Stark Mountain Woodworking is committed to sustainability. In support of this ideal, Skimmer and his wife Jill have installed a 54KW solar array on their organic vegetable farm, located nine miles from the workshop. The six solar panels are mounted on trackers that automatically follow the sun to maximize solar gain.
A third of the total cost of the installation was subsidized by Federal and State grants. The electricity generated is sold to Green Mountain Power, a local utility. On an annual basis, these solar panels pay for 85% of the electricity used at the workshop. This is a savings of approximately $1000 each month. The installation will have paid for itself in six to seven years and the panels are expected to last for twenty-five years.
The Solar Panels at New Leaf Organics, Bristol, VT
The Stark Mountain workshop occupies a breeze-block building 168 feet long by 36 feet wide, on the edge of the village in New Haven, Vermont. Originally, the first two floors were used to house chickens. Over the years the building was also used as a grain co-op, a machine shop, a furniture storage facility and a commercial pottery. Stark moved into the building in July 1997. At first, half of the space was shared with the pottery, but within two years Stark had taken over the entire building. A 2100 square feet addition was built in 2004 for the handling of solid woods and another 1900 square feet was added in 2013 for sheet goods.
In 2007, a garden was designed and planted to soften the long street-facing side of the building. The design included a small visitor car park with a path leading to a new front entrance. A new company sign was also installed.
Several years later, hops were planted and trained up the height of the building, with a view to Stark Mountain producing its own beer (Stark Raving IPA, Dovetail Ale, Stark Stout?). The hops have grown well, but unfortunately the variety proved to be purely ornamental and not suitable for beer brewing. The foliage does shade the west-facing windows and add to the lushness of the landscaping.
Workshop with new garden in June 2007
Front Entrance Door June 2009
Garden in June 2012, showing the hops reaching the roof
Skimmer and Louis are keen to increase well-being and reduce stress among their employees by encouraging physical activity in the clean air and beauty of Vermont. In 2006 they subsidized the purchase of a bicycle for each employee, with an additional monetary incentive of $1 a mile if a target of 700 miles per year was reached cycling to and from work. By doing so, they also reduced the company’s carbon footprint.
There are typically seven months of suitable weather conditions for cycling in Vermont. The total miles ridden by all the employees cycling to and from work since the inception of the scheme is an extraordinary 74,463 miles. Using EPA calculations, this has saved 35 tons of carbon emissions and 169 pounds of volatile organic compounds from being discharged into the atmosphere.