Harvest for Use Initiative
The Need: Consumers are increasingly asking questions about where the forest products they buy come from and how they are made. Many Vermont wood products companies are shifting their practices to take advantage of this emerging demand for sustainably managed products from sustainably harvested forests. At the same time, land ownership patterns in Vermont create challenges for aggregating a lumber supply for wood manufacturers that meets their needs for species, volumes, lead times, and consistency.
The Opportunity: That’s where the Harvest for Use Initiative comes in. In 2009, three consulting foresters, nine loggers, a mill operator, a wood broker, and a furniture manufacturer participated in the Harvest for Use Initiative – a market development effort aimed at aggregating and shepherding Vermont-grown, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified logs through the supply chain all the way to finished product.
How it Works:
1. Market Demand: Copeland Furniture has a steady need for both FSC sugar maple for their Harbor Island line and for FSC red maple for a new line of furniture they are selling through Crate & Barrel and other retailers.
2. Aggregate Supply: With this market signal from furniture makers such as Copeland, FSC-certified consulting forestry firms such as Redstart Forestry (a firm
based in Corinth with about 70,000 acres under management) can begin to aggregate the supply of certified wood harvested from “small-holders” under their management. Using a grant from VSJF, Redstart Forestry, has developed a GIS-based wood supply
forecasting system which allows them to determine how many board feet, of what
species, and on what parcels, harvests will be scheduled in the coming year.
3. Connect the Links in the Supply Chain: Premiums paid by Allard Lumber (Brattleboro) for logs are split between the loggers and landowners. FSC lumber is sold through a broker to Copeland Furniture at a higher price. The chain of custody of the wood is maintained throughout the process.
4. Craft the Story: Copeland crafted a story to explain where and how the forests were managed, how harvested logs supported good jobs in the industry—for loggers, truckers, mill operators, and furniture makers—and how Vermont craftsmanship all lead to a high quality, sustainably produced bedroom set for the customer. According to Mark Burzynski (COO) of Copeland Furniture, “the ability to go to market with a full line of furniture which we can point to as being manufactured with FSC Certified maple and then to add in that the maple is from Vermont forests, really added some credence to our overall story of environmental awareness.” Retailers are hungry for a “green” story and increasingly customers want to know where the wood comes from. Ultimately, the premium paid by the end consumer supports the premiums paid at each point in the supply chain.
5. Win Awards!: Copeland recently won the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) Sage Award for excellence in the home furnishings and bedding industries through sustainable business practices, social responsibility and profitable growth. According to AHFA, Copeland was singled out among this year’s entries for its “exceptionally focused” approach to sustainable business operations.
6. Move from Pilot to Replication: In 2010, VSJF, Redstart Forestry and its many partners started to work on replicating and expanding on lessons learned during the pilot phase. However the project ultimately had to be abandoned because the wood products industry was so negatively impacted by The Great Recession. Many lumber mills and furniture manufacturers went out of business in the years that followed. The Forest Partnership has continued to supply small amounts of source verified, FSC lumber for specific projects as requests are made.
The Harvest for Use Initiative was a collaboration between Consulting Foresters; VSJF; Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation; Vermont Land Trust; Atlas Timber Partnership; Copeland Furniture; Allard Lumber; & Champlain Hardwoods. Funding was generously provided by: USDA Rural Development; USDA Forest Service; Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation; VSJF; U.S. Senator Leahy; High Meadows Fund; Tillotson Foundation; and the John Merck Fund.