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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Johnson

The History of Barky Beaver

By Mary Pennington, VP Marketing, Barky Beaver Mulch and Soil Mix

The mulch company that is now Barky Beaver began in 1984 as a division of Green Forest Wood Products. Doug Smith saw a need for mulch and recognized it as a great way to diversify the company. Before this, bark from the sawmills was thought of as a waste product that cost money, time and equipment to dispose of. After researching the ins and outs of manufacturing, the process began. Soon this waste product became a valuable bi-product, which was marketed to landscapers and garden centers. The mulch company soon had to start buying bark from additional mills around the area to keep up with demand.

In 1988, after requests from customers, the decision was made to begin bagging our mulch. This called for a bigger investment purchasing a bagging machine, sealer, stacking equipment, stretch wrapping machine, additional buildings for storage, racks to store the product and much more.

In 1989 we added a soil mix line to our manufacturing operation, offering it in bulk or bag. In 1990, we incorporated our own company of Barky Beaver Mulch and Soil, thus starting the branding of what is a well-known name in the industry today.

Also, in the early 90s, a company contacted us from New York about processing a new product for playground surfacing. After much thought and research, we started the process of our Engineered Wood Fiber, which we market as Beaver Chips. Our Beaver Chips product has been a great addition to our line of mulches. We are now IPEMA certified, which is the International Playground Equipment Manufacturing Association. This means our product is tested and approved through their program to be safe for playgrounds. Inspections and testing are performed every year to stay in compliance with this program. This product is shipped to parks, schools and churches.

Over the years, Barky Beaver has changed with the times and demands of the industry. Today, we offer a variety of colored mulches along with our “all natural” hardwood bark mulch. These colors include black, chocolate, cinnamon, cherry brown and red. All these mulches are available in bulk or bag. We ship our bulk on our walking floor trailers, and our bags are shipped on our flatbeds.

We also have our own blends of potting soils, growing mixes, soil amendments and offer a custom blending service for growers with their own specific recipe. These also come in bulk or bag for the customer’s convenience. Along with these soils, we now offer a professional growing mix line. These soils have been professionally engineered with new technology and proven ingredients for the expert growers. We offer technical assistance before, during and after the grow out season. These soils are offered in bulk, 2 cf loose filled bags and in bulk sacks.

Barky Beaver continually improves the operation to make better product and better working conditions for the employees. Over the past few years, we have added new semi trucks, a new dying machine, a new bagging line and have updated our soil line to keep our products and service the best quality available.

Future plans are to co-pack for other companies. With our access to raw materials and the high production we have with our new bagging line, bagging for others could be a great diversity for our company.

I started with the company in July of 1979 after Doug and Janie asked if I could help on a part time basis in the office. We were in an old tavern block building at this time. Janie and I shared a desk together. It was a blessing for me to get to work with my sister. I answered the phone, typed up tickets, filed, added logs, invoiced and paid bills. After a short amount of time, things became busier and I began full time. Over the years, I saw all the businesses grow tremendously. Each division became its own company and was incorporated individually.

I was fortunate enough through these times to work in every company from mulch, to lumber, pallets and log homes. As the companies grew even more, I worked only in the mulch division. I took care of incoming orders, helped the sales team and handled of all the accounting for Barky Beaver. After a while, Doug saw how I took care of our customers and how passionate I was about them and our products, so he offered me a sales position. At the time, I really didn’t want to take the position, because I had never met a sales person I really liked. However, he convinced me it would be a good move and I agreed. Soon after that, I was promoted to V.P. I offer our customers that personal service they’re looking for, because I care about them and their business.

I also served on the TNLA (Tennessee Nursery and Landscape Association) board for two terms and was voted TNLA’s “Sales Person of the Year” in 2005. The people I’ve met and friendships I made being in this position and this industry has been a great journey and blessing in my life.

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