Martin, Aucoin, Berken honored in LSU event

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Dennis Aucoin, Clinton, LA logging contractor
& timberman is one of three inducted into the LSU
Agriculture Hall of Distinction on February 27.
Also inducted were the late Ellis Martin, sone of
the late Roy O. Martin, Sr., founder of the Martin
timber companies, & Clarence Berken, Lake Arthur,
LA farm operator.

It was fitting that two of the three inductees into the first LSU Agriculture Hall of Distinction Class were representatives of Louisiana's leading agricultural crop, timber. Dennis Aucoin, logging contractor and timber man from Clinton, and Ellis Martin, of the Roy O. Martin family business in Alexandria, were honored February 27 at the Baton Rouge White Oak Plantation event. The other inductee was Clarence Berken, rice, soybean and wheat farmer from Lake Arthur.

"This award tonight means so much to me," Aucoin proclaimed. "For many years, I have worked to improve the public face the logging industry in Louisiana."

"Also, I have worked hard to improve our logging techniques to maintain the quality of our forest land. There have been many changes in the logging industry since I got into it at age 19. It is much safer now, more productive for the landowner, and with our Best Management Practices, we can sustain our timber land for the future."

"We are happy to expand our marquee event of the year from Farmer of the Year to the more inclusive Agriculture Hall of Distinction," Jim Engster, President of the Louisiana Radio Network, told the Piney Woods Journal. "This gives us the opportunity to honor so many additional individuals who have contributed to the overall agricultural economy of our state."

The Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction is a joint effort of the LSU Ag Center, Louisiana Radio Network, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Commissioner of Forestry, Dr. Mike Strain was in attendance at the event and congratulated each recipient.

Bill Richardson, the LSU Vice President for Agriculture, had this to say about the prestigious event: "This is the golden age of agriculture in Louisiana. We need to recognize the people who have made Louisiana agriculture so successful because agriculture continues to play an essential role in state and local economics."

Brian Chandler, LSU Extension Forester for the Florida parishes nominated Dennis Aucoin for induction into the Agriculture Hall of Distinction. In his presentation of Aucoin to the attendees, Chandler had this to say about the Clinton based logger and businessman:
"Dennis is a leader in the forest industry emphasizing Forestry Best Management Practices and Land Stewardship in his logging operation. Dennis' reputation as a logger is such that he is the only logger some landowners will use and they will wait until he is available. Dennis makes sure that all his logging employees are knowledgeable about how to implement Best Management Practices," Chandler added. "Dennis started working in the logging woods at age 14 driving a log truck for his Uncle, Jimmy Thomas. Dennis would drive from the woods to the highway and then his Uncle would drive on to the mill."

Scott Poole, lead forester for the Martin Group of companies nominated Ellis Martin for induction into the Hall of Distinction. Ellis Martin died in October 18, 2013 at the age of 96 after a lifetime in the timber industry. He began his management career in 1936 when his dad, Roy O. Martin, Sr. handed him the reins of the Martin Sawmill Operations in Castor.

Poole, in his presentation noted: "If Mr. Ellis Martin was here tonight he would be very upset with me because I put some spotlight on him by this nomination."

At that point, Ellis Martin's son, Jonathon Martin, CEO of the Martin Group of companies interjected; "Scott tell it like it would be," to which Scott Poole said humbly to the attendees: "If Mr. Ellis was here tonight, he would fire me on the spot for nominating him for this honor! However, if there is anyone in Louisiana who deserves this honor, it is Ellis Martin." Ellis graduated from Bolton High School and attended LSU in Baton Rouge for two years. He then began a lifelong, successful career in the lumber business. He was trained at an early age by his father in the lumber-manufacturing and selling process. He once said, "No child had better training, and I tried to succeed in everything he gave me to do." He was only 19 years of age when his father sent him to manage Martin Timber Company in Castor, Louisiana. (Ellis had been there earlier as a high school student to help build this mill, and then was sent to run it.) He was president of Martin Timber Company until 1974, when he and his wife moved from Ringgold, Louisiana, where they raised their five children, to Pineville, Louisiana. Ellis became president of Roy O. Martin Lumber Company, and later chairman and CEO, until his retirement in 2004.

Under his leadership in the family's wood-products manufacturing businesses were Martin Timber Company in Castor, Louisiana; Colfax Treating Company in Pineville, Louisiana; Dura-Wood Treating Company in Alexandria, Louisiana; and Martco Limited Partnership, an oriented strand board plant and hardwood sawmill in LeMoyen, Louisiana, and plywood plant in Chopin, Louisiana. In addition, Ellis led the oil-and-gas, forestry, and real-estate departments, in addition to lumber retail centers throughout Louisiana.

The criteria for an inductee into the Hall of Distinction took into consideration honors and awards that the nominee had previously received. Aucoin was the outstanding Logger of the Year of the Louisiana Forestry Association in 1992 and 1995. In 1995 and 1999, Georgia Pacific selected Aucoin as their Logger of the Year. In 1997, American Interstate Insurance Company selected Aucoin for the Timber Harvesting Excellence Award, and in 1999, he was the overall winner of the award in 32 states.

Other leadership roles that Aucoin has filled in previous years include the first President of the Feliciana Forestry Association, President of the Louisiana Logging Council, Southern Delegate on the American Tree Farming Operating Committee, member of the Board of Directors for the American Logging Council, and a board member and officer of the Louisiana Forestry Association. Currently, Aucoin is Vice-President of the Southern Loggers Co-op and will take the reins of President of the Co-Op in 2015.

Aucoin noted in closing his acceptance speech: "If it had not been for me participating in the 1998 LSU AgCenter's Leadership Class (class number 5) I would not be here accepting this great award. The Ag Center Leadership Class taught me how to get involved in leaderships roles and accept responsibilities. For me, this award is the top of the mountain."

Writers note: I've had the pleasure of knowing Dennis for 15 years. In addition to the noted accomplishments above, Dennis served for three years in the time consuming position of president of the East Feliciana Police Juror. He has helped raise $1 million for the Children's Miracle Network and found time to serve on the Dixie Business Incubator for the last 20 years. Dennis is also on the board of Landmark Bank, and the board of the Lady of Lake Foundation.