I would like to introduce you to a phenomenal business that shares the same mountain range as the Land of the Laurels, just a bit further South: Bark House. Based in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Bark House began in 1990 by a wife and husband team~ Chris and Marty McCurry. Committed to providing sustainably sourced bark shingles for interior and exterior applications on homes and buildings, they have earned over a dozen different awards and recognitions, including but not limited to: Cradle to Cradle Platinum certification, they are a Certified B Corporation, they have had a Declare Label Red List Free for their Poplar bark shingles, and they were awarded by their local non-profit, Root Cause, as a Support of Local Wood Products Award.
The recognition they have received globally and locally is noteworthy. However, it is just that. Noteworthy. On paper it is impressive, and it deserves to be shared…literally, worthy of noting. But the power behind this business lies not in their stamps or their certifications…or even in that Google and Amazon use their bark frequently in their establishments. The power Bark House holds, lies in the good they have done, are doing, and will continue to do for the Appalachian Mountain Range and the small communities that call it home.
Getting the Bark
Their process of obtaining the bark is based entirely off of regenerative practices~ for the environment, and their community. They began their business with the training of 50 local loggers on how to peel bark off felled trees. The loggers could then sell the trees they took down as profit, as well as the bark from those trees.
William and I have been on the property hunt lately, and we have had the opportunity to walk quite a few. We are looking for a wooded piece of land here in our rural county in Central Pennsylvania. Growing up here, we know some of the more productive places to look: certain southern facing properties on mountain ranges, down by certain creeks, away from certain roads. One hard reality that we are witnessing is that many of these properties have either already been logged, or they are old growth forests with trees preemptively marked to be logged.
As I have expressed in “Is CLT Sustainable?”, wood is a beautiful, sustainable resource which has many beneficial uses. We intend to use an incredible amount of it in our own home. However, we should be harvesting our woods in a way that does not have a greater negative impact on forests’ health. Some of the properties William and I have witnessed were devastating. You could tell that ‘low environmental impact’ and ‘sustainable harvesting and regeneration of trees’ was not in the plan when these certain forests were torn through.
After witnessing these properties, it was of even greater discomfort to walk through old growth forests (where there are tons of really big trees), and see all of the spray paint markings on trees to be taken down. Many property sellers do this as a courtesy for potential buyers. The prospective buyers can see what money making trees will help them recuperate some of their economic loss after paying for the property itself. This is a common path many rural land buyers pursue, especially when land is expensive and incomes are low. When over 70% of Pennsylvania forests are privately owned, the treatment of those forests becomes highly significant.