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Building the Modern Family Farm in Vermont. Are you Nuts?

~ by Dimitri Garder, Global-Z Captain

I sat there in the woods looking at the three piles of logs I had just finished dropping, limbing and cutting, trying to decide whether I should split them now or do it tomorrow. I was breathing hard and it was getting dark. Tomorrow then. The piles looked a lot smaller than I had expected. The wood stack had been getting low, and a rare free weekend gave me the opportunity to replenish it from three medium sized trees that had recently fallen, meaning the wood would be fairly dry. But damn, those piles look way smaller than they should be for all that work. You can’t spend two decades running a business without habitually thinking about whether you’re spending your time efficiently. “I wonder if all of that was worth it,” I thought. Some people use log splitters, I’m the only guy I know who still splits wood by hand, with a maul. Heck, most people just order their firewood from a guy who does all the work for you. He backs his truck down the driveway and drops a giant pile of wood right in front of the house, split and ready to stack. It costs about a hundred and fifty bucks a cord. I just spent four and a half hours cutting about a quarter of that, and it’s not even split yet.

Yeah, I realize that most folks don’t spend their weekends splitting and stacking firewood. But here in Vermont, it’s part of life, at least for a lot of folks. Working a little harder for the little things is a reality we just accept as part of the unique way of life that Vermont offers. Whether it’s helping a stranger pull their car out of a ditch in a snowstorm, getting to work a little late because the neighbor’s hens decided that the middle of the road was a perfectly reasonable place to convene, or accepting that electrical power is sometimes a luxury and not something to be taken for granted, there’s a feeling here that having to work a bit harder for some things is part of what makes Vermont so special.

But there are times that we ask, “is all that hard work really worth it?” From time to time, we all ask that question about our jobs. Running the family business has been a real learning experience. We don’t do things like a lot of other companies, in fact we can’t afford to. When your primary goal is the long-term viability of the company and its jobs, rather than maximizing shareholder value, you can’t always make decisions the way you’re taught in business school. On the one hand, that means we get to break a lot of rules, which can be a lot of fun. On the other hand, I often think we need to work just a little bit harder at some things. Remaining privately owned and successful in the fast-paced technology business is no easy thing. And doing it in a rural northeast area is just plain crazy. We have infrastructure challenges, workforce challenges, cost of living challenges, and if you like six months of winter and six weeks of summer, you’d love it here. More and more I view us as the modern version of the family farm. Like a farm, our constituents are our people and our community, not our shareholders. Like a farm, we can’t afford to put short-term results ahead of long-term viability. And like a farm, we don’t do it because it’s easy, we do it because it’s what we have to do to survive.