Final Report for LNE05-220

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $112,625.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $28,250.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $50,700.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Arthur Eve
Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative, LLC
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Project Information

Summary:

This three-year project was designed to recruit farmers with woodlots interested in managing their forests sustainably and increasing farm income through FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) green-certified forestry activities. The project was a collaborative effort with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) and the University of Massachusetts. Interested farmers who own over 20 acres of woodlot learned about the benefits of sustainable forestry and marketing their forest products through membership in the Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative (MWC). Farmers interested in joining MWC had access to cost-share funding to develop forest management plans that met Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification standards or to upgrade existing plans to this standard – both of which are prerequisites to MWC membership. Once farmers had their FSC-certified forest management plans in place, they could begin marketing forest products through MWC.

Introduction:

This project recruited farmers with woodlots interested in managing their forests sustainably and increasing farm income through Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forestry activities. The project was a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) and the University of Massachusetts. Farmers with over 20 acres of woodlot learned about the benefits of sustainable forestry and marketing their forest products through membership in the Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative. Farmers interested in joining the Coop had access to cost-share funding to develop forest management plans that met Forest Stewardship Council certification standards or to upgrade existing plans to meet this standard – both of which are prerequisites to becoming members of the Coop. Once farmers had their FSC-certified forest management plans in place, they could begin marketing forest products through the Cooperative.

Performance Target:

Of the 80+ farmers who participate in this project, 40 will agree to adopt sustainable forestry practices and apply to have their forests green-certified through the Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative. Within one year of joining the Cooperative, these 40 participants will develop forest management plans that meet Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards and begin marketing forest products through the Cooperative.

Specific achievements include:

• Information about this project was mailed to approximately 150 farmers.

• Staff met in small groups with 100+ farmers to inform them about this project.

• Staff met individually with 50+ farmers to provide detailed information about the project.

• Of these farmers, 23 agreed to join the Coop and adopt sustainable forestry practices.

• 24 farmers applied for Coop membership, joined the Coop and developed management plans.

• 23 Farmers acquired FSC Certification for their forested acres.

• 2 farmers subsequently withdrew from Cooperative membership.

• 6 farmers who became Coop members have marketed forest products through the Coop.

• 5 farmers who became Coop members market FSC certified forest products independently.

• The 22 farmers who joined the Coop have added 2,604 acres to the Coop’s land base.

• Inquiries from farmers about joining the Coop and becoming FSC Certified continue and the Coop will respond positively to these inquiries after the three year project period ends.

Research

Materials and methods:

During the initial year of the project, we identified over 100 farmers who would be invited to participate in the program. Much of this list was developed through collaboration with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA). In order to engage members of this group and increase awareness of the project, we submitted press releases to local newspapers. Stories ran in the Greenfield Recorder and other small, local periodicals such as the Shelburne Falls Independent. Other organizations also published articles announcing the project in their newsletters, such as CISA, NOFA/MA, the MA Farm Bureau, and the Hilltown Community Development Corporation. This coverage produced additional interest in the program and expanded our list of potential farmers. During the first project year, we began conducting group sessions describing the benefits of sustainable forestry, Forest Stewardship (FSC) certification, and Cooperative membership. Twenty-nine farmers participated in these sessions.

1. A July 18, 2005 event at Hall Tavern Farm was announced in local newspapers and invitations were sent to the entire list of potential farmers. More than 100 interested community members attended, demonstrating the growing interest in a value-added business based in sustainable forestry. Of these, approximately 12 were farmers. This event highlighted the Cooperative and its efforts to put more money in the pocket of landowners through value-added production from the sustainable management of woodlots. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan development or upgrade to FSC standards. Of the 12 farmers that attended this event, five expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

2. A September 21, 2005 meeting was held at Hall Tavern Farm. Invitations were sent to farmers and a press release was sent to local media to announce the program. Along with the benefit of managing woods to FSC standards, benefits of Cooperative membership were discussed, including the potential to increase income from stumpage sales. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan creation or upgrade. Of the five farmers that attended this event, three expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

3. A September 28, 2005 meeting was held at Hall Tavern Farm. Invitations were sent to farmers and a press release was sent to local media to announce the program. The agenda for this event followed that of September 21. Twelve farmers attended this event and several of them had participated in programs on July 18 and September 21. From the group of 12 farmers, three expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

During the second project year, we conducted additional group sessions describing the benefits of sustainable forestry, Forest Stewardship (FSC) certification, and Cooperative membership to local farmers. MWC staff also provided information about the SARE project at community events that involved local farmers as participants. These activities include the following:

