Forests are part of Finnish family history

Finns have a unique relationship with the forest. Forest owners see it as a valuable treasure that they want to look after and protect for future generations. In this article, three Metsä Fibre employees explain how they feel about the forests they own.
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  • 2023, Sustainability, Our professionals

“What matters to me is that every tree felled is put to good use.”

One of my earliest memories of the forest is skiing there with my grandfather. It was our shared hobby and in the winter we did it almost every day.

Mother sometimes worried about our expeditions. “What if something happens to you?” she asked my grandfather. He promised her: “Katri and I have agreed that if something goes wrong, she will just turn around and ski back along the same tracks.”

My grandfather was a Second World War veteran. His family had to leave their home in the south-east corner of Finland, when it ended up on the Russian side of the border. After the war, my grandfather decided to buy a new farm in Orimattila, southern Finland. That was where he made a new start. He treated the forest like a bank, as many others of his generation did. They felled trees when they needed money or wood for buildings.

I sometimes wonder if I would have opted for the forest sector without this family background, but I have always enjoyed natural sciences. I first did a bachelor’s degree in forestry and then went on to a master’s in natural resource management. I have been working at Metsä Group ever since I graduated. At the moment, I work as Metsä Fibre’s Marketing Manager.

As my studies advanced, we started looking after the forests on my home farm more systematically. Trees do not last forever. Just as an apartment needs a make-over from time to time to keep its value, forests have to be managed to stay healthy and grow well.

We were reminded of this when we found spruce bark beetles in our forest. They are especially dangerous in spruce forests. We are now renewing the damaged area.

Forest management on nature´s terms

Finland always manages its forests on nature’s own terms. When we felled an area on my home farm to renew it, we planted seedlings that suited the soil instead of choosing the tree species that a nearby production unit uses.

It is important to me that every felled tree is put to good use and in ways that replace fossil raw materials. It means a lot to me that I work in a company that uses valuable wood sustainably and is always looking for new uses for it.

At best, forest management is therapy. When I am cleaning a seedling stand, it is nice to see the results of my work instantly. Forest cleaning is one of the main ways of promoting future growth, but it is also a chance to safeguard forest biodiversity. If a deciduous tree like a rowan is not harming the seedlings, I leave it there to provide protection and nutrition to birds and animals.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been going berry and mushroom picking with my mother. The best thing each year is picking blueberries and chanterelles. A walk in the forest calms you down and refreshes you. After a day in front of the computer, it also feels like it improves your posture.
My mother took over the home farm from her father more than 40 years ago. There will be another handover at some point, but I am not sure how we will do it. Perhaps I will set up a forest partnership with my siblings. We all want the farm to stay in the family, so that the life’s work of my grandfather will live on.

Katri Viitanen
Marketing Manager, Metsä Fibre

“The forest is my link to family history.”

We come from the municipality of Vöyri in Ostrobothnia, western Finland. It is where my brother and I jointly inherited a forest. My grandfather was a smallholder who did all his own field and forest work on the farm. I remember visiting the farm as a child during spring sowing and grain threshing. My brother and I imagined that we were a great help.

My father took over the farm from my grandfather, and then my brother and I took it over from him. That last handover was in 1997. I don’t remember ever really discussing it. It was just natural that the land was passed down from father to sons.

I guess my brother and I are pretty typical Finnish forest owners. We have inherited a farm but do not actually live there – we live in the city. I believe the size of our forest is also fairly common.

My home in Jyväskylä is more than three hours by car from Vöyri. Because of the distance, I rarely visit. My brother goes to Ostrobothnia regularly for work, so he spends more time in our forest.

Neither of us knows a lot about forest management, but we want to preserve the estate’s value for future generations. That is why we have outsourced forest management and felling to Metsä Group. We have a Forest Specialist who gets in touch with us regularly to talk about what needs doing at different times.

The latest felling was in 2020. It included thinning and regeneration felling. Our Forest Specialist supervised the sale of the wood from start to finish and made sure that new seedlings were planted immediately.

Owning the forest with my brother has worked well. We agree on things and trust what Metsä Group tells us.

