August 17th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
Every Friday Peggy goes to the local nursing home and picks up meals on wheels for local Vernon residents. But on Friday, Sean and I got to go out and meet some awesome senior folks from the area and deliver their meals on wheels! We handed out a weekends worth of cold and hot food to nine different people around the town. It was great to see how happy and appreciative they were of the food, and we were really glad that we got the experience to meet them and be a part of the program. It was interesting to see that for some people there was more than just the food to really look forward to… it was just being around someone who was eager to say hello and listen to a story or to (or three or more for some people!)
When I first applied to Vermont Woods Studios, one of the things that really excited me was the fact that the company is mission driven. And while our mission is about sustainability, caring for your neighbors (particularly those in need) is a practice of sustainability. When you form a connection with your community members and neighbors, even something as small as volunteering to drop off food to local elderly people once a week is improving your local, community environment. It’s helping people sustain healthy, comfortable lives, and ending senior hunger!
Programs like meals on wheels are so encouraging. It helps you see that the little things count so much, and it only takes one action to really make someones day! If you’re having a bad day, I’d challenge you to go out and do something nice for someone in need, it’s hard to feel bad when you are making someone else smile.
To get involved with your local meals on wheels program, visit the Meals on Wheels Association of America!
August 12th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
One of the best things about running a sustainable furniture business is that our customers are people who care about how we treat the environment and the people we work with. They’ve come to us because they are willing to pay a premium for high quality, American made furniture that’s crafted from sustainably harvested wood– by furniture makers who are paid a fair, livable wage.
Yesterday we received this note from Wayne J:
I appreciated the description of your commitment to sustainability. I would also like to know how you care for the artisans and trades people who build and ship the furniture. What percentage of the price flows to these people? Are they paid a living wage? What is the ratio of their pay to that of the CEO? Are they making enough to create for themselves safe environments for doing their work. For me to do repeat business at this price point, it will be important to have answers to these questions as well.
These are great questions. I would ask the same thing if I was a customer and I thought you might be interested in the answers, so I decided to post them here. I’ll break it down into Compensation and Occupational Safety & Health.
Vermont Woods Studios is set up as a marketing and sales company. We actually don’t build much furniture anymore (we started out with Ken building furniture but as we grew, he couldn’t keep up, so we got him doing the bookkeeping instead). So we don’t directly employ furniture makers. We work with independent Vermont furniture makers, either buying furniture wholesale and selling retail or via commission or referral fees.
From the beginning, we set Vermont Woods Studios up as a mission-driven company, that is: To conserve forests and artistic woodworking while providing our customers with the best selection, value, quality and service available for Vermont made wood furniture.
Because Ken is a woodworker, we are well aware of the amount of time and effort that goes into a piece of handcrafted furniture. We have a middle ground to walk between helping Vermont furniture companies and craftspeople achieve high quality jobs and providing our customers with the best value for their furniture. All the while we must compensate our marketing, sales and web development staff as best we can.
As for the CEO’s salary… well that would be mine. I haven’t actually taken a salary yet, per se. We are in our 8th year at Vermont Woods Studios and as other small business owners will attest, much of the early years involves investing and rolling profits back into the business, rather than taking a salary. For now, I am sustained with the knowledge that if we meet our challenge of creating efficiencies in the Vermont furniture making and shipping system, we’ll end up with a win-win-win-win situation: for woodworkers, customers, Vermont Woods Studios employees (including me) and the environment.
Vermont has the highest environmental standards of any state in the nation. As for the safety and health of the woodworkers that craft furniture for Vermont Woods Studios, I believe all the companies we work with (both large and small) go above and beyond federal and state OSHA and EPA regulations. Prior to starting this company I worked in environmental and occupational health and safety for 20+ years, with my most recent work in this occupation was at Tulane’s Center for Applied Environmental Public Health. That experience, plus the fact that Ken has an active woodworking shop gives me confidence in my assessment of the safety and health protections our woodworking partners employ. I do realize that we have to take a more active role in documenting safety, health and sustainability compliance amongst our partners in the future, though.