1. A meeting was held on August 22, 2006 at the Hilltown Community Development Center in Chesterfield. The event was announced in local newspapers and fliers were sent to the entire list of potential farmers. Five community members attended, demonstrating the growing interest in a value-added business based in sustainable forestry. Of these, four were farmers. This event highlighted the Cooperative and its efforts to put more money in the pocket of landowners through value-added production from the sustainable management of woodlots. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan development or upgrade to FSC standards. Staff from Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) presented, giving information about public interest in buying locally grown products. Of the 4 farmers that attended this event, two expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

2. A September 12, 2006 meeting was held at the Southwick Town Hall. Three community members attended this event. Fliers were sent to farmers and a press release was sent to local media to announce the meeting. Along with the benefit of managing woods to FSC standards, benefits of Cooperative membership were discussed, including the potential to increase income from stumpage sales over prevailing market prices. A CISA staff member presented information on CISA research and markets for locally produced agricultural products. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan creation or upgrade. Of the 2 farmers that attended this event, one expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

3. A September 26, 2006 meeting was held at the Orange Town Hall. Eight community members attended this event. Fliers were sent to farmers and a press release was sent to local media to announce the program. The agenda for this event followed those of August 22 and September 12. A CISA staff member presented. Also, Scott Maslansky, Director of the North Quabbin Woods Cooperative Project, attended and shared information with the group about his local program which supports area makers of forest products and encourages recreational activity around in Quabbin. Of the 4 farmers who attended this event, three expressed interest in joining the Cooperative, one of whom completed the membership process in 2006.

4. An April 11, 2006 CISA “trade show” was held at the Red Barn at Hampshire College. This was an evening event spotlighting area farms, CSAs and programs supporting agricultural endeavors in the Pioneer River Valley and Highland areas. Information about the MA Woodlands Cooperative and the SARE program was distributed at an information booth manned by MWC staff. Approximately 30 farmers attended this event.

5. The August 21, 2006 meeting of the Southwick Conservation Commission provided another opportunity to discuss the SARE project. In preparation for coordinating an outreach meeting in Southwick, Emily Boss contacted members of the Conservation Commission and Agricultural Commission. At this meeting, information regarding the MA Woodlands Cooperative and the SARE project grant funds available to farmers was presented to the Commission. Seven Commission members were present at this meeting, at least one of which was a farmer and member of the Agricultural Commission.

6. On September 24, 2006, the Hilltown Land Trust conducted a forest walk. This community forest event was conducted on one of the properties owned by the Hilltown Land Trust in Huntington, MA. Consulting forester Lincoln Fish of Haydenville discussed issues of sustainable forestry management, timber harvester Kip Porter of Worthington gave a demonstration of his horse-logging techniques and Emily Boss presented information about MWC and the SARE program grants. Approximately 20 members of the Land Trust and the local community attended this event.

7. The November 16, 2006, kick-off meeting of the Westfield Highlands Forest Partnership sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and fourteen other regional organizations such as the Highlands Community Initiative, MA Audubon, and the Hilltown Community Development Corporation. Information about the MA Woodlands Cooperative and the SARE program were distributed at an information booth manned by MWC staff. Approximately 54 community members attended this event.

Additional contacts were made with community members who heard about these events but were unable to attend the sessions. Six prospects were added to the list from these contacts, five of whom received additional information and membership application packets in the mail.

During the third project year, we continued to meet with interested farmers on a one-on-one basis and planned additional group sessions that would engage more individuals from the larger group of prospective members. We conducted additional group sessions describing the benefits of sustainable forestry, Forest Stewardship (FSC) certification, and Cooperative membership. Twenty-three people participated in these sessions, 18 of them farmers. Additional outreach efforts were made to farmers at a number of community events that were attended by Coop staff. This coverage produced additional interest in the program and expanded our list of potential farmers. In addition, a mailing list for 53 agricultural commission chairs was used to distribute information about the project. In addition, we worked with various local and regional organizations such as the Small Farms Institute, Berkshire Grown and Berkshire Natural Resource Council and the Highlands Community Initiative to offer information about the SARE program grants to farmers in their areas. Examples of our activities included the following:

