Sustainable Woods Wood-Processing Facility Not Sustainable
Compiled by Lewis Loflin
ABINGDON, VA. - Appalachian Sustainable Development announced Thursday that its Sustainable Woods wood-processing facility in Castlewood has shut down. The Sustainable Woods plant, run by the nonprofit development group, opened about 10 years ago to demonstrate that a market could be created for wood products harvested in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Yet, just 10 months after announcing a $300,000 expansion, the facility has closed its doors...
The Sustainable Woods facility was originally built with the help of state, federal and donated money, Barrett said, and while it has lost money every year it's operated, in recent months the losses have become much larger - too large to stay open. But, Barrett said, she doesn't consider the Sustainable Woods experiment to be a failure... Extract BHC March 19, 2010
Who is Anthony Flaccavento?
According to www.leadershipforchange.org in 2004 had this to say in an article Radical Collaboration':
Anthony Flaccavento, originally from New York City, has lived in the Appalachian region of Virginia and Tennessee since 1985. The son of an organic gardener, he earned his undergraduate degree in agriculture and ecology from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and then worked as an intern for the Soil Conservation Service in Harlan County, KY. The experience, he recalls, "was startling and humbling, especially as there surfaced in me 'dumb hillbilly' assumptions I had no idea I harbored."
After graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, Flaccavento became director of the Appalachian Office of Justice and Peace in St. Paul, VA., a 12-county community-development office of the Catholic diocese. There he initiated local and regional assistance programs. Over time, he realized that traditional approaches didn't always bring the results he sought. "For many church and social-justice activists, the credo was: 'Think your way to a new way of living.' Over time, my philosophy evolved from there, into 'Live your way to a new way of thinking,'" Flaccavento says. Immersion in the culture he served became the foundation of his activism...
In 1990, he helped organize the Coalition for Jobs and the Environment (CJE). The group brought environmentalists and community activists to the same table with developers, businesspeople, and state agencies. In 1995, Flaccavento founded Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), an outgrowth of CJE. Its aim: build a new economy based on organic agriculture and ecologically sound harvest and production of forest products...
Social justice is just Marxism and their unholy alliance with corrupt "developers, businesspeople, and state agencies" means ASD was little more than an outlet for pork dollars. In other words assuming this is correct he has never held a private sector job or operated a business.
It should no coincidence that their activities were mainly in Washington, Scott, and Russell Counties in Virginia where three members of the Tobacco Commission operated out of. To quote Appalachian Voices on this issue related to Mr. Flaccavento March 2008:
At that time the notion of sustainable development was just emerging as a concept and did not represent any set standard of economic or environmental practices. Those debating the relevant points were almost entirely intellectual, abstract, academic kinds of groups. The ASD pioneers wanted actually to do something.
So this little academic experiment involving large amounts of our tax dollars couldn't help but fail. I believe Mr. Flaccavento was honest in his efforts, it was the stupidity of government officials that funded this nonsense for over ten years. The finger needs to be pointed directly at State Del. Terry Kilgore.
The above should come as no surprise to anyone watching the endless proliferation of government waste in Southwest Virginia. Questions have swirled around the economic viability of Greenism as a business for years, but the alliance of politicians, Green socialism, and Gaia romanticism led to this latest debacle. Note the following from earlier meetings of the Virginia Tobacco Commission that funded much of this waste and be your own judge.
Southwest Economic Development Committee Meeting Wednesday, October 13, 2004
DELEGATE KILGORE: You say about a million dollars is the balance we normally kept. You lawyers can negotiate that down. What we'll do is start at the top. Unless we have someone to come up to ask questions of the particular applicant, then we'll have a discussion among ourselves here. We'll start at the top, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Value Added Economic Development Initiative, and the requested amount is a hundred and seventy-three thousand. We have in the past given four hundred and twenty-two thousand two fifty of tobacco money dating back to Fy01 to Appalachian Sustainable Development.
MR. FIELDS: Maybe Mr. Flaccavento might be the one to answer this, but I think we have made, this Committee and this Commission has made a substantial investment in ASD. I think it's time we need to see real progress. I don't think we can finance all this sustained development, but I guess I'm saying I think we have to have some profits, that maybe Anthony can do that for us.
DELEGATE KILGORE: Would you like to address this, Anthony?
MR. FLACCAVENTO: I think we have made a great deal of progress, and we are producing some products, and these are some samples. Our request was both for agriculture and our forest products initiative. I'll pass these around. I think you know that we take resources that we have that are not utilized, and typically the landowner and the logger get a little bit of that share, but you can take that log, saw it into boards and dry it in a kiln, and then work with local manufacturers to make the finished product.
That same poplar is worth somewhere between five and ten times more. I feel we have made progress in building the basic infrastructure to do that. A couple of very large corporations, and there was no other entity like that when we started this, and we have to buy our wood from Pennsylvania, and we couldn't get wood locally.
I think a big piece of this is adding value to that. In terms of the job issue, we're creating jobs and probably more than creating a lot of businesses and help businesses expand. The person who saws our wood is a private contractor. Since we have expanded and helped him with his sawing, he has added a full-time worker on the sawing operation. We have worked with architects in the Tri-Cities and in Charlottesville, and it is giving them a new product line, so it is enhancing their business.
We do help to enhance existing businesses, and the same with farming and the agriculture. On the agriculture side we've gotten to the point where we have five supermarket chains buying our Appalachian harvest produce. We have added two more since a couple of years ago. We can provide local high-value produce, and we could supply a hundred and fifty grocery stores if we could just build enough supply.