Sustainable forestry keeps forest in the family

For me, forestry sustainability means continuity. It means that the trees grow so that my children and their children can continue to enjoy them. It also means taking natural values into account. For example, there is a swamp area on our estate that we do not use for forestry. Our forests are certified, too.

I work at Metsä Fibre as VP for Sales Services, and my team is responsible for planning and developing pulp and sawn timber sales, as well as technical customer service. In my daily work, I see how important it is for customers to know that their wood has been obtained legally and the forests are used sustainably.

Although there is money to be made in forest felling, the financial aspect is not so important to me. What I appreciate is that forest ownership makes me part of Finland’s traditions and our family history.

For the same reason, I do not think I will ever sell the estate. Smallholders worked long and hard days. If I sold the land to get more money, it would dishonour the work of my ancestors.

Tom Nickull
VP, Sales Services, Metsä Fibre

“We do forestry work together.”

My family farm is in Lemi in eastern Finland, where my grandparents used to live. My father and his siblings built a small cottage on family land, by a lake surrounded by forests. When I was a child, we often spent weekends there and played in the forest.

I still remember how big and sturdy the trees seemed to a little girl.

From my grandparents, the farm passed down to their children. Then, in 2016, my father made his share over to me and my brother.

The forest mattered a lot to my father. He did his own forestry work and picked berries and mushrooms. He showed us children that forests are important.

Every spring, we worked together to make firewood. My father used the saw, while the rest of us with our families helped stack the wood. In between, we would take a break to eat something and make coffee. We all have wood-heated saunas, so we use firewood throughout the year.

My father knew the forest like the back of his hand, and he showed us the best places for blueberries and mushrooms. I love it that he also taught my children to pick mushrooms, recognise different species of tree and wander in the woods.

He passed away in February 2021 but we were still chanterelle picking together the previous autumn. In autumn 2022, I went on my own. It felt really nice to find the places my father had pointed out.

Forests need care. In the past few years, we have planted and cleared areas together. It was amazing how much the seedlings had grown in a year after clearing, when they had enough light and space around them.

When you work hard for a young forest stand, anything that damages it feels bad. There are many moose in our area, and last winter they found a young pine stand in our forest that had just started growing. I was very sad when I saw what they had done to the saplings. Of course, they will continue to grow, but they will not be as good as before.

Protecting natural values is important

I want to safeguard the natural values of our forest. We have protected a herb-rich area as well as a crag covered by an old pine forest. We call it Pentti’s Peak, after my grandfather Pentti.

Parts of our forests are protected under METSO, which is a voluntary programme that pays compensation for protecting areas of biodiversity. We have agreed a ten-year protection period, but I am sure we will extend it after that.

I have been working at Metsä Fibre since 2003, with the last seven years as a Supply Chain Customer Service Manager. It means a lot to me that my employer invests in Finland and converts and uses sustainably produced Finnish wood.

I find that the forest relieves stress and brings peace of mind. If you live close to a forest, you can easily go there at any time. I like spending a refreshing time in my own forest, making coffee at a lean-to, and managing the forest to increase its value. Even if I do not benefit from the seedlings I plant, someone else will.

Tiina Lehtolainen
Customer Service Manager, Supply chain, Metsä Fibre

This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2023.

In Finland there are more than 600,000 private forest owners

  • The average age of forest owners is 62 years.
  • 46 per cent of forest owners have inherited their forest estate.
  • Two-thirds of forest owners have multiple goals: in addition to wood production, they care about recreational values and natural values.
  • More than 90,000 of them belong to Metsäliitto Cooperative, which is Metsä Group’s parent company.

Forests cover more than 75 per cent of Finland’s land area

  • Private individuals own 60 per cent of the forest area, the state 26 per cent, and the forest industry 9 per cent.
  • The remaining 5 per cent is owned by munincipalities, congregations, joint forest partnerships, and other organisations.
  • Owners who do not live on their forest land, live an average of 205 kilometres away.

Sources: and the study ”Finnish Forest Owner 2020”.