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Vermont Family Forests
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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community

Family Forests

Currently, more than 50 family forests are enrolled in Vermont Family Forests. That means that the owners of these forests have completed a VFF-certified forest management plan and are committed to complying fully with VFF’s Forest Health Conservation Checklist when working in their forest.

Many of these forests and forestland owners have participated in VFF projects that have tested and demonstrated the potential for community-based forestry that is Restorative, Sustainable, Efficient, Local, and Fair (R-SELF). Below you’ll find brief stories about some of the landowners with whom we have had the privilege of working.

>> Mike Quinn
>> John McNerney
>> Emile Cote
>> Paul and Sandal Cate


Landowner Stories

Mike Quinn, North Ferrisburgh

Ever since Mike and Katy Quinn bought their 102-acre parcel from Katy's parents back in 1989, Mike's enjoyed learning about the land and working in the woods. When, in the mid-90s, he wanted to harvest maple from his woods to build a barn, he contacted Addison County Forester David Brynn for advice about access roads, timber management, and portable sawmills.

This marked the beginning of a long relationship with David and, when David launched Vermont Family Forests in 1998, with VFF. "I went on a tour of David's land and was really impressed with his forest," Mike says. So when David approached Mike in 1998 with the idea of joining the fledgling VFF pool of certified landowners, he signed right on.

David had hooked Mike up sawyer Bob Growney during Mike's early barn-building project, since Bob had a portable sawmill that fit Mike's needs well. The two later teamed up to provide certified lumber for VFF demonstration projects. Mike's forest yielded logs for Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's schooner project and Shelburne Museum?s English Barn. Mike's participated in numerous VFF workshops, from Game of Logging and Wood ID to tracking with Susan Morse and Winter Tree Identification. He's also taken part in meetings to explore licensing of the VFF Family Forest® brand.

Mike interacts continually with his land, walking and cross-country skiing through it, logging, thinning, and gathering firewood. Being certified has made him think hard about the trees he harvests. Take firewood, for instance. "It's a juggling act," he says, between wanting firewood and wanting to preserve standing snags. He is quick to defend the juggling. "If you want wildlife and clean water, it's a good thing."

John McNerney, Monkton

When John and Kim McNerney purchased their 82-acre Monkton forest in early 2001, it was, in John's words, partly an act of faith. That winter brought the deepest snow in years, and when John and Kim first discovered the property, a good three feet of it covered the ground. They snowshoed the property, liked what they saw "a mixture of open and forested area, wetlands, and rolling hills" and closed on the land without ever actually laying eyes on the forest floor. "When the snow melted off and we walked around," John recalls with a grin, "the trees seemed a lot
taller than before!"

John's core forest management objective is to maintain the long-term health of the forest's natural communities. In 2002, John participated in Vermont Covert's three-day cooperator training course, acting on his interest in maintaining wildlife habitat and in working with neighbors to coordinate management to benefit wildlife. Around that time, John learned about Vermont Family Forests and attended several VFF workshops. VFF's mission"to conserve forest health and, when appropriate, to promote the careful cultivation of family forests" appealed to John. "I'm interested," he says, "in balancing human use with wildlife use, in trying to find a win/win solution to managing land."

When John walked through the forest with consulting forester Randy Wilcox, it became apparent that the forest was at least ten years away from commercial activity. So, in September, 2003, John enrolled his forest in Vermont Family Forests' newly created non-certified forest pool. "It's a nice first step to take, allowing me to stay involved with the organization." John laughs as he describes his current forest management. "Right now, my biggest pastime is managing my buckthorn plantation." He's also been releasing apple trees and has begun to educate himself on crop tree management. He imagines certifying his forest when the trees are more mature. "At some point we'll do a timber harvest, and I want to make sure we do it right."

Emile Cote, Bristol

For Emile Cote, owning and interacting with the forest is pure therapy. "Some people laugh when I say I relax running
a chain saw," says Emile. "But the people who read this will understand what I am expressing." Emile's therapeutic
experience began 25 years ago, when he an a handful of friends purchased a 65-acre parcel of forestland in Bristol, Vermont, to have a supply of firewood and a place of their own to visit and enjoy.

Shortly afterward, Emile met David Brynn, then Assistant County Forester. "Dave was our guiding light and hero. We asked Dave for his advice and we have never stopped listening." When David sought landowners interested in becoming FSC-certified through Vermont Family Forests, Emile and his partners leapt aboard.

As a result, wood from Emile's certified forest graces a host of highly visible projects, from Middlebury College's Bicentennial and LaForce Halls to a 32-foot Scilly Island rowing gig at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. "The ice storm really hit part of our woodlot heavily," Emile recalls. "VFF helped us turn our loss into a gain through a sale to Middlebury College."

But Emile is quick to list benefits of certification that go beyond the financial. Foremost among them has been the
opportunity to meet other people who "believe in properly managing our resources for the future," a community
that reaches far beyond VFF's network of certified forests. "David asked if we would host at our woodlot a group of
foresters from Russia. I eagerly agreed because my wife and I had traveled to the Soviet Union in the 80s to learn from
them how their education system worked.

It was a great opportunity to observe their culture and how proud they were of their accomplishments. I hope I was successful imparting this same self-satisfied feeling to them." A participant in one of VFF's first offerings of the Game of Logging training course, Emile quips, "learning how to properly cut down a tree was an eye opener-and, yes, I still wear my helmet and chaps, even on warm days!"

Paul and Sandal Cate, East Montpelier

In an era when sub-division is steadily reducing the size of the average family forests in Vermont , Paul and Sandal Cate of East Montpelier have been busy reassembling the pieces of an old family farm. Back in the 1940s, the farmer who owned their land divided the property to sell off the forestland. In 1977, the Cates bought the 12-acre farm with Paul’s parents, then later purchased the adjacent 54-acre forest.

In the 29 years since then, they’ve built their home, literally and figuratively, upon this land. "Farm life is very settling," Sandal reflects. "We haven’t been jumping around to different jobs." On the farm, they’ve raised hens, pigs (they cure their own hams and bacon), bees, beef cows, and a horse. Each year, they press cider from apples in their old orchard. Paul and Sandal built a log sugar house to produce maple syrup from 200-350 taps, then built a log home where they raised two sons.

The decision to certify their land was a natural extension of their life and work."I’m in the low-impact forestry business," Paul says of his work as forest management consultant and logger. "We’re trying to do the best we can for the landowner and land. It’s hard to speak from a point of knowledge if you’re not involved in it yourself. I was impressed by what Vermont Family Forests was doing."

Building a dynamic, local forest-products network is a high priority for Paul. "I’m really interested in cycling things locally," he says. Because most of VFF’s certified forests are over the mountain from him, he’s encouraging landowners in his area to join VFF’s certification program to create a certified land base in the Montpelier area.