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Vermont Family Forests
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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community

VFF’s Portfolio of “Trees the Forest is Willing to Yield”

In the current forest products system, excellent forest management on fairly small Vermont parcels simply doesn’t pay. The returns most small landowners receive from forest products sales fail to cover the costs of forest ownership, not to mention the costs of careful forest stewardship.

At the present time, the typical timber sale in Vermont is controlled by the lumber mill. Loggers generally work for the mill, and the value of the harvest is dictated by the mill. Landowners are often at a disadvantage in this system. They lack market information, and because their woodlots are small and yield a variety of species and sizes, they don’t have the volume of any one product to take advantage of specific markets for specific logs. They get a lower, bulk price. And, their woodlot is at the mercy of the logger, hired by the mill.

VFF’s Portfolio of “trees the forest is willing to yield” shifts more economic power to educated landowners, working together. This Portfolio contains a list of certified, marked, standing trees that are ready for harvest. This list would be available to bidders—including traditional sawmills as well as Vermont WoodNet and other secondary wood product manufacturers—who receive a prospectus describing the volumes, species, and grades of the portfolio’s logs that would be available at the landing.

In our work, we have found that certification alone has not created a premium in the marketplace sufficient to cover certification costs. We believe the Portfolio—a fledgling project still under development—is a crucial component in economically rewarding excellent forest stewardship. We envision a synergy, where the VFF brand will be attractive enough to wood manufacturers that they see logs in the VFF prospectus that they want to use for their product. Because these manufacturers normally buy boards and not logs, arrangements would be made with a mill and/or broker to bid on the logs and convert them to boards. This would open new opportunities for high quality, community-based forestry in the area.

This portfolio method offers advantages to the land, the landowners, the loggers, and the local wood-using industry. To protect the land, all harvests would comply with VFF forest management practices (115KB PDF). The logger works for the landowners, not the mill. Collectively, landowners take advantage of more, and different, markets through aggregation and specialization—enabling them to sell their harvest at the best prices. Wood from several parcels could be combined to meet the needs of one buyer, or buyers could bid on only one species. Mills would be able to bid on exactly what they need, and they would be able to use the fact that the wood is local and certified to their advantage.