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SHC awarded nearly $1 million NBRC grant

Press Vermont Biz

Published March 3, 2024

Drone image of Smokey House Center in Danby, Vermont

Smokey House Center and Vermont State University Jointly Awarded $995,146 Through the NBRC to Explore Climate Adaptive Forestry and Innovative Wood Use in Building

Vermont Business Magazine Smokey House Center and Vermont State University were recently awarded a $995,146 grant through the Northern Border Regional Commission’s (NBRC) Forest Economy Program that will fund two exciting collaborative initiatives focused on research and innovation in the region’s forest sector. Funds to Vermont State University will support the expansion of the Forestry Accelerator program housed by Do North Coworking in Lyndonville that will help emerging companies in the forest sector bring their products to market. Smokey House Center’s 5,000-acre property will serve as a platform for piloting products and technologies developed through the innovation hub program.  

Additional funds going to Smokey House Center will launch the “Wood Innovation and Housing Pilot Program”, bringing together a coalition of regional stakeholders across the construction, housing, and forestry sectors to research and design innovative intern housing structures at Smokey House Center in Danby, VT. These structures will showcase the economic and ecological benefits of building with regional wood products sourced from climate adaptive forest management practices. 

The list of collaborating partners includes the Healthy Materials Lab at the Parsons School of Design, University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, Vermont Green Building Network, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and local green building group New Frameworks. The project will help meet Smokey House’s immediate need for intern housing for participants of its new keystone program, the Living Lab, while exploring solutions to help along the evolution of Vermont’s wood products industry. 

The coalition will host a series of workforce training opportunities for foresters, architects, builders, and interested youth at Smokey House Center during the research, design, and build process. 

The project's goals include deepening communication channels between stakeholders within the housing and forest sectors, strengthening public messaging around how adaptive forest management can lead to climate resilience and economic growth, and demonstrating the use of novel wood products such as mass timber made from locally sourced hemlock and wood fiber insulation products.  

“By advancing the development of local wood systems and the application of climate-smart forest practices, this project will develop critical innovations for sustaining our forests and the communities that depend upon them at a time of great economic and ecological uncertainty. We are excited to partner with VTSU, Smokey House Center, and other project members to highlight the utility of local, sustainable wood systems centered on the practice of ecological and adaptive forest management.” says Dr. Anthony D’Amato, Director of Forestry Program, UVM Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources. 

In addition to challenges facing the wood products sector, there is a major shortage in affordable, functional housing in both urban centers and rural areas in Vermont as well as elsewhere in the NBRC four-state range. This project will serve as a case study in exploring how to develop synergistic pathways to energize both our regional housing industry and forest-based economies.  

The Healthy Materials Lab at the Parsons School of Design, along with partners from the Vermont Green Building Network, will explore how regional wood-based building materials can be incorporated into green building design in a way that complements rather than directly competes with other burgeoning bio-based building material industries. Such materials include hemplime (hemplime is an effective high performance alternative to industrial insulations such as foam and batt products) and products made from wool waste such as wool insulation. Both hemp and wool are produced from Smokey House Center’s 1,000 acres of productive agricultural fields. 

“A thriving forest economy is critical to the success of rural communities across the region, which is why the Commission has made a strategic decision to elevate this sector in our grant making. We are excited to announce these investments in innovative projects that will contribute to growth of the forestry industry,” said NBRC Federal Co-Chair Chris Saunders.

A recent report that published the findings of the two-year long Vermont Future Forest Strategic Roadmap initiative–a multi-year collaborative effort meant to map out a path forward for Vermont’s forest sector–echoed the sentiment that the time is now to invest in our forest sector's future. Danielle Fitzko, Commissioner of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, writes in the report about the need for “fostering adaptation, innovation, appreciation, and resiliency” for the sector through collaborative efforts in order to meet today’s challenges. With over half a century of forest management experience across its 5,000 acre property, this dynamic project will place Smokey House squarely in the center of these efforts.  

About the Northern Border Regional Commission (

Created in 2008, the Northern Border Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership whose mission is to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private sector job creation in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. The NBRC Forest Economy Program supports projects ranging from forest economy workforce development to demonstration of new wood product innovations, and projects that assist communities impacted by the decline in parts of the sector. 

With an almost 50 year history, Smokey House Center’s fundamental purpose is to maintain a working landscape that promotes sustainable agricultural and forestry practices while engaging people in meaningful ways. 

About Living Lab:

Smokey House Center is a living laboratory that advances ecologically sound farming and forestry. Through the integration of research and innovation undertaken with its farmer, forester and academic partners on its 5,000+ acres of forest and farmland it provides work and learning that includes local youth and that is intended to map out a progressively more sustainable relationship with the land for all of us.

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