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Signs by Van Starts Old Growth Lumber Co.

Salinas, CA-based shop cooperated with Native Americans in special sequoia harvest.

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A naturally fallen Sequoia redwood. For scale, see the man standing on top.

Signs by Van (Salinas, CA) owner Jeremy VanderKraats has announced the founding of a new, though related line of work, Old Growth Lumber Co. August 2023 marked the first month of the new business.

The story begins in July 2022 when VanderKraats first contacted representatives of the Native Americans living on the Tule River Yokuts Reservation in Porterville, CA. A gigantic, partially burned giant sequoia tree on the reservation grounds had fallen naturally, and so a unique opportunity arose to harvest one of the earth’s most valued forms of lumber — and the Tule River Yokuts were open to cooperation, provided every effort be made to use sustainable practices.

Phil VanderKraats, Jeremy’s father.

“After presenting our company to the tribe in August of 2022, a tribal council representative took us up to the top of the mountain around 7,500 ft. of elevation,” VanderKraats says, “which is optimal for sequoia growth, and showed us just a small taste of the sheer number of sequoias they had on their reservation, which happens to be the second largest reservation in California.”

The tree that had fallen was 246 ft. tall and 9.5 ft. in diameter. Signs by Van arranged a trade out of $350,000-$400,000 in signs for the Tule River Yokuts, with additional projects on the horizon.

An example of the kind of redwood sign Signs by Van/Old Growth is trading with the Tule River Yokuts.

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Harvesting began Aug. 15 with the help and guidance of tree extraction specialist Guy VanGaasbeek of Van’s Logging, VanderKraats says. Special care must be taken — and was taken — when extracting the lumber from an area that includes a great many young sequoia trees. To accomplish this and disturb as little as possible, “single-lane extraction” was used: “One lane in and one lane out minimizes and eliminates damage to young sequoias,” VanderKraats says.

Click here to see a photo gallery showing more of this project!

Old Growth/Signs by Van will have approximately 500-700 slabs harvested which can be cut into pre-ordered sizes for signmaking.

In addition, another, even larger sequoia has recently fallen naturally and further cooperation with the Tule River Yokuts is underway.

For more information, visit oldgrowthlumberco.com.

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