Horse Logging by The Healing Harvest Forest Foundation (HHFF)

Story by Jason Rutledge, President, BOD • www.

HHFF is one of the oldest community-based sustainable forestry groups in the country. The group acquired 501(c)3 Non-Profit, Public Charity status in 1999 through a grant from the Ford Foundation, to develop replicable community-based sustainable forestry models for the world. We did this within the vision of our mission statement: “To address human needs for forest products while creating a nurturing coexistence between the forest and human communities”. We promote and practice “Restorative Forestry”.

The practice of Restorative forestry is defined by our organization as being “worst first” single tree selection, with skilled directional felling and the ultimate low impact overland extraction technique of modern draft animal powered methods. Our group educates the public as to the benefits of restorative forestry for the public good and specifically trains “Biological Woodsmen” through a network of proven practitioners that act as mentors to willing apprentices selected through an application process that is approved on an individual basis by the board of directors.

The skills necessary to do this work are varied and complex. The combinations of talents needed to accomplish the tasks of restorative forestry are informed by science and experiential learning from the years of practice and observation of natural conditions revealed by individual trees. This cultural approach is unique in the world of forestry. HHFF has influenced the forest products industry through the development of techniques and language specific to the practice of restorative forestry. The demand for the services of the “Biological Woodsmen” far exceeds the number of people trained to do the work.

In order to train more practitioners funding is sought from multiple sources. There is a great deal of community support in various ways.  This includes a long tern relationship with the Natural Woodworking Company as value adding facility that stores and processes lumber through their solar kilns at the Franklin Pike shop. The Natural Woodworking Company serves as a distribution center for “DRAFTWOOD” forest products as a community “green certified” lumber source. The use of this lumber for many of their products and availability of high quality hardwoods to other craftsmen and fabricators that are concerned about the source of their materials is a growing market development. The brand name and logo are becoming well known throughout the local, regional and national markets. The network of producers is also steadily growing.

HHFF promotes bottom up change in natural resource management though a whole forest, eco-system based approach and is very thankful for the support of our local community and customers of DRAFTWOOD. Consumer driven change in protecting the environment is an innovative approach and is the goal of our organization and group of practitioners. We define “social capital” as making people worth money, which this system does. It is not possible without visionary landowners, craftsmen and a community that values environmental protection – through restorative forestry.

Please contact us if we may help you with your forested land, need for forest products, or if you have any questions about our organization and work: email or phone 540-651-6355. Thanks to FLOYD VIRGINIA Publication!

Don’t miss a great opportunity to get an up-close look at sustainable horse logging! Healing Harvest Forest Foundation’s Jason Rutledge recently finished up filming for the History Channel series ‘Ax Men’.  Episodes of The Healing Harvest Crew series are set to start in January 2012.  This will be the first time that horse logging has been featured by a major television network!

Jason Rutledge and his son Jagger gave interview to a local TV station to proclaim the viability of the practice of horse logging.  He told Melissa Gaona of WDBJ7 (

It’s a … “green” alternative to mechanical skidding. “Beyond the animal power, we’re just as modern and maybe even more modern, because we’re practicing restorative forestry.”

Using machinery is another option but horse loggers say it’s expensive and causes damage to the forestry. Jason Rutledge explains, “Horses have much less impact on the ground with a horse’s foot, as opposed to a big skidder that tears things up.”  Unlike machinery, horse loggers are not dependent on foreign oil or fossil fuel for power. All that’s needed is hay and grain for feed and the horses are able to work 6 to 8 hours a day in comfortable temperatures.

Dead, damaged and dying trees are the only ones ever cut. Horse loggers say it’s not a lot of money initially but in the long term, better trees will grow and it’s good for business.

The logs are used for things like timber frame homes and natural woodwork. Currently the Rutledge’s are working on two local projects; a retirement home and a meditation room.
Check out the video clip by WDBJ7 posted on Jason’s website to learn more –

Then mark your calendar for October 15th to see the action live at Chantilly Farm (!  They are holding Fall Open House from 11am to 3pm – This is a FREE event and everyone is welcome to stop by!  Professional photographer Sarah Greene will be on hand to take Fall Family Photos ($20.00 for 8×10 photograph OR image on CD for use in Christmas cards, etc.  $5.00 from each purchase will go to charity).  There is pumpkin painting for the kids – let them paint their pumpkin however they wish!  Pumpkins will be provided.  Best of all, they will feature LIVE horse logging demonstration by Jason Rutledge and the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation!!

Healing Harvest Forest Foundation •  8014 Bear Ridge Road Copper Hill, VA 24079  • 540-651-6355

Story by Dee Wallace

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