If you’re interested in additional details regarding sustainability, livable wages and worker safety at Vermont Woods Studios, please browse through our fine furniture website to learn about:
and give me a call or email me to suggest ways for us to continually improve.
* Not all of our craftspeople have their own businesses. Many work for larger companies, like Copeland Furniture. Read more about sustainability and the treatment of craftspeople at Copeland Furniture here.
considered proprietary information
according tothe Vermont Department of Labor, the average annual salary for a Vermont woodworker is $ 32,440
August 8th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Hard wood furniture lovers, beware! At this very moment, armies of invasive bugs and diseases are on the prowl, hunting down your favorite maple, oak, cherry, walnut and other backyard trees to turn them into food and bedding for their young. Check out this article by Faith Campbell in the Nature Conservancy blog, “How to Save Countless Trees in 10 Minutes or Less“.
Faith talks about the dreaded Asian Longhorn Beetle ALB, one of many non-native insects and diseases that have been brought to America accidentally by way of imported plants or in crates and pallets. Vermont’s iconic maples, along with elms, ash, and oaks are a favorite home to these large, shiny, black and white beetles from Asia.
The entire Northern hardwood forest is at risk and if we can’t get people like you to help fight back, 48 million acres in the United States plus the majority of Canada’s hardwood forests could be destroyed. Also at risk are shade trees along city streets and in backyards all across the country. The ALB could kill up to two thirds of urban trees if it becomes established!
There are many ways you can help keep invasive killer bugs and diseases from destroying our hardwoods. Here are some suggestions from VermontInvasives.org
By working together can we fight the killer bugs that threaten our forests, our food supplies, our waters and the thousands of jobs dependent on them. You can help stop the spread and protect the natural resources you love.
July 29th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
July 29th is Global Tiger Day. Did you know there is a direct connection between tiger conservation and the furniture and flooring you buy for your home? Companies like IKEA, Home Depot and WalMart sell wooden furniture and flooring that are often obtained through illegal logging in protected tiger habitats. Much of the global timber trade is now managed by organized crime. Sources, including George Mason University and The Washington Post are reporting that the global timber trade is the new heroin industry for organized crime. Tiger habitats are being rapidly and systematically destroyed in Russia, China, Malaysia and elsewhere to provide the cheap, imported wooden furniture and flooring that’s sold in America’s big box stores.
As a result, some scientists predict that the last remaining 3200 wild tigers (down from 100,000 just a century ago) will be entirely extinct in 5 years.
As an apex predator, the tiger is one of the most important animals in all of human history. If you love tigers, have a look at the World Wildlife Fund’s initiative to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger. You can support the effort by purchasing sustainable products. At Vermont Woods Studios, we promote American made furniture as it is almost always made with North American wood, harvested from well managed forests. We’re using our new Stonehurst fine furniture and art gallery to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from and persuade people to purchase furniture and flooring made from sustainably harvested wood.
Tigers are running out of space and time with only 7% of their habitat remaining but your decisions about buying furniture flooring and even paper, coffee and other forest products can help save them. It’s not too late! Please like our Tiger conservation initiative on Facebook and share this post with your friends. Thanks!
July 24th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
We are always happy to collaborate with organizations that make sustainability a central part of their mission, which is why we were really excited to see that we were published in Inhabitat! Inhabitat is a weblog that is dedicated to sustainable design, green innovation, and technology; they write and post stories related to sustainable building practices, materials, architecture, and design! Like us, they believe in a more conscious and ecologically focused future. I would consider them the Number 1 source website for sustainable design news around the globe.
If you are interested in green building, energy efficient home living, green interior design, emerging technologies, renewable energy, or sustainable product design– Inhabitat is most definitely the place you should go for some of the most interesting sustainability related stories around the web.
Another thing we love about Inhabitat is that they are constantly streaming information throughout the day, so there is never a shortage of sustainable stories to read and be inspired by! Also, stories are short and to the point (what I like to call, microstories) so you can get a wealth of information without having to search for the good stuff. Links are always provided so the reader can do independent research of their own, pretty neat!