1. On September 25, 2007, a meeting was held at the New England Small Farms Institute (NESFI). This meeting was jointly sponsored by NESFI and the MA Forest Landowners Association. The event was announced in local newspapers and emails were sent to the entire list of potential farmers. Eight interested community members attended. Of these, three were farmers, one was a forester, another a local timber harvester, one the director of NESFI and two were representatives from the MA Dept of Agriculture, including Scott Soares the acting Commissioner of Agriculture. This event highlighted the Coop and its efforts to put more money in the pocket of landowners through value-added production from the sustainable management of woodlots. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan development or upgrade to FSC standards. Staff from CISA presented, giving information about public interest in buying locally grown products. Of the 3 farmers that attended this event, two expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

2. On October 16, 2007, a meeting was held at the Hilltown Community Development Office in Chesterfield, MA. Two community members attended this event. Emails were sent to farmers and a press release was sent to local media to announce the meeting. Along with the benefit of managing woods to FSC standards, benefits of Coop membership were discussed. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan creation or upgrade. Of the 2 farmers that attended this event, one expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

3. On October 30, 2007, a meeting was held at the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture Office in South Deerfield. Eight community members attended this event. Emails were sent to farmers and a press release was sent to local media to announce the program. The agenda for this event followed those of September 25 and October 16. Of the 4 farmers who attended this event, three expressed interest in joining the Cooperative, one of whom has completed the membership process at this time.

4. On November 27, 2007, a meeting was held at the Southwick Town Hall. This meeting was organized by Todd Brown, a farmer and member of the Southwick Agricultural Commission. Eight community members attended this event of which 8 were farmers. Fliers were distributed locally and to the Southwick and Granville Agricultural Commissions and a press release was sent to local media to announce the meeting. Along with the benefit of managing woods to FSC standards, benefits of Cooperative membership were discussed. A CISA staff member presented information on CISA research and markets for locally produced agricultural products. The SARE program was addressed specifically as an opportunity to involve farmers in the Coop by providing a cost-share for forest management plan creation. Of the 8 farmers that attended this event, three expressed interest in joining the Cooperative.

5. On February 10, 2007, a Firewood Processor Training session was held in Williamsburg, MA. This was an afternoon event in which local community members were invited to learn about operating a firewood processor owned by the MA Woodlands Institute. Information about the MA Woodlands Cooperative and the SARE program were distributed at an information booth manned by MWC staff. Approximately 11 farmers attended this event.

6. Members of the Cooperative attended the Build Boston Conference in Boston, MA. This conference is a major hubb for green builders and architects to share and learn about organizations and initiatives supporting the production of green certified products in Massachusetts. A mailing list of attendees and contact information from individuals who expressed interest in the Cooperative were collected and mailings were made following this event. Membership information was sent to four individuals from this event, two of which were farmers.

7. The MA Forest Landowners’ Association hosted their Annual Tree Farm Day on September 9th in Sturbridge, MA. Local farmers and landowners are invited to attend this event where a tour of a Tree Farm takes place and attendees are given information about forestry in Massachusetts and operating a Tree Farm. Handouts and materials about the MWC SARE grant for Farmers with Woodlots were distributed.

8. Staff attended the September 15, 2007, Highlands Community Initiative Regional Conference. Information about the MA Woodlands Cooperative and the SARE program were distributed at an information booth manned by MWC staff and members and research done about Understory Crops was presented. 150+ community members attended this event.

9. The Garlic and Arts Festival, held on September 14-15 in Orange, MA was attended by a member of the Cooperative and information was distributed about the SARE Program and MA Woodlands Cooperative. Over 10,000 members of the local region attend this event.

10. The Society of American Foresters Annual Conference held in Portland, OR on October 24-27. A staff member of the MA Woodlands Cooperative attended this conference which high-lighted issues of carbon sequestration and biomass energy production which may represent new income streams for farmers and other private forest land owners. Contacts were made with several MA and regional landowners and forestry professionals, including farmers.

11. A community timber raising day was held for the River Valley Cooperative Market in Northampton, MA. The timber framing material for the entrance to the market was purchased from the MA Woodlands Cooperative. Press releases were made about this event, including information about the Coop. Information about the Coop and the SARE program was made available at the site on this day. Several hundred community members attended this event.

12. Additional contacts were made with community members who heard about the SARE project but were unable to attend sessions. Four prospects were added to the list from these contacts, all of whom received additional information and membership application packets in the mail.

13. Emily Boss gave a talk on understory crops at the Plainfield library on February 21 which was attended by over 40 people.

14. Emily Boss participated in the Ludlow Agricultural commission meeting on March 27.

15. Project staff sent an informational mailing to the 100+ prospects we have contacted over the last 3 years.

16. We anticipate that additional farmers will be interested in joining the Coop and becoming FSC Certified and plan on responding positively to inquiries after the three year project period has been completed.

