TREE OWNERS NEWS
This joyous season is the
time to give thanks for our many and wonderful blessings. Sherry and I count every one of
you as a blessing for being part of Tropical American Tree Farms.
To each of you whom we have
met in these last few years, either in person or by phone, knowing you is a blessing. We
hope to get to know you better in the coming new year.
And to those few of you
whom we have not yet met, we are committed to get to know you, to at least talk with you
by phone, in the new year.
Beto, Mario, Victor, Pedro,
Carliche, Oldemar, all of our workers and their families, their humbleness, honesty,
dedication and sense of united endeavor are truly wonderful blessings.
The communities where our
tree farms are located and their support for our efforts are a blessing.
The knowledge, experience
and humility Sherry and I continue to gain are blessings. Our working together is a
The opportunity to plant
disappearing species of tropical hardwood trees is a blessing.
The return of the many
birds and animals to the farms are blessings.
The opportunity to save
1,500 acres of majestic rainforest is an absolute blessing.
The growth of all of our
trees well ahead of schedule, and tropical hardwood prices increasing much ahead of
projections, are both wonderful blessings.
Sherry and I thank God
every day for all of the truly wonderful blessings that have come as a result of our
involvement in this wonderful endeavor.
We thank all of you again
for making all of these blessings possible.
Tree owners enjoying a day horseback riding
Beto and our foresters are
currently in the process of completing a thorough annual review of all of your trees,
counting them all and measuring their growth. Sherry and I continue to be delighted with
the health and growth of all of the trees. We will be mailing you individual reports
within the next two months.
Several of you called to
inquire about the farms and the trees during this last hurricane season, and again when a
volcano in Costa Rica was briefly in the news.
The farms and your trees
were untouched by either. Costa Rica is blessed that hurricanes rarely reach its shores.
You may want to look at a map to better understand why.
In those latitudes,
tropical storms normally form out over the mid-Atlantic, well to the east of South
America, between South America and Africa.
Costa Rica lies south and
west of the northern part of South America, which shelters Costa Rica because the storms
almost never curve around the upper part of South America and swing south to touch Costa
Rica. It has happened but it is rare.
Our farms are additionally
sheltered because we are tucked into valleys on the western side of the 10,000 to 13,000
foot mountain range that runs the length of Costa Rica. Any hurricanes that have reached
Costa Rica have never passed over these mountains.
It is true that this was a
very active hurricane season, but the only evidence in Costa Rica was that, as predicted,
it rained much more than usual.
Because extra rains were
predicted, we asked Beto before the rainy season to make sure that the waterways of the
rivers were open. After checking all of our river frontage, Beto contracted with a
bulldozer to open a stretch of the Barú river and to build up the river banks in a few
areas. As a result, even though this was the most rain that anyone can remember, we had no
problems at all.
With respect to the
volcano, apparently the news in the U.S. reported that a volcano in the northern part of
Costa Rica had spewed ashes. People in our part of Costa Rica didn't even know about it
until they too saw it in the news. The only volcanoes in Costa Rica are all in the
northern part of the country, and we are in the central Pacific region, nearly 100 miles
from the nearest volcano.
I know we can never say
never, but I believe that we have done everything reasonably possible to ensure the safety
and health of all of our little trees.
We recently received the
newest Woodworkers' Store catalog. Although the prices are obviously at retail, and may be
higher than those of some other sources, these annual catalogs are a good indicator of the
trends of tropical hardwood prices.
Teak is up another 22% this
year, to $31.75 per board foot, up a total of 219% above its 1990 price.
Purpleheart is up 36% in
the last three years. At $9.50 per board foot it is now about where teak was in 1990 and
appears to be following the same trend as teak. Purpleheart is still being exploited from
the natural tropical forests, but as it disappears from the natural forest, its price is
Cocobolo is also exciting
to watch. It is up another 25% this year, on top of the 60% increase last year. It is now
$49.95 per board foot, up 213% in the last four years.
The factors that are
causing these prices to increase appear to be continuing at an accelerating pace.
This could get really
Two years ago Sherry and I
had the opportunity to meet an older Costa Rican forester when he visited our farms to
learn about our project. Joaquin seemed older and wiser than the other foresters we had
met. He liked the quality of our work and offered a few tips that had come from years of
experience, both in his work for others and on his own farm.
Although we are happy with
the foresters we presently work with, Sherry and I have often thought back to Joaquin, his
wrinkled face, his bright eyes and broad smile, and his insights, experience and
A couple months back we
asked Beto to look up Joaquin and ask if he could find the time to occasionally visit our
farms and offer his observations and advice. We are constantly striving for excellence,
and are now of a size that an additional consultant could well be justified.
When Beto and Joaquin
talked on the phone the first time, Joaquin said Oh yes, he remembered well. He had
thought many times of our tree farms. Not only would he make the time to consult with us,
he wouldn't accept any pay. In fact he offered to pay us for the opportunity.
