Forest Practitioner News


For members and partners of the National Network of Forest Practitioners | nnfp.org
October 2010

In this issue:

  1. Cooperative and biomass innovations in Austria (wood energy contracting and forest owner as "heat seller")
  2. Forest Cooperative Showcase: A few examples (Living Forest Cooperative, Oregon Woodland Co-op, and Mass Woodlands Co-op)
  3. Why forest cooperatives? (key rural development outcomes made possible by cooperatives)
  4. Considering a Forest Cooperative? (a list of some of the necessary ingredients before launching)
  5. Is Your Organization or Business "Sustainable"? (a business advice article by Debra McBride, NNFP's Operations Director)
  6. Upcoming funding opportunities (soon to be a member-only feature on the NNFP website)
  7. Upcoming events of interest (via NNFP's WordPress calendar)

 

As National Cooperative Month closes out, we wanted to tip our hat to the variety of forest cooperatives that are working to take care of the land, create jobs, and build weath in rural communities across the US, while showcasing some of our recent work in supporting these important and innovative businesses.

Here at NNFP we're moving into our third year of funding support through the USDA's Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program. Our co-op development work is undertaken through our Center for Cooperative Forest Enterprises.

We support the cooperatives in a variety of ways, from good old fashioned financial analysis and business planning, to more innovative communications support, including multi-media profiles and website overhauls.

Charly Ray on Vimeo

Our online marketing portal, www. sustainablewoods.com is also emerging as a tool for co-ops, especially when paired with our sales lead work with architects and designers, including exhibiting at GreenBuild and other tradeshows.

Chipping InOn occasion, we even connect with cooperatives in other countries and bring back ideas and best practices to share with the forest co-ops here in the US. In the most recent NNFP Update sent last week, we mentioned Scott Bagley's recent visit to Austria to learn about the role of cooperatives and their progress in sustainable wood-to-energy. In this issue of Forest Practitioner News, we also wanted to highlight an article about the trip recently published in USDA's Rural Cooperatives Magazine. There's a longer version published as an NNFP report available on our website. Scott presented a webinar last week with Bob Parker of Oregon State University Extension, who accompanied him on the trip. Get in touch with Scott if you want to see the recording of that session.

And if you missed it last week, check out the audio slideshow of his trip:

Audio slideshow on You Tube

 

Forest Cooperative Showcase

Three forest cooperatives we have worked with over the past few years are the Living Forest Cooperative, the Oregon Woodland Cooperative, and the Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative. These organizations provide excellent examples of the different ways co-ops can provide value for their member-owners.

Living Forest Cooperative

LFC logoThe Living Forest Cooperative adds value for its 227 members as a forestry services provider -- developing stewardship plans, administering timber sales, and implementing projects such as tree planting and making firewood for members. The co-op has chosen a path that emphasizes growing the base of members and fine-tuning its service functions, while keeping an eye on opportunities that may emerge as it grows beyond its current 22,000 acres under management.

FirewoodSome of the opportunities the co-op is considering includes pooling member harvests and partnering with other businesses to produce and market value added wood products. Co-op leaders are also considering ways to engage the growing biomass market, with an eye toward some of the smaller scale, more community-based applications made possible by emphasizing wood-for-heat.

LFC ToolkitAs a forestry services business, one of LFC's important functions is to digest all of the potential programs available for members, recommend the ones that are the best fit, then support the landowners in applying for support and implementing projects that may emerge thanks to the cost-share availability. The co-op recently published a toolkit for these purposes, with funding from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board.

Visit the LFC website

 

OWC logoOregon Woodland Cooperative

The Oregon Woodland Cooperative was founded in 1980, and currently has 57 members and 22,000 acres under management, located primarily in the 10 northwestern counties of Oregon. With 30 years of experience, OWC has been around long enough to see the benefits of the co-op as a bridge for intergenerational continuity.

OWC membersOWC's emphasis on the cooperative advantage for marketing and the commitment of its members has enabled it to complete 93 product marketing and harvesting projects over its history, selling over 11.4 million board feet of logs from members’ properties which sold for almost $5.5 million.

OWC has a bundled firewood sales program, which has provided members improved income through otherwise low-value material. Engaging higher-end grocery stores around northwestern Oregon has proven time well spent. The co-op is also pursuing non-timber forest products as additional income opportunities for its members.

Visit the OWC website

 

MWCMassachusetts Woodlands Cooperative

On the other side of the country, in western Massachusetts, the Mass Woodlands Cooperative has been organizing landowners and developing partnerships to process logs into value-added wood products since 2001. MWC currently has over 60 members with landholdings of over 12,000 acres. MWC was an early adopter of FSC certification, while also developing an innovative brand called HomeGrown Wood. The co-op has flooring installations in a variety of high-profile sites around Massachusetts.

Visit the MWC website

 

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Why Cooperatives?

NNFP supports cooperatives because we believe they can be effective vehicles for accomplishing a variety of important outcomes for rural forest-based communities, including:

Creating jobs focused on improvement of the forest resource base for future generation;

Enabling landowners to have a greater say in how their woods are managed;

Keeping more economic value closer to the resource base, through value-adding processes;

Providing a social context within which caring and committed landowners can embed their forest stewardship efforts;

Increasing participation in forest stewardship by function as trusted partners for landowners who otherwise are hesitant to work with government and conventional industry;

Enabling stewardship continuity through ownership changes, whether through inheritance by the next generation or sale to new owners; and

Encouraging coordinated stewardship, through neighbor-to-neighbor cooperation and linking together parcels to enable efficient forest operations.

 

Considering a Forest Cooperative?

Be sure you have the necessary ingredients
in place before pushing the "go" Button

One of NNFP's roles in supporting businesses is to advise them when a certain decision may not be strategic. Similarly, with cooperatives, we have a list of key ingredients we feel are necessary before proceeding with formation and launch.

