March 6th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh
Vermont’s been cold this year. We’ve had a winter like I haven’t seen since I was a kid (when every winter was like this). So Ken and I decided to cash in some FF miles and head south for a week. We like to visit rainforest countries because it gives us a chance to understand the realities and trends behind Vermont Woods Studios’ mission— forest conservation. Central America provides the closest rainforest and we’ve traveled to Costa Rica and Panama before. But after much research we decided to try Nicaragua this time.
When I told my mother and sister we were going to Nicaragua, they hesitated and politely said “be careful”. Ken’s friends said “bring a machete” and “watch out for the Sandinistas”. Douglas and Dennis encouraged us to update our wills before leaving.
Well, I’m here to tell you Nicaragua has changed! No longer a war-torn country, it is now evolving to join it’s Central American neighbors as a warm and welcoming respite for it’s neighbors to the North. Lush rainforests, white sandy beaches, and majestic mountains make up Nicaragua’s landscape. And friendly people reach out to help you find them along with unique, affordable places to stay, play and eat.
We chose Nicaragua because of it’s government’s commitment to the sustainable development of tourism (rather than the depletion of rainforest resources). But recently news has broken of President Daniel Ortega’s $40 Billion deal with Hong Kong to build a canal across Nicaragua (that would compete with the Panama canal). NPR aired a discussion of the catastrophic environmental and cultural devastation that could result.
Hopefully the deal is abandoned in lieu of the economic benefits of eco-tourism. Interested in helping to tip the balance? Learn more about affordable, sustainable Nicaraguan travel at the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Trip website.
This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.
October 23rd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
By Presidential proclamation, this week– October 20-26, 2013 is National Forest Products Week. It’s a time for us to recognize the beauty of our forests, the many products that come from our forests and the people who work in and manage our forests.
At Vermont Woods Studios, our company was founded on a mission of forest conservation. Through Vermont’s beautiful, eco-friendly wood furniture, we’re trying to help raise awareness about the importance of sustainable forestry. What’s so interesting or important about sustainable forestry? Check out some of these fun forest facts:
With our mission of sustainable forestry we hope to persuade people to buy eco-friendly, Vermont made wood furniture and avoid the purchase of imported furniture that’s made from wood that’s illegally clear cut from the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests.
September 11th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks
I love a good bargain. Being a family on a budget with two fashion-conscious daughters, it can be tough to be budget-smart and keep up with fashion trends. Enter the women at Jessica’s Closet in Wilmington, VT and their lovely dresses available for rent. I first heard of this gem when Douglas’ daughter found her prom dress there. Our turn came when we were invited to a wedding this summer at the Harvard Club in Boston. None of the women of the family was happy with the dresses she already had. We made the journey to Wilmington and were very impressed with the boutique we found there. More than 1200 dresses, long and short, in any color imaginable…and all the accessories to go with them. The cost? A donation of $10 is suggested to cover dry cleaning costs.
Jessica, daughter of founder, Debbie Bolognani, was an active young woman “with a smile that could light more than a room.” She died in a tragic accident in 2010. “She LOVED to dress up and was always willing to share her closet with others.” In her honor Debbie and her friends established Jessica’s Closet as well as a a scholarship fund and Jessica’s Locker which is dedicated to providing sports equipment to the youth of their community.
The mission of Jessica’s Closet is to build confidence and self-esteem in young women. They provide formal and semi-formal dresses to those who otherwise would not be able to attend homecoming, prom or other special events. If you have gently worn formal wear—donations of dresses, purses, shoes, and accessories are welcome!
My daughters and I spent about an hour at Jessica’s Closet. We had our own “stylist” and every dress was beautiful. It was difficult to make a decision and in the end, we took home more than we needed. The price was so reasonable and we didn’t buy dresses that may never be worn again. That is true sustainability.
While Vermont Woods Studios is known for beautiful, American-made furniture crafted from carefully harvested wood, we also believe in recognizing other individuals and organizations who have a mission and make a difference in their community. Debbie and her friends have done an amazing job of fulfilling Jessica’s legacy for helping others …because every girl deserves to feel like a Princess.
August 29th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
Sustainability matters, it really does. Our planet is going through some major changes that I’m sure many of us have noticed– from entire species of animals being wiped out, to our rainforests being clear-cut, to the majorly devastating natural disasters occurring throughout the world. Big things are happening, and I don’t mean to scare anyone, but it has come time for us as people to take responsibility for our contribution to global climate change and its consequences. We have to start acting responsibly and be very conscious in our efforts to reduce our individual impact on the world!
It won’t be easy, but as a leading nation, it is up to Americans to set a positive example to the rest of the world! Can you envision a green future for the USA? A place where we manage our forests responsibly, care for our animals, & support sustainable business rather than greedy CEOs who allow child labor and unsafe factory conditions? A place where we take a second to think about what we are supporting when we make a purchase? A place where sustainable shopping is the norm? I can!
The tragedy that occurred in Bangladesh was extremely eye opening for me– especially when it comes to the companies who refused to agree to safer factory standards. It makes sense… these giant corporations are profiting majorly off of practices that are extremely harmful to the environment and the people who work for them. It’s unacceptable. I like to think that every dollar you spend is a vote, and my question is, who (and what) are you voting for?
I vote for companies with strict environmental standards, companies who believe that our future (and the future of our children, grandchildren, and beyond) is in our hands. I vote for companies who take responsibility and make positive efforts to decrease their environmental impact. I vote for companies who pay their workers fairly and don’t expose them to dangerous conditions. I vote for a green future, a happier, healthier future!
