Watch Faces of the Forest: Big Island Mill, Virginia

In the towns large and small where paper and packaging are made, our companies are employers, taxpayers and corporate citizens. But they’re so much more than that. They’re neighbors, partners, volunteers and leaders; integral to the fabric of the community.

The Big Island Mill, located in rural Bedford County, Virginia is a perfect example. The facility has been making paper alongside the beautiful James River for an astounding 130 years, and its storied “1PM” paper machine has been in continuous operation that entire time.

More importantly, the mill and its employees have been part of the Bedford area’s history, persevering through World Wars, depressions, upheavals, fires, floods, and all manner of social and technological change. Some current Big Island employees are the fourth generation in their families to work in the mill, a continuity and rootedness you can feel when you’re there.

On our recent visit, we met Keith, Heather and Chris, papermakers and problem-solvers at Big Island, who took us on a tour of the facility with an emphasis on sustainability—highlighting the ways they help protect the trees, the soil and the water around the mill, and giving us a look at the unique recycled-paper making machine the mill installed a number of years ago to turn recovered cardboard boxes into new products.

We also met Anitra, a local philanthropist and tree farmer, who worked with the foresters at Big Island to be a responsible steward to her own land, ensuring it can remain a healthy productive forest for generations to come.

We were even able to visit the nearby National D-Day Memorial. Maybe you didn’t know there was a National D-Day Memorial, or you’re wondering why it would be located in rural Virginia. Well, whether you know a lot or a little about that historic event, you’re going to want to see how the mill transformed to help the war effort.

The Faces of the Forest video series are about the people and places that make our companies who and what they are. They care that our forests are sustainably and responsibly managed not just because those forests are their livelihood, but because those forests are their homes.

Learn more about Forestry, as well as the added benefits and solutions from our other industry associations on our Association Partners page.

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