Starting at Mile One: Logger Tony Nadeau's Road to Success

The company runs a John Deere 853MH tracked harvester with a Waratah H425x harvesting head.

Mon May 15, 2023
John Deere

A granite monument in Fort Kent, Maine, commemorates "America's First Mile," the starting point of U.S. Route 1. The highway runs 2,360 mi. all the way to Key West, Fla., which is the southernmost point of the continental United States.

Fort Kent isn't quite the northernmost point — that distinction belongs to Angle Inlet, Minn., — but it's pretty far north, located along the Canadian border in northern Maine.

With a population of just over 4,000, the small town was a great place to grow up, according to Tony Nadeau, owner of TN Nadeau Harvesting.

"During the summer I would bike, camp, and ATV," he said. "In the winter I'd skate, ski and snowmobile. Maine has beautiful scenery, wildlife and woods. It's very quiet and relaxing up here."

TN Nadeau Harvesting is working about a two-hour drive south on U.S. Route 1 near the town of Houlton, not far from the company's local John Deere dealership, United Construction & Forestry.

"It's a pure stand of softwood," said Nadeau. "It's beautiful. Really nice."

The company runs a John Deere 853MH tracked harvester with a Waratah H425x harvesting head.

"They're perfect together," said Nadeau. "The combination is productive, reliable, fast and fuel efficient. It checks all my boxes. It's everything I ever wanted."

Nadeau also depends on the hard work of his two operators, who each work 12-hour shifts.

"They are awesome. I'm so proud of them taking this operation to the next level. It's hard to find good operators, so I'm very fortunate."

Mechanically Inclined

Nadeau's father was a diesel mechanic who worked on excavators, dozers and some John Deere forestry machines, including processors and skidders.

"When I was young, I'd help him out on weekends, cleaning parts and getting tools for him," he recalled. "I loved seeing the equipment after he fixed it. He taught me a lot. Being a mechanic was something I always wanted to do."

At the age of 22, Nadeau began running a feller buncher for a logging contractor.

"I've been in the woods ever since," he said.

Nadeau spent more time out of the machine fixing things than in it, so the company made him a full-time mechanic.

"I did that for about 15 years," he said. "I had my own service truck and a lot of experience turning wrenches and repairing equipment out in the field, so I thought, ‘I'm going to have a go at this myself.'"

So in 2015, Nadeau started working on his own.

Around the Clock

Today TN Nadeau Harvesting works for Irving Woodlands, a Canadian company that manages over 3.2 million acres of forestland, including extensive holdings in Maine.

"They manage over a million acres in Maine, so they're a big company up here," said Nadeau.

With a firm commitment to sustainability, Irving Woodlands plans 80 years ahead to ensure healthy forests, biodiversity and bodies of water on the land it owns or manages. This generational commitment includes growing more wood than it harvests. Since 1957, the company has planted over one billion trees. In 2022, across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine, the company planted 19 million trees.

Irving Woodlands prides itself on innovation, investing in the latest best practices for sustainable forest management. To harvest wood, the company contracts with numerous independent contractors like TN Nadeau Harvesting that run the latest machines and technology.

To keep up with demand, TN Nadeau Harvesting runs its 853MH 24 hours a day, five days a week.

"It just runs, all day, every day. The machine is durable and easy to service. I've been a mechanic most of my life, and it is awesome to work on. Everything is very accessible."

The H425x harvesting head is perfect for softwood and mixed-stand harvesting.

"It's phenomenal," said Nadeau. "It's fast and durable. At the end of a 12-hour shift, you want to see a productive outcome, and this head really delivers."

United Construction & Forestry helps keep the 853MH going.

"When we are working around the clock, we can't afford to have downtime," said Nadeau. "It's a huge expense. The parts support and service we receive from our local dealer are critical. If we have an issue, we're usually never down for very long."

Using JDLink, both TN Nadeau Harvesting and the dealer can monitor the machine. Nadeau receives immediate alerts about machine issues on his phone. Remote diagnostics and programming enable United Construction & Forestry to minimize the time and cost associated with sending out a technician.

"I can call a service technician with the code, and often they can walk me through the steps of repair on the phone," said Nadeau. "They can also remotely diagnose the machine. If a part is needed, I know they'll send someone out with the right one the first time."

JDLink sends Nadeau reminders about periodic scheduled maintenance. It also allows him to track machine location, utilization, idle time and fuel consumption on his phone.

"It helps me to see if everything is running efficiently," he said. "Fuel cost is another big expense, so seeing that alone is worth a lot."

By switching from his old Waratah 622B harvesting head to the new H425x, he is saving three gallons an hour, or 30 percent, on fuel using the same carrier.

"The fuel efficiency from this setup is amazing," said Nadeau. "And I'm getting 15-percent more productivity using the same machine."

The forestry market is looking good in Maine, but Nadeau doesn't have plans to expand.

"It's booming right now, but I'd like to keep my operation to one machine only," he said. "Operators are hard to come by, so we've been making it work. We have a machine and operators we can depend on. It's been great."

TN Nadeau Harvesting Inc. is serviced by United Construction & Forestry, Houlton, Maine.

To keep up with demand, TN Nadeau Harvesting runs its 853MH 24 hours a day, five days a week.

The Pine Tree State

Approximately 90 percent of Maine is forested — the highest percentage of any state. This includes 12 million acres of forestland in the less-populated northern part of Maine where TN Nadeau Harvesting of Fort Kent works. Although hardwood now covers 60 percent of Maine, pine dominates this region.

The Pine Tree State has a long history of logging. Well before becoming a state in 1820, Maine was involved in lumber trade with England. During the 17th century, high-quality white pine was harvested to supply masts for the English navy. The first sawmill in Maine was built in 1635, as the sawing of white pine became one of the state's first industries. Today the white pine tree is Maine's official tree, and a pine tree even appears in the middle of the state flag.