I challenge you to take a look around your home and think about where your products are coming from. Were they made in a factory overseas or by an American craftsman? Were they made from sustainably managed forests or were they made from wood harvested from the rainforest? Does the company you “voted” for have safe, ethical standards of pay and work conditions for their employees?
Just think about it. Literally envision your favorite items in your home being made, and the hands that created them. That’s the first step– just become aware that as consumers, we have the power to change the world. Every dollar is a vote!
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
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 17th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Big thanks to Anthony A. Chiaravallo, Founder & CEO of Conscious Connection Magazine for featuring Vermont Woods Studios sustainable, eco friendly furniture this week. Conscious Connection is widely regarded as the leading cultural creative magazine. It spotlights a “global community of thought leaders, entrepreneurs and visionaries advocating for global peace, personal transformation and eco-creative living”.
Kelsey and Anthony have been collaborating on CC’s Creative Home Living Series that focuses on incorporation of sustainably and locally sourced products into the home. We join green living expert Susan Inglis of the Sustainable Furnishings Council SFC, earth conscious designer Barry Dixon and many others in Anthony’s series on green home design.
Check out this beautifully-designed and thought-provoking venue if you’re looking for the latest on: Social Business, Health and Fitness, Eco Design and Creative Lifestyle. If you love it as much as we do, let Anthony know on his Facebook.
March 13th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
What do you love best about Vermont? Our maple syrup? Organic cheese? Skiing or snowboarding? Mountain climbing? Our farm to plate restaurants? Chances are whatever your favorites are in Planet Vermont, they are here for you because of Vermont’s working landscape. That’s the term Vermonters are using to refer to the Green Mountain state’s pastoral forests and fields– and there’s a concerted effort afoot to ensure they will remain sustainable.
Last year our Legislature passed the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative which allocated $1Million to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.” A request for proposals to carry out the WL initiative was issued last year and yesterday was the deadline for submittals.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all across the state have offered ideas and projects that will eventually add up to a wave of renewed commitment and progress in sustaining our working lands. We at Vermont Woods Studios are among the group.
Our proposal seeks to use WL grant monies to close the final funding phase of renovating our Stonehurst Furniture Gallery and Nature Center. From a Working Lands perspective, one of the advantages of Stonehurst is that it tells the story of where Vermont made furniture comes from and how it’s made– sustainably.
Putting our Working Lands proposal together has been quite a process and regardless of whether we win an award, I think it’s been time well spent. I know the grant is highly competitive. It’s my understanding that the WL Board received some 268 proposals for a total request of over $12 million. They are working with only $1Million in funding, so the odds aren’t good.
But I feel our proposal answers an important need in providing a market for Vermont’s wood furniture and a destination that will attract customers from beyond our borders. We’ve been able to forge many new partnerships and collaborations as a result of the grant application process and that alone makes the effort worthwhile.
Decisions on grant awards are expected in April and we’ll keep you posted. Best of luck to everyone who has invested their time into this important project!
January 3rd, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
A couple weeks ago I attempted to work through a definition of "fine wood furniture" at the request of one of our customers. I couldn't find any type of universally (or even generally) agreed-upon definition, so I thought I'd try to make one up. But as I waded into it, I realized how difficult even that is.
There's just so much ground to cover in "fine wood furniture" such as style, type of wood used, craftsmanship, type of joinery used, finishing products and techniques, the use of hand tools versus precision machinery, the use of veneers versus solid wood, and of course durability and longevity.
So I've been opining my way through each area– well just to generate some discussion really, because I think that would be more valuable than an attempted definition of "fine wood furniture".
Today I wanted to talk about where "fine wood furniture" comes from and how it makes it's way to your bedroom or kitchen. Would you believe that most of the so called "fine wood furniture" that's sold in America today is made in China or VietNam from wood that was logged unsustainably (and often illegally) from the rainforests of South America, Africa, Siberia and Asia? I know it sounds like extremist rhetoric, but it's really not. Kendall just published a page on sustainable furniture today, reminding us about the environmental damage that comes from rainforest destruction.
So my point is, if you're going to define fine wood furniture, you probably do need to address where it comes from. Furniture from small companies like Vermont Woods Studios that use American-grown, sustainably-harvested wood and local craftspeople is different than furniture that's made overseas with illegal wood by people paid 25 cents/hour. It feels different. It has better "karma". It makes you feel proud to own it. You find yourself telling people all about where you got it and how long it took to make and how the joinery is designed, right?
Another note– most American fine wood furniture comes with a lifetime guarantee– an important indication of sustainability.
Next post, I'd like to share some sustainable practices I've been impressed with at Copeland Furniture and Clearlake Furniture, both Vermont companies. After looking at the green practices Vermont furniture makers have been famous for over many generations, you may find youself agreeing with me that Vermont is the Fine Furniture Capital of America.
Thanks to Clearlake Furniture for the photo of their Rocking Chair
November 4th, 2009 by Peggy Farabaugh
I attended a Vermont Wood Manufacturer's Association (VWMA) meeting last Friday that was held at Copeland Furniture in Bradford, VT. I'm always amazed when getting together with all these talented artisans and furniture makers. They're creative not only about their furniture designs, but also about the other aspects that are required to keep their businesses sustainable these days.
Tim Copeland was showing us the piles of wood shavings that are generated from milling and sanding his lumber. He's setting up a system to convert the shavings and sawdust into wood pellets to use for heating. Tim said he'll be able to heat his entire facility with the wood pellets and in addition, he'll have a new revenue stream generated by the surplus pellets.
Just one of the many sustainable practices that Vermont's furniture makers have been working through for generations.