer sound and good paying careers. Employment opportunities abound! Foresters, machine operators, sales people, accountants, truck drivers, kiln operators, sawyers, lumber graders, human resource specialists, marketing, Information Technologists, loggers, heavy equipment operators, etc. are all needed,” shared Keith.
For anyone interested in a career in the forest products industry Keith offers this piece of advice, “Don’t ever give up in trying to find work that matches your passion. Making a lot of money may not be the main driver in finding contentment in a vocation, but satisfying your passion will keep you satisfied!” He also encourages career seekers to, “Be humble, be inquisitive, be respectful, and don’t be afraid to ask for things.”
For any students who may questions about the forest products industry Keith is happy to answer any questions and can be reached at email@example.com.
A new column from Morning Ag Clips, “Cultivating Ag Careers” introduces agriculture students and FFAers to the wide variety of careers that exist in agriculture. Each week a new individual will be introduced, who will share their journey: their educational experiences, their work, and what role their job plays in the wide world of agriculture.
Tune in each Wednesday to learn more about the different jobs and personalities that make up the ag industry!