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Cleveland Brothers

Wilds Sonshine Factory Builds Community

By: Brittney

Cat Mini HexConservation and utilizing natural resources are two key factors to the newest distillery and conservation education center known as Wilds Sonshine Factory (WSF), located in Kane, Pa. With a mission to produce distilled spirits while honoring the region’s natural resources and local heritage, WSF is committed to educating visitors of the rich local history in the Pennsylvania Wilds. Taylor Holt, WSF General Manager, stated, “much more than a distillery, the WSF will be a place for visitors of all ages to visit and learn about the importance of our region’s natural resources, with a focus on conservation education throughout the whole facility.” In addition to the unique distillery, WSF offers an interpretive agricultural education center and facility tours to school groups and the public.

As the first company to ever create, rather than just flavor, a pure distilled spirit manufactured from the seeds of a sunflower, WSF worked closely with researchers, scientists and local business, Greendale Farms, to transform over 700 acres of abandoned farms into fields that produce viable crops. In 2019, WSF officially broke ground to construct the main building of the facility and committed to utilize only locally sourced ingredients and grow sunflowers in the Pennsylvania Wilds region. After investing $2.8 million, the WSF boasts hundreds of acres of sunflower fields, a gift shop with locally made items, a 60 ft. corridor with interpretive educational displays, a large outdoor patio, event entertainment stages and a tasting area with the world’s largest 43 ft. table—made from a single piece of timber, estimated to be 205 years old!

 

WSF SHOWCASES WORLD RECORDCat Wheel Loader

Having worked closely with a generous group of locals to make it all happen, the President of WSF, Dave Conklin, is proud to exhibit the world’s largest table at their facility—although creating the table was no easy feat. In combined efforts with Cochran & Zandi Lumber, LLC of Warren County, Pa., the sheer size of the tree itself, as well as selecting, harvesting, transporting and safely placing the tree in its permanent home in WSF’s facility posed quite the challenge. With a goal to source as many local resources as possible, however, Conklin’s ambition and vision to break a new world record was no different. Conklin expressed, “We scouted forest lands for weeks, looking for the perfect Eastern Hemlock because it is Pennsylvania’s State Tree.” Finally, Chris Cochran, Dan Zandi and Conklin successfully located the perfect 205-year-old Eastern Hemlock.

Cochran and Zandi carefully harvested the tree from one of their properties in Warren County, Pa., and with help from Dyne Excavating, also of Kane, Steve Dyne used a Cat dozer to move the log and wrap it for protection. From there, the huge log hauler, powered by a Cat engine, transported the log to Cochran & Zandi’s lumber mill, where Cochran & Zandi’s team used an Alaskan mill to cut and shape the table. The team used a Cat wheel loader to carefully move and load the giant table onto a Paper City Transfer tractor trailer and set it up for the six-week drying process at their facility in Elk County, Pa. This careful step was overseen by the expertise and consultation from Collins Pine Company of McKean County, Pa.

 

TRANSPORTING THE TABLEPaper City Transfer

After weeks of anxiously waiting, the harvested slab was prepped to transport to its permanent home in WSF’s facility. The team utilized all Cat equipment, including a track loader, two skid steer loaders and four mini excavators, to carefully move the massive 8,000 lb. table into the new facility. Once securing the table with the excavators, the crew lifted the table using the track loader and skid steer loaders while carefully avoiding too much strain to the table. Conklin acknowledged some difficulties it took to move such a delicate item. “We had to maneuver the table through a 40 in. doorway, all while the table was 38.5 in. [at its widest]; so we had about a half an inch on each side without scratching the bark. The Cat equipment handled it effortlessly and it’s a great tribute to the Cat mini equipment line and how well they can operate in tight spaces. We could maintain control so carefully because they [the excavators] were so compact.”

Also involved in the final placing of the table were several local women professionals, including Kate Kennedy from the Kane Area Development Center, Amy Shields from Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group (AHUG), Brandi Shimp the Mayor of Kane, Katie Schmidt from Penn State Extension Natural Resources Team, Abbi Peters and Ta Enos from the Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds), Rhonda Holt of Greendale Farms and Taylor Holt and Tosha Conklin of WSF.

In addition to the Cat equipment’s precision, Conklin also noted that, “It took the [Cat] hydraulic technology to control something so large within a half of an inch and never rub the bark of the tree. It literally went flawlessly, and I was thoroughly impressed with how well Cat equipment has assisted in the project from start to finish.” After hundreds of hours invested and nearly 10 months later, WSF is proud to be the home of “a piece of PA Wilds natural resource history.” While the record has not yet been officially recorded, the immaculate table unofficially holds the title as the “World’s Longest Table Made from One Continuous Piece of Timber,” as WSF has verified with Guinness World Records.

 

STANDOUT SERVICE AND EQUIPMENT

While Conklin highlighted the skill and talent of the team’s operators and the Cat equipment used to complete the lofty task, he also thanked Pat Maurer [Construction Equipment Sales Manager, Cleveland Brothers] and Cleveland Brothers for their support. He stated, “From the day we cut the tree, to the day we set it, and everything in between, we used Cat equipment and Cleveland Brothers as a resource. It was an absolute honor to collaboratively work with everyone, all using Cat equipment, to make this thing happen—including the wonderful resources and service you [Cleveland Brothers] provided to help facilitate such a feat.” Conklin also spoke to his relationship with Maurer and the importance of standout service by stating, “There was a lot of support through the whole process, and Pat [Maurer] reached out repeatedly and always asked ‘What can we do to help you?’ The customer service is exceptional.”Transporting the Table

As Conklin and his team excitedly anticipate the opening of WSF, he took the time to thank local communities and business partners, including Cleveland Brothers, Cochran & Zandi Lumber, LLC, Collins Pine Companies, Dyne Excavating, Paper City Transfer and many more. Conklin stated, “Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co., Inc. is a Kane business and as our community progresses, you’re [Cleveland Brothers] a great business, employer and a great resource to our area and to our massive forestry and natural resource-heavy community.”

From being the first to create a pure distilled spirit manufactured from sunflower seeds to setting a new world record, Conklin and the rest of the team helped make WSF’s goals a reality. They are proud to build a facility with Cat equipment while conserving natural resources with a mission to educate, entertain visitors of all ages and enrich local communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds that they call home.


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