skip to content
Vermont Family Forests
Donate to VFF
Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community

Our History

“Conservation means harmony between landowners and the land. When land does well for its owner, and the owner does well by the land; when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation. When one or the other grows poorer, we do not.”

--From Aldo Leopold (1939) The Farmer as a Conservationist

Vermont Family Forests began as a grassroots effort in 1995, when David Brynn, then Addison County Forester, collaborated with the Lewis Creek Association to offer workshops on elements of careful forest stewardship. After several of these successful and well-attended workshops, we dubbed the collaborative effort “Vermont Family Forests.” 

After creating a guiding mission statement and set of principles, our fledgling organization began the process of figuring out how to walk the talk of putting forest health first and, when appropriate, promoting the careful cultivation of local family-owned forests for community benefits. In 1996, we offered many workshops on a range of forest conservation subjects. Then in 1997, VFF identified 32 forest landowners—with about 5,000 acres and an excellent history of stewardship—to form a pool of well-managed family-owned forests. VFF applied for a grant through the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to become certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). VFF became FSC-certified and incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1998.

Since that time, we have engaged in a number of demonstration projects to test and apply the principles of maintaining and enhancing forest health while providing wood for local building projects that is grown and harvested in ways that are Restorative, Sustainable, Efficient, Local, and Fair (R-SELF). Visit our Local Woods & Goods section to read about these demonstration projects.

Over the years, we have sought to “sharpen the tools” with which individuals and communities can cultivate a sustainable relationship with the forests we live in and around. We have devoted much time and attention to informing and supporting individual family forest stewards, through workshops, publications, a lending library, and forestry consulting services. We offer VFF forest verification to local landowners and currently oversee a pool of over 50 VFF-certified forests in the region. We have created a lending library of ecoforestry books, and also sell ecoforestry supplies, including non-petroleum bar-and-chain oil and locally-made forest cruising sticks.

We have also continued exciting work in Community Forestry, exploring ways to cultivate collaborative, community-centered forestry practices. Over the years, these community forestry projects have run the gamut from helping neighbors work together to harvest and sell VFF-certified firewood (through the Neighborwood™ project) to facilitating the joint stewardship of a conserved piece of land (through the Little Hogback Community Forest project) to coordinating fundraising for what will be a community-shared piece of land that is home to endangered Indiana bats (through the Bacon Forest project). We consider community celebrations to be a central part of community forestry, and we help bring about such annual local celebrations as Beltane (May Day), Winter Solstice, and Best Night (New Year’s Eve).

In 2010, we produced the Town Forest Health Check, a guide that helps community members engage in monitoring the health of their community-owned forests.

Since its inception, VFF has conducted and overseen research that furthers the aim of promoting the ecological health of local family forests. Our various research projects have involved the expertise of teams of natural resource managers, forest ecologists, community organizers, ecological economists,  and college students. Some, like the Colby Hill Ecological Project, are on-going ecological monitoring projects, while others, like the Middlebury College Biomass Study, are one-time projects that answer a specific research question. Visit our Research section to read about our present and past research projects.

In 2008, we opted to shift from FSC certification of forests within VFF’s certified forest pool to our own rigorous verification system. We help forest stewards build capacity in marketing products from those certified forests by developing such marketing tools as the NeighborWood™ brand (for certified firewood) and the Family Forest® brand (for certified flooring and other forest products).