Workers Co-op
Workers History

Hoedads Celebrate Reforestation History

Roscoe Caron

A 30th anniversary reunion in August 2001 will bring people from across the United States to celebrate the rugged and dynamic democracy that was the hallmark of the Hoedads Reforestation Cooperative based in Eugene, Oregon.

Started in 1971, the worked-owned, democratically-run company grew to over 300 workers in the mid/late 1970's, grossing over $2 million per year. For a period of years, the Hoedads was one of the largest worker-owned companies in the U.S. The officers and mangers of the Hoedads were elected from the ranks of the forest worker membership.

The Hoedads were an important influence on the forest practices of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management -- from breaking the "males only" ethic of forest work, to questioning the wisdom of monoculture reforestation and challenging the liberal use of herbicides. They did extensive lobbying at the national and state levels for increased funds for reforestation, and promotion of sustainable forestry practices.
Firefighting was part of the Hoedad experience. Photo attributed to US Forest Service contract firefighters, 2000 in Montana.

In addition to treeplanting, Hoedads did precommercial thinning, firefighting, trailbuilding, technical forestry, forest construction, resource inventory, and other forest-related labor. With up to 13 crews with names like Mudsharks, Cheap Thrills, Cougar Mountain and Full Moon Rising -- working in every state west of the Rockies and
Alaska and living in the most remote areas in the mountains of the West, often in primitive conditions right in the middle of the clearcut war zones of the industrial forest, Hoedads earned the respect of people throughout the U.S. for putting their political and social ideals into practice.

Over the years, over 35 crews came and went. Some were all-women crews, some were explicitly political. Some crews were ruggedly individualistic, some were idealistically collective. Crews specialized in lines of work, such as range fence-building, others were marginally dysfunctional and quickly ceased to exist, and still others were hard-working money-generating machines.

Additionally, Hoedads spawned a dozen other forestry cooperatives in the Pacific Northwest, providing the business management and forestry skill training ground for many of those other cooperatives. They also influenced the national worker cooperative movement.

In Eugene, Hoedads provided loans and grants to many local alternative businesses -- from providing the down payment for the WOW Hall (Community Center for the Performing Arts) to providing startup money for cooperative businesses such as restaurants, auto repair shops, wholesale food suppliers, and construction companies. Hoedads also provided financial resources for environmental groups such as NCAP (
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides) and community agencies such as the Siuslaw Valley Health Clinic and NEDCO, a community-based housing agency.

The Hoedads flexed their significant organizational muscle in politics, enlisting hundreds of Hoedad volunteers and electing Jerry Rust, the first Hoedad president, as a Lane County Commissioner in 1976. Rust ultimately became the longest-serving commissioner in Lane County.

The Hoedads disbanded in 1994, due largely to the dramatic decline on federal lands in reforestation and other logging- associated forestry work.

The Hoedads provided a seminal experience for hundreds of people from across the U.S. It provided a rich medium for experiments in areas such as workplace democracy, gender, race, sexual orientation, alternative economics and environmental issues. In their own unique way, the Hoedads personified the essence of what is called the 60's -- the idealism, the excesses, the bold experiments, the failures and successes.

Vivid images of Hoedads at work and play are available at the Hoedad website,
www.hoedads.com. To learn about the heady, beginning days of the Hoedads through their own words, pick up Birth of a Cooperative: Hoedads, Inc. by Hal Hartzell, Jr.

Copyright 2001 by Roscoe Caron

Roscoe Caron is a former treeplanter and Hoedad president. He is currently a middle school teacher, and labor and anti-racism activist in Eugene, Oregon.

For more on the Hoedads see Loraine Baker's
Half & Half Hoedads, Wild Women of the Woods.
For more Hoedad photos by Loraine Baker & friends , see Half & Half Pictures.

Also by Roscoe Caron,
America's Teachers: 21st Century Segregation - Looks at the issue of role modeling for ethnic students and the schools that teach teachers. Why aren't we getting more ethnic teachers?

© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.



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