We produce biochar mainly from eastern white pine, and secondarily black alder.
Eastern White Pine for Biochar
While biochar can be made from any biomass, we use pine as a feedstock in order to create a more consistent end product that allows us to more readily characterize the value-added material. The single feedstock requires less frequent testing as compared to a biochar produced with muliple species and differing amounts of each through the year.
We also like that producing a useful product such as agricultural and horticultural biochar extends the conservation value of pine, building on its initial purpose as a nurse crop to restore diverse native forests on beat up old fields and pastures. Farmers in our region need more options for pine utilization in order to have reason to undertake the thinning work necessary to keep the pine stands healthy and transition them back to diverse native hardwood forests.
Pine plantations offer the clearest example of how active, well-conceived practices can make forests healthier. Many plantations are simply biological deserts compared to their neighboring hardwood forests, so active thinning work helps create conditions to bring back more life into these habitats.
The backstory of our “Broad Arrow Blend” name goes back to Colonial days when Eastern white pine was the chosen species for a variety of uses important to America’s first European settlers. It was used for just about everything from building homes to making furniture. It gained world-wide popularity for its use in shipbuilding, owing to its light weight relative to its size. The massive ship mast pines were several hundred years old, five feet in diameter, and 120 feet in length, requiring extra-long decks to be transported to ports in Europe and the Caribbean.
The “broad arrow” was a series of three hatchet slashes applied to the large white pines by the Royal Navy in order to signify ownership by the crown and reserve the trees for future use to contribute to Great Britain’s dominance of the seas. The story unfolds with colonists becoming resentful of the restrictions placed on the use of the white pines, even to the point that some historians suggest the situation to be at least as instrumental as taxation of tea as a contributing factor that brought about the American Revolution.
Our use of the name is intended to convey the possibilities for pine trees when tended with well-timed thinnings and ongoing stewardship. We want our end product to contribute to the growth of massive pines that tower above the surrounding landscape, provide a unique habitat in hardwood country, and ultimately return previously abused lands back to diverse native forests.