Vermont Working Lands Grant
We are grateful to Paul Costello and all the people who have worked so hard to implement Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative. Last week Vermont Woods Studios was selected for a $100,000 grant from the Initiative to be used to complete the construction and landscaping of  Stonehurst, our Vermont Made Furniture Showroom

Last year I started reading about Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative.  Paul Costello, the Executive Director of Vermont’s Council on Rural Development had begun leading a movement to protect the Green Mountain State’s pastoral landscape from unplanned, unsightly, unsustainable development.  I don’t know Paul personally but I see him as a modern day Paul Revere who leveraged the power of the Internet to spread the word about how we can use sustainable agriculture and forestry to build a thriving rural economy in Vermont.

In a very short time frame, Paul and his band of “working lands” believers have achieved unbelievable success, including getting Vermont’s legislature to allocate $1 Million in grant money for green businesses willing to pitch in and help.  The idea was to provide incentives 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.”

It was just one of those lucky moments in life when I read about the Working Lands Grant last year as we were in the middle of planning our new Vermont-made furniture gallery at Stonehurst.  We were a perfect match for the grant.  Our furniture is all made in Vermont. It’s sustainable, eco-friendly and made from Vermont grown wood when practicable.  We support all the links in the economic chain from the forest through the land-owner, forester, sawyer, lumber yard and craftsperson to the customer.  The whole Stonehurst concept of raising awareness about where your furniture comes from and how it’s made fit the grant criteria like a glove.

Fast forward a year.  The Working Lands Enterprise Boards have worked tirelessly all year, developing their concept, selling it to the public and the Legislature, securing funds, soliciting competitive proposals from businesses and evaluating those proposals.  Last week it was time for them to make a decision on which businesses would win the awards.

Drum roll please.  Ta Da!!  Vermont Woods Studios was selected for a $100,000 grant award to be used to complete the construction and landscaping of our Stonehurst Vermont Made Furniture Showroom.  This is a huge achievement for us and one that will allow much of the polishing of our venue to happen now, rather than over a period of years.  We are enormously grateful to Paul Costello and all of the good people who have worked so hard to make the initiative possible.  And of course to the taxpayers of Vermont who we feel a strong need to repay in terms of economic benefit and increased consumer demand in the furniture sector of our economy.

I’ll write more in the coming weeks about the Initiative and the other companies who also won awards.  We are honored to be in such good company.

Do you love Vermont’s rural landscape as much as we do?  Join the Working Lands Partnership, help keep Vermont green and be a part of it’s future!

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.

The view at Stonehurst
The view behind Stonehurst

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.  

The stone wall behind stonehurst, headquarters for Vermont Woods Studios
Stone Wall on back side of Stonehurst

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.”

The Vermont Woods Studios team
The whole team gathered for our first group photo at Stonehurst

           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 :)


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.

Vermont Days 2013
Vermont Days: Enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming, or relaxing in the sun. Image taken from www.vermontdays.com

Summertime in Vermont is unlike anything else. I went to college here for 4 years before getting to enjoy a Vermont summer, and it certainly changed my perspective of this state. I’ve always known that Vermont was great for a variety of reasons: the sense of community, the foliage, the beer… but what I didn’t recognize before was the beautiful shift that happens when the weather transitions from the springtime rain (or snow) to the summertime sun. Anyone whose spent time here in the summer months knows what I’m talking about.

Vermont really comes alive in the summer. Besides the fact that you get to see your friends and neighbors that you might not have seen in a while (Vermonters are a lot like bears in that they love to hibernate through the colder months), you also get to do so many fun things that you can’t do here in the winter. You can even go outside without having to layer on your hat, boots, fuzzy mittens, parka, and snowsuit! ; )

‘Vermont Days’ is a reminder of just that. During ‘Vermont Days,’ which runs from June 8th to June 9th, Vermonters get to enjoy 2 days of free access to all of the things that make summers here so awesome: fishing, swimming, state parks, historical sites, and the VT history museum!  You can’t really beat that.

For more information on Vermont Days 2013 (such as help finding a local fishing hot-spot, state park, or historical site near you) visit: www.vermontdays.com

Now gather your family or your friends, get moving, and get outside! : )

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.

 

Vermont's First Economic Summit
Governor Shumlin kicked off Vermont’s First Economic Summit in Rutland yesterday by signing a new downtown development law.

Yesterday I traveled to the Paramount Theater in Rutland for Vermont’s First Economic Summit.  Where else but Vermont could a small business owner like me elect to join the Governor, many of his Cabinet members and some of the most successful CEOs in the state to brainstorm about our economic future?  New York?  California?  I don’t think so.  Only in Vermont.

Anyway, about 125 people gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in America’s greenest state.  On one hand our taxes are high, environmental regulations are onerous and the cost of living is barely affordable for most workers.  But, somehow we love to live, work and play here anyway.

So we looked at why that is and listed a lot of benefits that Vermont has to offer:  beautiful scenery, short pleasant commutes to work, relaxed pace, local economies, vibrant farmers markets and co-ops, fabulous farm to plate restaurants, skiing, hiking, fishing, camping, nice neighbors, working landscapes, clean lakes, rivers and streams, sustainable development and so on.  Not to mention easy access to government officials!

Then the task was reconciling the pluses and minus’ of Vermont’s economics in terms of concrete fix-it strategies.  We broke out into small groups to focus on:  workforce development, the Vermont brand, Vermont infrastructure, Global competitiveness, Innovation and a few other topics.  I was lucky to find myself working in the Vermont Brand group with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA, Lynette Kemp of Vermont’s Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleeen Leonard, Vermont’s Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

At the end of the day all of the small groups presented their ideas and recommendations to a plenary session and we discussed plans to follow through both formally and informally.  Now our challenge is to make things happen in a way that preserves Vermont’s pristine rural character and brings economic prosperity to all it’s citizens.  Think it’s doable?

You can read more about the Economic Summit on Vermont Digger.

Break Out Group Working on Defining Vermont's Brand
Robin Scheu, Executive Director at Addison County Economic Development Corporation led the break-out group working on defining Vermont’s brand.  I worked with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA (the only one looking at you), Lynette Kemp of Vermont’s Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleen Leonard, Vermont’s Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

 

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.

Memorial Day:  Thank You to our American Military Personnel
Memorial Day: Today we send our thanks to all of our American military personnel and their families for their sacrifices on our behalf.

Happy Memorial Day

This weekend we pause to honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy an American lifestyle of freedom and joy.  Thought you might like to visit this Memorial Day Tribute.  Kelly Strong’s poem, “Freedom Is Not Free” is provided along with lots of other poetry and information about our nations hero’s.

We hope everyone has good weather and a chance to get outside and enjoy family and friends this weekend.  And we extend our sincere gratitude to all the men and women who are serving or have served in the military.  You are our country’s true heros.  For those serving far away from home, we pray for your safe and speedy return.

Vermont Woods Studios Furniture

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.