Research results and discussion:

Seven farmers submitted applications for membership in the Coop during the first year of the project and were invited to join the Cooperative, agreeing to use sustainable practices to manage their woodlands. This added 782 acres to the Cooperative’s land base. One of these new members joined in time to have their forest management plan reviewed and added to the FSC certification pool in 2005. The other six became part of the 2006 certification pool.

Several discussions occurred on a one-on-one basis with farmers who attended the group events and expressed interest in joining the Cooperative. These individualized meetings allowed us to address the specific concerns of potential members and answer the questions that are applicable to their individual situation. For example, one of the farmers interested in the Cooperative owned a portable sawmill and was interested in selling rough-sawn lumber to the Cooperative in addition to stumpage, thereby capturing a greater margin of the value that had been added to their logs for their farm business. Following these discussions, this farmer applied and received an invitation to become a member of the Coop. Another farmer interested in the Cooperative owns an organic dairy farm in Warwick and was interested in creating more revenue streams to support his family’s business. Following these discussions, this farmer applied and received an invitation to join the Coop. We found that it was very important that group sessions were followed by one-on-one meetings to facilitate the membership process for farmers. We continued to meet with interested farmers on a one-on-one basis and planned additional group sessions to engage more individuals from the larger group of prospective members.

By the end of the second project year, sixteen farmers had submitted applications for membership and were invited to join the Cooperative, agreeing to use sustainable practices to manage their woodlands. One family who completed the process subsequently withdrew from their Coop membership. These new members added 2,209 forested acres to the Cooperative’s land base by the end of the second project year. We continued to meet with interested farmers on a one-on-one basis and planned additional group sessions throughout the third year of the project in order to engage more individuals from the larger group of prospective members. In addition, the Cooperative continued working with various local and regional organizations such as the Small Farms Institute, Berkshire Grown and Berkshire Natural Resource Council and the Highlands Community Initiative to offer information about the SARE program grants to farmers in their areas.

The Coop was able to arrange for 22 farmers to join the Cooperative and become FSC Certified during the three-year project period (our goal was 40 farmers). However, even as this three-year project comes to an end, the Coop continues to receive inquiries from farmers about possible Coop membership. We anticipate that these inquiries will continue in the future. For example, we heard from the following farmers during the past month who have applied for membership since the end of the project:

• Cheryl and Bruce Schulze, who own 106 forested acres in Huntington, MA.

• Brian Donahue who has recently purchased a farm with his family in Northfield, MA.

In addition, we have recently received grants from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources and USDA Rural Development that will enable the Coop to continue the types of activities begun with SARE funding. Examples of activities supported by these new grants include:

• Expanding the number of FSC certified acres among private forest landowners and non-profit Land Trusts in Massachusetts.

• Increasing Coop harvesting of FSC certified timber from private forest landowners and Land Trusts in Massachusetts.

• Expanding local Massachusetts production of FSC certified logs into value-added FSC certified products.

• Expanding the distribution of locally grown, FSC certified products through area retail stores and other businesses:

• Increasing the sale of locally grown, FSC certified products to the level where the Coop’s core operating expenses are covered by sales revenues.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

During the course of this project, outreach meetings were publicized by mailings, emails, inclusion in newsletters, press releases and presentations at workshops and conferences. The outreach efforts follow:

• Press release to 62 Newspapers about outreach meetings with MWC in spring 2005

• Mailings to 100 farmer contacts about outreach meetings in summer 2005

• Outreach at Fostering a Local Forest Economy conference in 2005, sponsored by MWC

• Three outreach meetings in 2005 at Hall Tavern Farm in Charlemont, MA

• Outreach at CISA farmer “trade show” in spring 2006

• Press release to 62 Newspapers in summer 2006

• Met with Southwick Conservation Commssion in summer 2006

• Spoke at Hilltown Land Trust land walk at their property in Huntington, MA in fall 2006

• Had table at Westfield Highlands Forest Partnership kickoff in fall 2006

• Item in Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) summer email newsletter about outreach meetings

• Press release to 62 Newspapers about outreach meetings with MWC in summer 2006

• Mailings to 100 farmer contacts about outreach meetings in summer 2006

• Three outreach meetings in 2006 at Hilltown CDC in Chesterfield, MA, Southwick Town Hall and Orange Town Hall

