A Professor and a Practitioner

Irwin Post, a longtime contributor and friend of the magazine, passed away last Sunday. Professionally speaking he held a lot of titles: forest engineer, consulting forester, logger, sawyer, woodworker, teacher, small-business owner, writer among them. He was both a professor and a practitioner who lived what he taught.

The last story Irwin wrote for us ran in last spring’s issue. In it, he critiqued what he called “hunter-gatherer forestry” – where the best timber on a parcel of land is hunted and gathered while the rest of the wood is overlooked and left to stagnate. He then went into detail on what he called “intensive forestry,” an alternative system where every bit of land is managed and significant investments are made in every stand decades before trees are harvested.

This sounds idealistic, and it is. And yet it was no mere intellectual exercise for him. Irwin advocated by example. His Chester, Vermont, woodlot is a testament to this management style – the whole forest a grid of well-maintained wood roads, every block thought out and purposeful. Irwin scrutinized every market – from bark, to chips, to sawdust, to every grade and species of lumber, to publications that were willing to pay him to share the lessons he’d learned. And Irwin did it all – the marking, the cutting and processing with equipment he designed and built himself, the value-added touches, the marketing, the selling, the writing about it. He and his wife Melissa lived simply but richly in a home they built themselves from trees they grew and cut and finished. They were sustained, both spiritually and financially, by the food in their expansive gardens and by the woodlot Irwin micromanaged. I find both of them and the life they’ve made very inspiring.

This sort of inspiration becomes part of our legacy when we pass on. Irwin wrote feature stories for us – some of which I’ll provide links to below – and stories for Sawmill and Woodlot, among other magazines. He’s listed as a contributing author on our book More than a Woodlot. That’s tens of thousands of readers he shared his wisdom with over the years, many of them hands-on types who took his gospel into the woods with them.

That’s a lot of legacy.


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