Here are a few:


Complementary mix of people
A core group of initial enthusiasts / steering committee members comprised of a combination of visionary individuals committed to the long-term, along with business-oriented individuals who can put ideas into action.

Predominantly the individuals who will be the owner-members.

Small but strategic involvement of supporters/sponsors.

Committment to process
group meetingAn initial group that is dedicated to a development path that entails feasibility analysis, business planning, and other strategic steps prior to formation and launching.

Individuals willing and able to meet regularly and frequently enough to maintain momentum and enthusiasm, but not so much that the group gets burned out.

A knowledgeable and experienced facilitator who understands cooperatives and group processes, but who is not so tied to the idea of it working that he or she doesn’t ask the tough questions and point out when the group is moving off track.

Value adding through partnershipConnections
Access to resource people for technical assistance, financial resources, and other forms of support.

Familiarity with similar cooperative business initiatives in other areas, including their lessons learned.

Utilize existing processing and manufacturing partners, at least in the early stages of development.

Continuing Cooperative Education
Educational programming about issues that relate to responsibilities of membership/ownership and other concerns such as financial management.

Considering a Cooperative?
NNFP logoIf you are considering the cooperative path, feel free to get in touch with us to explore the variety of ways the Center for Cooperative Forest Enterprises and the rest of the NNFP team can support you. Contact Program Director Scott Bagley @ 740-593-8733.

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Is Your Business or Organization “Sustainable”?

In addition to supporting groups considering the cooperative business model, we work with established cooperative enterprises, which also require that the right ingredients are in place for them to survive and thrive in the long-run. Along those lines, here's an article by NNFP's Operations Director, Debra McBride, which outlines some of the key components of a sustainable business.

To maintain a healthy forest it is critical to balance the harvest of some timber now with the practice of leaving some timber in place to grow for future harvests. The same is true for businesses and organizations. A remodeling contractor who uses inferior materials on a project to earn a higher profit now jeopardizes ongoing future profit when customers have quality issues with the completed work. A non-profit organization that undertakes projects it does not have the capability or capacity to achieve only to obtain current grant funding, risks losing future funding when deliverables are not met. An enduring or sustainable business or organization is like a good hike in the woods, you need to know where you want to go, how you plan to get there, and consider the risks and rewards along the way.

So what are some things you can do to have a healthy, sustainable business or organization?

1. Develop and communicate your mission, vision and values. Starting out on a hike your mission (purpose) might be getting exercise and getting outside. Your vision might be reaching the top of the mountain to eat your lunch on a sunny day. Your values might be to have minimal impact on the environment along the way and to pack out everything you pack in. Mission, vision and values create a straight path for you and your employees to follow, and builds a relationship with customers who share your beliefs.

2. Know your stakeholders and what is important to them. Who is going along with you on the hike? Is their goal to reach the top of the mountain as fast as possible or would they rather amble along and take in the sights? Stakeholders can include customers, employees, regulatory agencies, partners and funders. You need to know the demographics of all of these groups and know what their requirements are for your business or organization so that you can focus on the needs of each group.

3. Know your areas of greatest expertise. If you are racing a competitor to the top of the mountain and your expertise is rock climbing, then not using your expertise to win the race wouldn’t make sense. Expertise is more than just what your organization is capable of doing, but what is central to your purpose and provides an advantage over your competitors.

4. Plan---not just for today, but for the future. At the minimum you might plan your hike by packing some food and looking at various trails to select the difficulty, length and route that suits your needs. Like planning a hike, business planning is the map of steps along the path that will take you to the top of the mountain. If you plan just for the day and are hiking a five day trip, then you may find yourself hungry and lost in the middle of the trek. Planning for business not only includes planning for the next week, month or year, but also for the long term…what will be different or do you want to be different in 3 or 5 years?

5. Know what is going on around you. While hiking you might take an internal check of how you are feeling physically, while also keeping an eye on the environment. Is it nearing dusk? Is that a bear I smell? Organizations also need to keep a check on the internal and external environment to know what might affect them tomorrow or two years from now. What are the trends in the industry? What business issues are keeping you up at night? How engaged are employees? What do customers think of your products or services?

6. Measure and report. Like a GPS and watch, it’s always good to know how far you’ve gone in certain amount of time. For your business it is important to create a way to measure success, and track your progress at regular intervals along the way.

So here’s hoping you have a successful hike to the top of the mountain, enjoy the view and make it back down to hike another day!

This is the first in a series of business articles that Debra will be writing. In future months she will provide expanded tips on these topics. We hope you find the information relevant. If you have business questions, or ideas for topics you’d like to hear about, please let Debra know at debra@nnfp.org.

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Upcoming funding opportunities

Visit the "Funding Leads" page of the NNFP website for additional details about upcoming funding opportunities from a variety of federal programs and private foundations.

This page of the NNFP website will soon be members-only.

Join NNFP

NNFP Membership Levels
Basic - $20
Individual - $35
Organization or Business with less than 5 employees - $60
Organization or Business with 5+ employees - $100
Institutional / Large Business - $500

 

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Upcoming Events of Interest

Check out Upcoming Events on NNFP's WordPress Calendar

NNFP Calendar

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If you missed the September issue

If you missed the September issue of Forest Practitioner News
link to it by clicking here.

Content included:

Sustainable Woods Showcase
Welcome New Staff!
They're Back! NNFP Webinars
Enhancing Creating Leadership
Appalachian Forest Resource Center & Forest Value Chains
AFRC Tapped for Appalachian Regional Commission Assessment
Funding Leads
Upcoming Events of Interest

 

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Sustaining Rural Lands and Livelihoods
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