Gary Mead, owner of Fruitful Furnishings, says that the wood scraps from his sawmill were always a big concern to him. As the company grew, so did the waste piles, and it drove him crazy. He looked into chippers and the like, but could not afford the $100,000 investment. That’s when he came up with the idea for cutting the pieces into fifteen-inch lengths -and wrapping them into a bundle to sell as kindling. After test-marketing samples in stores, the feedback was hot.
In an effort to promote the success of a wood-based business like this in the New York City watershed region, the Watershed Agricultural Council recently awarded over $300,000 to nine area firms, including Fruitful Furnishings, who use forest products as their base.
Recipients will use the funding for a variety of projects like purchasing equipment to help them upgrade and expand their facilities or enhancing their marketing – all with the ultimate goal of retaining and creating jobs in the region.
For example, adding a heater or kiln to aid the drying process in a wood-based business can increase productivity and expand the company’s offerings. With such a positive response to the kindling experiment, Fruitful Furnishings plans to sell its product to tourists and residents.
Another area artisan, Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture plans to create a web-site to increase exposure beyond his physical location on Route 28 in Boiceville. This effort, he says, is necessary. “We’ve been in business for twenty-five years, and we need to push past our immediate area and get the word out that we’re here. We produce more product than we can sell because we’ve never had the money to advertise and market on a national or worldwide level.”
The first round of grant awards in this program ran the gamut from small business-owners like Mead and Heller to companies with larger infrastructure like Beaver Mountain Log Homes (Deposit). Other craftspeople chosen to receive funding were Attila Wenger (Halcottsville), Steve and Cheryl Boyd of High Custom Woodworkers (Walton), and Jenifer and Don Green of Greentree (Delhi). Manufacturers included log home fabricator Alta Industries (Halcottsville), Community Products (Rifton), makers of furniture for schools and child care facilities, and Indian Country (Deposit), a plaque manufacturer.
The Watershed Agricultural Council makes these grants available through a US Forest Service’s program called “Rural Development Through Forestry,” a grants effort to support and increase regional activity in the forest/wood products industry and improve the viability of forestry as an enterprise in the watershed region.
For a business like Fruitful Furnishings, the grant means putting some dream goals into play. “My long term goals are to put more people to work in this area and keep the mill property clean and neat. Our business supports ten families. I get a great feeling from that accomplishment. But before I am done my goal is to put 40-50 people to work and have a long-lasting business so our children can go to college and come back where they grew up and make a decent living.” Gary’s plan for marketing kindling and expanding his operation to include the sale of kiln-dried hardwoods to be used for local carpenters and contractors, a service not easily found within striking distance right now. About the future, he says “If these goals become reality, our community will grow in a positive, non-polluting way.”