• Spoke to farmers at firewood processor training in Williamsburg, MA in winter 2007

• Attended Build Boston conference in spring 2007

• Outreach at Garlic and Arts festival in fall 2007

• Sent outreach materials to MA Forest Landowners meeting in fall 2007

• Outreach at presentation at Highlands Community Initiative Regional Conference in fall 2007

• Outreach at presentation at Plainfield Library in fall 2007

• Attended Society of American Foresters Annual Conference in Portland, OR in fall of 2007 and spoke individually with various people from western MA

• Outreach at River Valley Cooperative Market opening in fall 2007

• Mailing to western MA Agricultural Commission chairs in fall 2007

• Press release to 62 Newspapers about outreach meetings with MWC in summer 2007

• Mailings to 100 farmer contacts about outreach meetings in summer 2007

• Four outreach meetings in 2007 at New England Small Farms Institute in Belchertown, MA, Hilltown CDC in Chesterfield, MA, CISA Building in South Deerfield, MA and Southwick Town Hall

• Mailing to 170 farmers in spring 2007

Materials about the project, the MA Woodlands Cooperative and reference information about working woodlands were distributed to each attendee at the outreach meetings. Member packets were distributed on request. Hand-outs are listed below:

• Profiles from Working Woodlands: Exploring Forest-based Enterprises in Western Massachusetts, by Susan Campbell.

• “Your Land, Your Choices: A Landowner’s Guide to Critical Decisions in Land Management and Protection”, The Trustees of Reservation’s Highland Communities Initiative informational booklet.

• “Forest Stewardship Source Book: Information and Services for Massachusetts Woodlands Owners”, MA Forestry Association and MA Forest Stewardship Program resource booklet.

• “Invasive Plant Fact Sheet”, UMass Extenstion reference pamphlet.

• “High Grade Harvesting”, by Paul Catanzaro and Anthony D’Amato. UMass Extension and MA DCR reference booklet.

• “Forest Land Taxation in Massachusetts”. Department of Environmental Management and UMass Extension bulletin, August 1998.

• “Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act”. Department of Environmental Management and UMass Extension bulletin, February 1998.

• “Massachussetts Family Forests: Birth of a Landowner Cooperative”, by Paul K. Barten, David Damery, Paul Catanzaro, Jennifer Fish, Susan Campbell, Adrian Fabos and Lincoln Fish. Reprint from Journal of Forestry, Vol. 99, No. 3, March 2001.

• “Growth of the Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative, L.L.C.”, by Arthur Eve, Paul Catanzaro, David Damery, Susan Campbell, Jay Healy, Paul Barten, Kristina Ferrare and David Eve. HomeGrown Wood Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 1, May 2005.

• Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative, membership brochure.

• “Building with HomeGrown Wood: A Sustainable and Local Wood Source from Family forests in Massachusetts.” An overview for Builder, Architects and Facilities Managers.

• “HomeGrown Wood: A Sustainable and Local Wood from Family Forests in Massachusetts”, Homeowner’s Guide.

• “HomeGrown Wood Character Grade Flooring”, Character wood product brochure.

• MA Woodlands Cooperative membership application.

• “The Value of Membership”, information handout on the MA Woodlands Cooperative.

• “Membership Benefits”, information handout on the MA Woodlands Cooperative.

Farmers who became members of the Cooperative and their forest management plan preparers were provided further information about membership and publications on specific issues having to do with FSC certification. These follow:

• “Directions for the Preparation of a Management Plan to achieve Green Certification Standards.”

• “Information”, A description of the policies and resources available to MWC members.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

By the end of this three-year project, twenty-four farmers had submitted applications for membership and had been invited to join the Cooperative, agreeing to use sustainable practices to manage their woodlands. Two subsequently withdrew their membership. The addition of these 22 farmers has added 2,604 forested acres to the Cooperative’s land base.

During the three years of this project, information was mailed to around 170 farmers, project staff met in small groups with 100+ farmers and individually with 50+ farmers to provide information about the project. Of the farmers that learned about the project, twenty-three agreed to join the Coop and adopt sustainable forestry practices. These farmers were provided with technical assistance and support as they developed forest management plans for their properties that met FSC Certification standards. Six of these farmers have marketed forest products through the Cooperative and 5 of these farmers are marketing FSC certified forest products independently.