That's some of the results that we have gotten. We have been to you a couple of other times, and we were hoping to get to a point, and with this additional kiln and maybe a little more support for the agriculture program, that we could meet those very rapidly expanding markets and we think there is a lot of economic opportunity there. MR.
MONTGOMERY: How is that related to the landowner? How does that help them get more out of their sales? I understand it increases in value, but how does it get back to the farm owner?
MR. FLACCAVENTO: Because we can get more for this, partly because the environmental dimension that the consumers are willing to pay for, partly because this is so beautiful. Appalachian hardwoods are so beautiful, and we can get a little more for a premium, and when we take that additional money and pay on average about twenty percent more, which is pretty significant. The oak, hickory and poplar that come out of the woods, the landowner and loggers get about twenty percent more.
MR. MONTGOMERY: How many board feet do you buy a year? MR. FLACCAVENTO: With funds from our revenues and USDA we doubled the sawing capacity, so right now we can actually get close to half a million board feet a year. That's a lot of homes and libraries and businesses, but our dry kiln can only do about half that amount. The second dry kiln would allow us to capture enough so we could produce another half a million board feet.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Do you run this present dry kiln twenty-four/seven?
MR. FLACCAVENTO: Yes, it is run constantly.
MR. FIELDS: I think I would like you to have told me this morning that we're on the verge of turning the corner. I heard you mention you've gotten more stores and produce and stuff. I think somewhere we're going to have to say, we just can't finance Appalachian Sustainable Harvest. It's doing what we want if Appalachian Sustainable is doing its part and some day can help these farmers that are no longer growing tobacco, and we don't hear these kind of figures. I'd like to hear more exact figures on the budget.
MR. FLACCAVENTO: As an organization we run basically two enterprises, Sustainable Wood Products, and we run the Appalachian Harvest that packages and ships the organic produce. In those businesses we provide a lot of education and training for farmers, because it is tough to make the transition from tobacco to organic vegetables and poultry and things like that.
We have a total organizational budget of about four hundred thousand dollars a year. The seventy thousand would help us get this kiln up and running, and we feel confident we can get the match, and any other funds would help us recruit farmers. I think we're very close to turning the corner, Fred, but when I came before the Committee about a year and a half ago somebody asked me is this the last time and I said, probably not, probably once more.
This maybe that once more that we're hoping to get the additional support. We have the farmers and landowners and the markets, and we just need a little more support to put all of that together, and that's what we're asking for.
MR. MONTGOMERY: When do you think you'll be able to operate on your own without coming before us on an annual basis?
MR. FLACCAVENTO: Self-sufficient. We have a business plan for Appalachian Harvest and Sustainable Woods. The break-even point on Appalachian Harvest is somewhere around four hundred thousand a year, and on the Sustainable Wood it is a little bit lower, probably around three hundred thousand a year. With our current sawing and drying capacity, we can't quite reach that, but with a second kiln we could.
We've looked at those numbers, and we're not that far off. The biggest obstacle on Appalachian Harvest is just getting enough farmers, and we have several new farmers this year, and we're planning to add several acres, and that has been encouraging. Four hundred thousand on the Appalachian Harvest and three hundred thousand, I think we can reach that in 2005 or 2006.
MR. FIELDS: That's what they ask me every time I go to the bank, are you making money. They always ask me, you are making money, aren't you? I think this is the kind of project we're looking for, but we need to have some hard answers.
DELEGATE KILGORE: Thank you. Any comments concerning this particular application, or any suggestions concerning this particular application?
MR. BANNER: Just a suggestion that we fund Appalachian Sustainable for seventy, and that's what the Staff recommendation is.
SENATOR PUCKETT: I'd second that. (State Senator Puckett's district includes Castlewood.)
MR. FIELDS: We're not making motions right now, are we?
DELEGATE KILGORE: Recommendations, and then we'll go back.
LENOWISCO COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY 2009 CEDS REPORT
Community-based development strategies increasingly have a place in the larger picture. Various alternatives to tobacco farming are being studied, from organic produce to Aquaculture, while environmentally friendly, value-added agricultural and wood products are being developed.
Appalachian Sustainable Development, whose service area encompasses ten counties in southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee, is completing construction of a new packing and grading facility, replacing one destroyed by fire in May 2007.
Located in the Duffield industrial park, this facility will not only continue to support the region's farmers, but is also expected to complement the future development of an artisan food production center, which itself will support a regional artisan center designed to provide a major regional artisan venue.
End quote. What kind of pork-barrel waste will this "artisan food production center" produce?
Update 2019: Appalachian Sustainable Development after wasting millions of dollars and its founder leaving under odd circumstances is little more than an organic farmers co-op. The picture above shows the results.
They are connected with Appalachian Harvest. How many jobs they actually created and who really benefits is unknown. Their impact is miniscule at best. They are connected with a number of farmers markets, but their Duffield is only open Thursdays 4-7 PM June-October.
Their website is asdevelop.org. I wish them luck.
- Sustainable Woods wood-processing facility in Castlewood not sustainable
- Critical Look at Appalachian Sustainable Development
- Rebuilding of Appalachian Harvest's packing, grading facility nearing completion
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"The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia...more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined." Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies.
"It's a little-known fact that roughly 20 percent of the children in Southwest Virginia live below the poverty line and go hungry every night." Kevin Crutchfield, President Alpha Natural Resources, January 15, 2009
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