June 10th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
The woods that surround Stonehurst make it a hotspot for local wildlife, and a favorite part of the new location for many of us. From wild turkeys roaming openly in the field, to our new porcupine friend, to the neighborhood chipmunks, squirrels, and birds that call this place their home—we are excited to be a part of this wonderful eco-community.
Now that we are getting settled, it’s great to see that many of us are forming a bond with different parts of Stonehurst. You can find Kendall walking around out back enjoying the mountain fresh air, Neville and Martin outside enjoying the scenery, while Dennis is always the first to volunteer to checkup on the families of birds who have occupied the birdhouses we put up earlier in the year. Needless to say, we all care about it here for one reason or another, and that’s what makes this place so special.
Stonehurst allows us to “tell the story of where your furniture comes from,” Peggy explains. “People can look out the windows and stroll around the grounds to see and experience what sustainable forestry is… we can use our learning wall to show people how their choice of furniture affects the habitats of endangered species.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Vermont Woods Studios was created with the inspiration to help put an end to the deforestation of the world’s rainforest’s. “Every species of big cat (lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc) and every species of primates (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc) is critically endangered due to habitat loss,” Peggy revealed, “and many of those habitats are forests that are being illegally decimated for timber that goes into imported furniture.”
Stonehurst, to us, is more than just our headquarters—it is a reflection of our impact on the natural landscape. We want to show people that by living consciously and shopping ethically, it is possible to live (and thrive) without harming the ecosystem, and that we can live harmoniously with our friends in nature, rather than endangering them by destroying their homes and habitats.
Besides the woods that surround Stonehurst, and the animals that inhabit them, the building itself has quite an interesting story. Stonehurst started out as a farmhouse circa 1800, and has “moved through various identities as a boarding house, 4 season resort, ski area, and residential home,” Peggy explains, “Stonehurst has been transformed several times, just as our business has transformed.” And despite all of the transformation, we’ve worked hard to preserve much of its history wherever possible. Plus, all local materials were used in its renovation, adding to its Vermont roots. “The resulting space feels like a natural home to us, said Peggy, “a place where we can enjoy our work while finding success in accomplishing our mission.”
When asked about their vision of the future for Vermont Woods Studios at Stonehurst, the team had differing answers with a common theme… We would all like to see Stonehurst busy as ever, with a thriving community of happy customers raving about their furniture and excited to be brand advocates for us and for our mission. We envision “people coming from near and far to get an up close look (and feel) at the best handcrafted furniture made in Vermont,” as Martin revealed, while Dennis would like to see people coming to Vermont not only to visit Stonehurst and see our furniture, but to experience all of the culture and activities that the state has to offer as well. Peggy is hoping to see a relaxed and efficient staff, excited to learn new things and making creative strides every day… plus lots more automation and continued rapid growth. Stonehurst will bring the team closer, and allow us to work more effectively and creatively together… and will also give us more opportunities to have fun! (Liz is really looking forward to future taco parties). Most importantly, however, Peggy explains that we “want to see evidence that we are raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.”
The move to Stonehurst has been a major transformation for us, and we are excited to see what the future has in store. With a handful of wonderful memories already created here– from happy hours in front of the wood stove in Ken’s shop, to physically helping with the planning and construction of the building, to watching a lone porcupine roam our field… we have high hopes and expectations for our future here. Our sign is finally up out front, signalling the end of the “making of” portion of our Stonehurst story–a chapter we are happy to leave behind. Now, its really time to get to work!
PS. We’ve created a Pinterest board for Stonehurst! Pin us
May 2nd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Vermont Woods Studios was created with a mission of forest conservation. By introducing customers to our sustainable wood furniture we are able to raise awareness about all kinds of forest-related issues, from rainforest preservation to global warming.
You don’t have to be a citizen scientist to make the connection between healthy, sustainable forests and wood furniture but it doesn’t hurt. If you’re not already a CS, how about considering it?
The current issue of Vermont Nature, a publication of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS is all about Citizen Scientists, with ideas and links to projects throughout the Green Mountain State. Online websites make it really easy to participate so if you love nature and are going to be outdoors enjoying it anyway, why not give Citizen Science a try?
Here are a couple opportunities:
Check out VINS’ website for more ideas. There’s something for everyone. You can change the world.
