Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Spencer County family takes pride in responsible use of hardwood resources

Phil, Shawn, Matt and Steve Leibering have a passion for conservation that was instilled in them very early in life by their father, Chris. It’s a passion that has led to the planting of more than 30 million trees in Indiana since 1956 and is the foundation of the family’s business.

Leibering-award“Our dad was one of the first to bring the idea of soil conservation to the woods in Indiana,” said Steve, the youngest of the four brothers. ”He would always say ‘That soil won’t do us a bit of good if it’s not on our farm.’ He first planted white pine and Virginia pine trees on highly eroded areas around here.”

The Leibering family operates a network of companies, handling every step of the lumber production process from planting and harvesting to drying and processing logs into lumber. Their dimension plant then turns the lumber into flooring, furniture, cabinetry parts, paper chips and more. But it hasn’t always been so root and branch.

Like most business decisions, Chris Leibering’s plan to start planting, harvesting and logging trees on a large commercial scale was driven by economics, in addition to being spurred by his interest in stewardship. Together with their father, Phil, Shawn, Matt and Steve decided to further expand the business when more family members started getting involved. They added a sawmill and lumber company, Leibering Lumber and Logging, in 1999; incorporated the farm into Leibering and Sons Inc. in 2007; and added a dimension plant, Leibering Dimension Inc., in 2008.

Today, the four brothers manage around 200 acres of their own timber land in addition to more than 20,000 acres of timber land for private landowners in Indiana. Most of their tree-planting work is done on privately-owned coal mine reforestation lots. Just this year they’ve planted more than 850,000 trees.

leibering_lumberWhen asked what they enjoy most about the hardwood industry, the brothers responded by conveying a sense of pride in their responsibility to take care of the land for generations to come.

“It’s a long-term but renewable management process,” said Steve. “The next time some of our trees are harvested, it’ll likely be done by someone else.”

“Some people say it’s a science, but my father always said it’s more of an art. You’ve got to feel and see the future of what the forest potential is,” replied Matt.

The Leiberings – Lumber and More

  • Main operation is located in Ferdinand, Indiana.
  • Operation produces approximately 3.5 to 4 million board feet of logs per year and 35,000 tons of paper chips per year from harvested timber.
  • Runs a fleet of five trucks with which they do most of their own transport for each of the businesses.
  • Chris Leibering served on the national forestry committee for Farm Bureau and was a lifetime member before passing away in 2007. His wife, Carol, is still a Farm Bureau member today.
  • Some of the lumber they produce is exported to Canada, Mexico and even as far as China and the Middle East.
  • The Leiberings also farm in the neighborhood of 400 acres of row crops and 400 acres of hay and pasture, and run a 140-head cow-calf herd.
  • The brothers have two sisters, Lisa Peters and Andie Vance, also of Spencer County. From the six siblings comes the next generation of 22 grandchildren, eight of whom are already involved in the family business.