Eighth-grader Cameron Janda, from Michigan, has been chopping wood ever since he could read. Now 13 years old, he’s been running his own business chopping and selling firewood for two years—and he still finds time to ace his schoolwork.
Proud mom Barbara Kline says it’s her son’s rigorous organization that makes all this possible.
“The arrangement for all of this is that his school always needs to be done, even if he’s taking on these other responsibilities that he chooses to do,” she told MLive. “He manages it all, and I’m proud of him.”
On Mondays, Cameron rises at dawn for chores and to feed his family’s horses at their Tallmadge Township home.
Then, it’s wood-chopping time.
“I started when I was really young, probably six, when I got a hatchet from Meijer,” he said. “I would cut up firewood for the campfire and I really enjoyed that, so it just kind of grew from there.”
After chopping, Cameron stacks the wood and wraps it into bundles, ready to be sold. He sells his wares by volume—a bundle costs $5; a 4-by-8-foot, 16-inch-deep face cord costs $60; and a full cord three times that size costs $160.
Cameron has drummed up most of his patronage via word of mouth. He delivers bundles of wood directly to homes, and to three local convenience store outlets.
The teen lumberjack can produce around 300 bundles of wood in a day, and has no real idea of how much money he’s made so far. He keeps his profits in a coffee can.
“I could count it, but it would take a while,” he joked.
He’s learned much of what he knows from working with family friend Dan Dempsey. The pair chop wood together once a week, with Dempsey running a crosscut saw and Cameron handling splitting and stacking duties.
The teen loves the outdoor lifestyle his hobby affords him. “It’s hard work,” he admitted. “But I have been doing it a while so it’s not really, really hard for me. I like splitting wood because I really enjoy the physical part of it and I enjoy being in nature.”
Besides lumberjacking, Cameron cares about forest regeneration. He likes to find and replant saplings in the woods whenever possible, sometimes building protective fencing, while lamenting that many young shoots get eaten by deer.
In addition to being a keen student and runner, the busy outdoorsman plays classical guitar—as well as the occasional video game.
“I’ve seen him grow a lot over the last few years with being able to manage his time,” Kline said. “And his school still comes first … he carries very good grades.”
Cameron, who’s signed on for online classes through Michigan Connections Academy, wants to dual-enroll into high school courses as well, to learn more about construction and forestry. Meanwhile, the 13-year-old is already learning to identify trees from Dempsey.
“He can tell me the value of a tree just by looking at it,” his mother marveled. “Sometimes when he’s outside doing chores, I’ll look out the window and see him just looking up the trees, you know, sizing them up.
“He’s always very intrigued by that sort of thing.”