Bark House

THE POTENTIAL

To develop current and new nature-based businesses that flourish as they benefit farms, forests, and families within the Blue Ridge region of North Carolina.

Successfully operating in the Blue Ridge Mountains for 30-years, Bark House has the unique perspective of having created an entirely new type of business inspired by nature in the mountains of rural North Carolina.   The work we do connects Regenerative Development to Regenerative Source.  A nature-based business guild will be enhanced to respond to this question: what work honors this ecosystem (place and people in it) and how do we enact, support and grow a generative workforce around nature-based businesses?  In the context of widening political divides, growing economic inequalities, and a disrupted climate system, we join many to call on every Business, Designer, Individual, and Organization to imagine places in which we can generously live together.  One of these places is the Blue Ridge Region of North Carolina.

This work and the thinking behind the work cannot be done for us by any central authority. We must all become able to observe carefully and think collectively about the specific living systems in which we live and work. This will require re-patterning much of the thinking and behavior that an external-industrial-society has tried over the years to place upon us. Appalachian people are known to “go against the grain” as we do not work in assembly-line type business structures.  We are naturally developed for this living-systems engagement.  Rather than take a single idea and scale it, each guild participant will master the art of developing business systems that fit precisely with their contexts—as nature has. To do this requires an evolved concept of ‘value’: rather than measuring success by the level of accumulation of a single resource, we will define our value in relation to each and every living organism that we touch—as (Bark House and) nature does.

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Individual voices, small and large businesses, designers from multiple disciplines, organizations, government entities, trees, rocks, rivers, and animals of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Region along with world-class Architects and world-wide students have been considered in or contributed to a peripherally formed Regenerative Source Guild of the Blue Ridge. We will explore how Bark House has benefited from this engagement and the extraordinary benefits that this company is creating for entire eco-systems.  The elements of growing, sourcing, harvesting, manufacturing, and selling are interwoven into one business system that follows patterns learned in nature and are all generatively aimed.  Further, we will explore the purpose and the benefits that an engaged Regenerative Source Guild creates for other businesses and communities.  If not already involved, we invite you to participate.  If involved, we invite you to deepen the engagement.

Bark House has been working with one of the most disenfranchised populations in the Appalachians.  Farming, tourism, other nature-based sectors have gleaned public attention and support.  There have been real benefits to these sectors because of that and because they are now working together.  But small scale loggers (who supply raw material to Bark House and who are an important contributor to the logging industry) have not had any organizational support – they have not gleaned any benefits from public sentiment either.  This group has not gone the way of big logging and they continue to create forest benefits because of this.  This group cannot physiologically or spiritually separate from the land, and have been further pushed out of bounds or left behind.  Through our work and furthering that work in this Guild, we aim to change that.

Nature-based business owners (such as Bark House) struggle to connect all aspects of a healthy business system in this area.  Business resources are limited or ill-fitted to the nature-based-business.  Building trust in the region and accessing landowners who desire to cultivate a source of products on their land is currently daunting if not impossible for most.  Accessing a trained, cohesive workforce is challenging.  Through our work and furthering that work in this Guild, we aim to change that.

Organizations charged with supporting economic prosperity in Appalachia often struggle to understand the culture of the local people, their priorities and methods of working together.  Through our work and furthering that work in this Guild, we aim to change that.

Inspired by the patterns and systems in nature and with a desire to create whole, pure products that honor and support the development of the people and land of the Blue Ridge Region and the climate-system; thirty years have passed since the founding of Bark House.  Because the founders started out young and naive, self-development was inevitable, but it is also an ongoing commitment.  Thus begins their story.

REGENERATIVE ARCHITECTURAL SOLUTIONS FROM A BENEFIT COMPANY,
INSPIRED BY NATURE FOR A WHOLE-WORLD
Bill McDonough (inaugural chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Circular Economy) shared this about Bark House, “…you are looking at a product that is almost a sacred thing…people are being honored with right-fit jobs, forests are being honored with sustainable forestry, and the buildings that use these materials are being honored with safe, healthy materials.”
Carol Sanford (regenerative business speaker, author, and executive educator) shared this about Bark House wall finishes, “…if I was in a space with Bark House bark wall coverings, I would know that I had found a place where ‘we’ belong”.