Joaquin explained to Beto
that he had never seen a project of such quality and care, and such wisdom of planting a
number of high value species. They quickly chose a day for Joaquin to come visit the
farms. It had been a couple years since he had been on the farms and he was anxious to see
The two of them spent about
five hours on horseback together that first day, reviewing all of the trees at Campo Real.
As Beto was recounting Joaquin's visit to Sherry and me, you could see the pride well in
Joaquin hadn't said much as
they were riding, but once back at the house he began to talk. He told Beto again that in
all his years he had never seen a project of such quality, and he now added that he had
never seen trees so tall and straight, so big for their age - even on his own farm.
Beto was aglow, and Sherry
and I were thrilled. It is absolutely wonderful to hear from a professional of his
experience that our years of research and hard work are yielding noticeable results.
The two of them talked for
hours. They discussed everything - their love for trees, the soils, the plantings,
pruning, thinnings, sawing, everything. They mapped out plans to visit all of the farms in
the next few months.
Joaquin still has not
agreed to accept anything for his consulting, but we will pay him what is fair.
With his wisdom and his
contagious enthusiasm, Joaquin will now be another of so many blessings in our work.
Tree owners relaxing after a beautiful horseback ride
Beto asked us if he could
have a Christmas fiesta for all of our workers and their families, to let them all know
that we all really appreciate them and their work. He wanted to have the fiesta on
December 9th, the day that he was going to distribute the Christmas bonuses. In Costa Rica
each employee receives a Christmas bonus equal to one month's pay and the bonuses are
normally given the first week in December.
Sherry and I readily
agreed. Our team of workers now numbers about 70 and we are very grateful to all of them
for their loyalty and hard work. We were sad that we were already scheduled to be in the
U.S. at that time. We would have liked very much to be there to thank them all as a group
Beto decided to have the
fiesta at Santo Domingo because it is more central to the other farms. He got a complete
list of all of the workers' children, and then he and Mario bought small gifts for each of
A number of the workers'
wives pitched in and prepared lots of food and refreshments. Sherry and I sent down
Christmas cards to each worker and his family thanking them for their work.
Beto rented a bus to pick
up all of the workers and their families from the various farms and take them to the
By the morning of the 9th,
everything was ready - the gifts for the children, the food, drinks, our cards, and the
The party ran from 10 in
the morning to about 4 in the afternoon. Both Beto and Mario have told us that the fiesta
was very much a success. Beto spoke to the assembled group and told them that he, and we,
very much appreciate their dedication and work, and the special care they give all of the
little, and not so little, trees.
Everyone left feeling
happy, very full, and very much appreciated. We hope to have some photos in the next
One of the principal
species we are growing is nargusta, or amarillon as it is known in Costa Rica. It is a
relatively fast growing native tree with a beautiful cream or light colored wood with pink
highlights. It is highly prized by Costa Ricans and has been exploited nearly out of
One of our tree owners
asked us if we would please bring back a sample of the nargusta wood. On our last trip, we
went to a sawmill in San Isidro to buy a small piece. At the first mill, they told us that
they had no amarillon. In fact they had not seen any amarillon in several months. They
didn't even have any scraps.
When we asked why, they
explained what we already knew - that amarillon is very much in demand and apparently has
been harvested out of existence.
The story was the same at
the next two sawmills - none had any amarillon, and none expected to be having any come
Finally, at the fourth and
last sawmill in San Isidro, the story was the same, but this time they did have a few
scraps of amarillon in the back room (so they will be in the mail soon Lloyd).
This is happening with
beautiful hardwood species everywhere in the tropics. Some may be disappearing faster than
others, but they all seem to be on the same path to scarcity and higher prices.
The Brazilian Geological
and Statistics Institute for example just published a report that in the last 25 years
more than 125 million acres of the Amazon rainforest have been destroyed.
Both the increasing
scarcity of the trees, and the increasing prices of the wood give us tremendous motivation
to continue to plant more tropical hardwood trees. Please continue to share this
opportunity with your friends.
The rewards, both tangible
and intangible, should be very significant.
As your trees grow, and the
farms and the forested areas we are protecting do also, there is ever more to see and
enjoy in visiting your trees. We encourage all of you to visit your trees and enjoy the
tranquil beauty of the farms.
Sherry and I will be in
Costa Rica from about mid-January to about the end of March. We would love to have you
join us. Please call if you have any questions about visiting your trees.
This is a very good time to
review your tax situation. If you don't have an IRA, would you benefit from having one? If
you do have an IRA, is it time to make a contribution? Are your IRA's achieving your
retirement objectives? Would tropical hardwood trees better achieve those objectives? If
you have any questions about owning trees in your IRA, please let us know.
Sherry and I wish all of
you the most joyous and prosperous new year, and thank all of you one more time for making
all of this possible. Thank you!