April 24th, 2013 by Loryn Dion
Monday, people across the globe were doing good deeds to help our planet and celebrate nature. Here at Vermont Woods Studios, every day is spent helping our planet (we are the top retailer for locally sourced, sustainably produced furniture, after all) so we took some time out of the day to donate blood at the Vermont Advent Christian Home.
While Peggy has donated before, this would be my first blood donation experience. Being a first time donor, I was a little bit nervous going into it. I had always wanted to donate before, but I am kind of a wimp when it comes to pain so I have always talked myself out of it. But after the events during the Boston Marathon last week, a city near and dear to my heart, I knew that this was a fear I had to get over.
Looking back now, I have to say I kind of enjoyed it! We decided to walk over, since it was only a five minute walk from the office. After a little bit of paperwork and a quick check-up, I was in the chair, ready to donate. The volunteers and American Red Cross workers were very helpful and talked me through every step of the process and answered all of my questions, which helped to ease my mind. The actual donation only took about 10 minutes and it was not as painful as I was expecting it to be. My other fear was fainting after I gave blood (I’ve never fainted before, but there’s a first time for everything!). But after drinking some juice and enjoying some homemade baked goods, I felt fine and was ready to head back to work. For anyone nervous about signing up for their first time blood donation, you have nothing to worry about! It was easy, fun and you’ll feel great about making a difference!
It is a great feeling being able to help those in need. At Vermont Woods Studios, part of our mission is to be an active part of our community and participate in local service projects. I am so lucky to work for a company that is willing to support the causes that not only matter to our mission, but ones that matter to me as an employee. When I brought up to Peggy that I was interested in the blood drive, she, Kendall and Liz all signed up with me. Now who wouldn’t want to buy furniture from people like that?
April 17th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Forest conservation is at the heart of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios and we’re always trying to raise awareness about where your wood furniture comes from. If you’re committed to buying American made furniture– no worries. Chances are it’s made from legal wood, sustainably harvested from well-managed forests right here in North America.
But if you’re buying imported wood furniture (and according to a Washington Post article 70% of furniture sold in America is imported) then: Houston, we have a problem.
A recent Washington Post article by Brad Plumer entitled Organized Crime is Getting Rich Cutting Down the Rainforest describes how the illegal logging trade has become just as lucrative (and far more destructive) than the drug-trafficking industry. 50 to 90 percent of forestry in tropical areas is now controlled by criminal groups! “A great deal of logging simply takes place illegally — much of it in tropical areas such as the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia.” (ref: United Nations and Interpol)
The U.N. estimates that illicit logging is now worth between $30 billion to $100 billion, or up to 30 percent of the global wood trade. That illegal wood is often shipped from pristine rainforests to China, Vietnam and other third world countries where it’s fabricated into low quality furniture which is sold to US consumers. We’ve written quite a bit about the links between rainforest destruction, global warming and the furniture and flooring you choose for your home:
If you’re considering buying furniture at IKEA, Home Depot or any big box store… ask where the lumber originates and let us know what you find on our Facebook or in the comments section below. Then re-discover sustainable, American made wood furniture and join us in feeling good about your furniture and your green home.
March 23rd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Why will hundreds of millions of people from all around the world be turning off their lights from 8:30-9:30pm tonight? It’s Earth Hour– a show of solidarity in focusing on the one thing that unites us all—our planet.
World Wildlife Fund has always been my favorite charity, because their method of conservation relies on strong partnerships with indigenous communities to create win-wins for both people and the environment. For 50 years they’ve been using science, research and human relations to save earth’s most cherished endangered species. WWF’s been instrumental in efforts to save tigers, panda bears, rhinos, elephants, gorillas and just about every other endangered species you can think of. If not for WWF, some of these species might already be extinct in the wild.
If you’re a like-minded conservationist, how about joining us and millions of people in 7,001 cities and towns across 152 countries and territories to switch lights off from 8:30-9:30 tonight as a massive show of concern for the environment?
You can get involved, by watching the Earth Hour video, starting your own Earth Hour event or sharing your Earth Hour photos and stories on Facebook. Join the Earth Hour global community here and be a part of the solution.