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Vermont Family Forests
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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community

Research and Demonstration Projects


What is the Community-Supported Forestry™ Firewood Program?

Modeled after the highly successful Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, this program will connect customers who care about forest health and want to act upon that concern by using firewood from landowners who are practicing exemplary forest management, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council through Vermont Family Forests.

The backdrop: Peak oil and rising fossil fuel prices are here. Across the country and across Vermont, people are increasingly interested in alternative sources of energy, including wood for home heating. (See the Vermont Family Forests Spring 2006 newsletter lead story for more background).

Vermont Family Forests’ role:
Our mission is to conserve the health of the forest community and, when appropriate, to promote the careful cultivation of local family forests for community benefit. So, in this current climate of increased utilization of local forests for wood energy, our aim is to help that to occur in a thoughtful, careful way that thinks beyond “getting the wood out” and incorporates forest community health into the equation. This forest community includes not only the forest itself, but also the people who live in and around those forests.

January 2008 Update

View a map and guide to the Osborn woodlot, which will produce a harvest that will fuel the Mt. Abraham High School wood energy project.

Firewood Survey Results - Fall 2006

Thanks to all of you who completed our on-line survey. We had 217 respondents! All survey respondents were entered into a drawing, the winner of which received a two-hour on-site forest consultation with David Brynn, Vermont Family Forests' forester and executive director. Congratulations to Peg Rood of Lincoln, Vermont, who won that drawing.

An energetic team of Middlebury College students conducted the survey for us and developed a report of their findings. You can their report here. You'll find the results of the survey on pages 45-59 of that report.

1. Public Outreach.
On April 28th, we raised community awareness of the issues surrounding wood energy by hosting two workshops -- Maximizing Wood-Burning Efficiency and Sustaining Forests As Wood Energy Demands Rise-- as part of the Addison Count Conservation Congress. Titled "Fueling Our Community: Building Local, Sustainable Energy Solutions," this day-long event engaged the community in envisioning a renewable energy future. (Poster of event available here.)

2. Develop a Pilot Community-Supported Forestry Firewood Program.
Modeled after the highly successful Community-Supported Agriculture movement, this program will attempt to connect customers who care about forest health and want to act upon that concern with firewood from landowners who are practicing exemplary forest management, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council through Vermont Family Forests. We have started by making VFF-certified firewood available and over 96 cords have been sold to date! In the future we hope customers will be able to pre-buy their firewood. As envisoned, this will allow loggers to log when conditions are favorable and for customers to get drier wood. We have a lot more work to do here!

3. Work with Mount Abraham Union High School to analyze sustainable procurement possibilities for their wood chip boiler.
Yale School of Forestry intern Caitlin Cusack worked during the summer of 2007 to analyze the possible pathways for wood chip procurement of the school's new, chip-fired boiler. In her project, she built on the groundbreaking work done by MAUHS students mentored by science teachers Tom Tailer and Caroline Camara. Caitlin gave a public presentation of her findings to twenty-five community members at Mt. Abe on August 2nd, 2007. Caitlin's presentation was exceptionally well received. It was clear that she had spoken to many different members of the community and that she had listened to them. Before introducing Caitlin, David Brynn presented an overview emphasizing the importance of sustainable production, efficient use, local sourcing, and fair access (S.E.L.F.) and how these might be achieved (continued below...).


Community members worked collaboratively to identify opportunities and issues. Everyone agreed that we are heading back to the forest for more of our energy needs. The question is not if but how? Additionally, there was general agreement that we need to do a much better job of showing how a sustainable community wood energy program supports other community values including education, economics, ecology, recreation, and aesthetics.

Demonstration projects at a private family-owned forest in Lincoln using Vermont Family Forests' Forest Management Checklist, Scandanavian low-impact harvesting equipment, and creative sorting/marketing strategies will soon be underway. Click here to see a gallery of photos from Caitlin's research. CWEP Meeting Summary

There are lots of folks who think that wood is a magic solution to our energy needs. (See the Wood Energy Comic) However, VFF has been suggesting that we need to proceed carefully. We prepared a powerpoint on the subject entitled "Global Warming. Peak Oil. Local Warming. Peak Wood?"  The wood energy that we remove from the forest for our energy needs is no longer available to the forest for its needs. Forests use the energy from composting wood to repair degrade hydrology, to increase biodiversity, to enrich and stabilize soils, and to sequester carbon. We are promoting: Sustainable production; Efficient use; Local sourcing; and Fair and equitable access (S.E.L.F.) Thoughts on Community Wood Energy

We are pleased to see this thinking reflected in the vision and principles statement in the Northern Forest Biomass Energy Initiative (see the action plan) as well as the new Community Wood Energy Program of the Farm Bill! Also check out the article entitled Biomass Energy in Vermont: How much promise does it hold? VNRC: Vermont Environmental Report, Summer 2007 Vermont Natural Resources Council.


VFF is expanding our loan library and has the following books available:

The Harrowsmith County Life Guide to Wood Heat by Dirk Thomas

The Woodburner's Companion: Practical Ways of Heating with Wood by Dirk Thomas

The New Woodburner's Handbook by Stephen Bushway

The Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming by David Lyle

Also, check out these links:

Drying Firewood in Kiln

Estimating standing firewood


Safe Firewood Cutting

VFF's work on the Commmunity Wood Energy Project is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Vermont Community Foundation.