During this project, the Coop has collaborated with various local and regional organizations such as CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), the University of Massachusetts, the Small Farms Institute, Berkshire Grown, Berkshire Natural Resource Council and the Highlands Community Initiative to offer information about the SARE program grants to farmers in their areas. In addition, we made presentations to local Agricultural Commissions throughout western Massachusetts. These interactions have expanded the network of organizations that are knowledgeable about the work of the Coop and laid the groundwork for future collaborative efforts as well as additional funding from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources

Economic Analysis

During this three-year project, 22 farmers joined the Coop and received FSC Certification of their forest acreage. These 22 farmers collectively own 2,604 forested acres. Three of these farmers have harvested timber that was purchased by the Cooperative (White, Cranston and Obear) and seven other farmers harvested material that was not purchased by the Coop (Payne, van Werkhooven, Foley, Crowningshield, Davenport, Klassanos and Intres). Several of the farmers had their own forest product/timber related businesses before joining, and the Coop has referred work to them (Crowningshield, Davenport, Intres and Welch).

In addition, six farmers participated in an Understory Crop feasibility study that was funded by USDA Rural Development (Crowningshield, Webber, Cranston, Welch, Intres and Hackerson). This study examined potential economic development opportunities for three categories of understory crops: (1) food products (e.g., maple syrup and candy, nuts, fruit, mushrooms and game animals); (2) medicinal or nutraceutical plants (e.g., witch hazel, ginseng, black cohosh, goldenseal, slippery elm and black cherry bark); and decorative and handicraft products (wreaths, greens, cones, floral greens and landscaping plants).

The SARE project enabled farmers to gain access to a portable firewood processor. Firewood usage has expanded dramatically in response to increases in the price of fossil fuels. Heating oil contracts for the current heating season in the Northeast now average over $3.30 a gallon and seasoned firewood sells for around $225 a cord. Farmers who produce firewood can reduce their own heating costs and sell excess firewood on the open market. However, cutting and splitting firewood is a labor-intensive process. With support from USDA Rural Development and the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, we were able to provide farmers with access to a portable firewood processor that produces between 1 and 1½ cords of firewood per hour and a 24-foot conveyor that can lift the split firewood into a vehicle that has sides up to ten feet high. During the three-year SARE project, ten farmers were able to attend the firewood processor training session and use the firewood processor (Cowles, Denney/Jakstis, Goodridge, Healy, Intres, Klassanos, Loud, Payne, Webber and Welch).

SARE funding for this three year project consisted of $112,625. Other project funds included $28,250 in federal funds (partial support from the third year of a USDA working capital grant) and $50,700 in non-federal funds (in-kind contributions from Coop and UMass personnel). In addition, we have recently received grants from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources and USDA Rural Development that will enable to Coop to continue the types of activities begun with SARE funding. Examples of activities supported by these new grants include:

• Expanding the number of FSC certified acres among private forest landowners and non-profit Land Trusts in Massachusetts.

• Increasing Coop harvesting of FSC certified timber from private forest landowners and Land Trusts in Massachusetts.

• Expanding local Massachusetts production of FSC certified logs into value-added FSC certified products.

• Expanding the distribution of locally grown, FSC certified products through area retail stores and other businesses:

• Increasing the sale of locally grown, FSC certified products to the level where the Coop’s core operating expenses are covered by sales revenues.

Farmer Adoption

Farmers who became members of the Cooperative and their forest management plan preparers were provided further information about membership and publications on specific issues having to do with FSC certification. These follow:

• “Directions for the Preparation of a Management Plan to achieve Green Certification Standards.”

• “Information”, A description of the policies and resources available to MWC members.

The 22 farmers who joined the Coop have added 2,604 acres to the Coop’s land base.

The outreach and education effort with these materials increased the curiosity of farmers about the Coop and FSC Certification. However, we found that the one-on-one sessions and visits to their farms was the most effective way of answering questions and getting farmers to take the next step of applying for membership in the Coop. This type of personal interaction and farm visit also enabled Coop staff to assess whether or not each farmer would become an effective member of the Cooperative.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

The overall project worked well. We were able to reach many farmers in the western Massachusetts regions and spread information about responsible forest management as well as the mission of the Cooperative. And although small group sessions were helpful in getting the word out, it really requires one-on-one conversations with farmers to address all their individual concerns and to determine if membership in the Cooperative is a good fit. Given this need for individualized attention, we were overly optimistic in how many farmers we believed we could reach in three years. It took longer with greater need for focus on the need for individual conversations with each farmer and their family. However, this process has put the ball in motion, and we continue to receive inquiries from farmers in western Massachusetts who have heard about our organization from friends who have joined, or through our outreach efforts.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.