Restorative Growing, Sourcing, and Harvesting

Bark House is working to strengthen the Regenerative Source Guild of the Blue Ridge to honor and support the essence of the Appalachian forests and the people working within them.

Bark House supports a forest management strategy that focuses on micro-parcel tree harvests and respects the diversity of living forests.  Comprised of approximately 20-acre tracts, the land is owned by individuals who care about it and their community.  Nurtured for generations, these stewards want to keep the land healthy and intact for the future.  Forest-management plans are implemented that support biodiversity so that select cutting is practiced.  Only Bark House trains loggers across five states in the proper procurement of bark from felled trees for use in wall coverings.  This strategy is designed to support loggers with deep reverence to nature to stay connected to it in their work.  Two to three-person logging crews with lighter equipment are engaged and maintain better soil stabilization.  Bark House monitors forest inventory growth-to-removal and watershed reports, verifying sustainability and environmental health in our region. Only Reclaimed Appalachian Wood Waste (RAW™) is purchased at Bark House.

Regenerative Manufacturing

A Circular-Manufacturing-Economy that benefits people and nature has been proven possible by Bark House, and verified by third party certifications.

It is rare to find a beautiful wall finish that is manufactured in an equally beautiful way, but such is the case with Bark House Wall Coverings.  The rough texture invites you to touch the surface, and when you do – you know that you have found something that is pure, something that deserves to be honored.  Recipient of the world’s first and only Cradle to Cradle PLATINUM product certification, company co-founders, Marty and Chris McCurry, designed and created products and processes that are recognized worldwide.  Their work is aimed to honor the strategy of the bark material itself, every person who touches the products and the land where the material is sourced.    Designer and creator of the first manufactured bark wall coverings, Marty specified every detail down to the thickness and length of the material so that the strategy of bark as a protective covering for a tree is fully realized for a building, and quality is assured.  Tree growth sequesters carbon, and Bark House designed manufacturing to use less carbon than that which is held.  Marty engineered one-of-a-kind kilns to efficiently circulate air-flow through the stacks of material and a moisture content monitoring protocol that assures consistency of the product.  Chris added solar power to manufacturing.  Both combined ensure that more carbon is held in the product than the sum of all of its manufacturing, all the way back to the first person who touched it.  No water is used in direct manufacturing, conserving this most important resource.  A chain of custody process verifies the source of the product and that the log has a disposition so that only Reclaimed Appalachian Wood Waste (RAW™) is purchased.  This strategy yields loggers two times the pay of a log for reclaimed-waste bark and that sixty percent of Bark House income is invested directly back to the local community.

Living Legacy Projects

Client investment in places we can live together completes the circle to create a legacy with benefit to all life for all time.

Architectural Record Product of the Year, B Corp Best For The World Company, Buckminster Fuller Catalyst Company, Regenerative Company, and over 250 important media features- these accolades only begin to reflect the value of the wall covering products and business processes created at Bark House.  This company has earned its reputation as the preferred brand for well-known tech, fashion and hospitality industries as well as and discerning homeowners.  A living legacy has reached from forests to cities, from homes to commercial spaces as people are reconnecting to pure nature.  You are invited to learn more about the distinctive Bark House difference, as you create your Living Legacy project – one with benefit for all life for all time, built-in.

CREATING MORE BENEFITS WORKING WITH OTHER BUSINESSES
Bark House invested 30-years watching, listening and learning from natural system processes.  We created a manufacturing system based on the principles that we learned like collaboration, working with wholes instead of parts and how to see, and then work with patterns.  Because of this, we’ve accomplished what many said was impossible.  The Regenesis Regenerative Development Process reflects the same whole-systems thinking and capacity building methodology we have benefited from, in an easily accessible process.
We would like to work with Regenesis to create this new potential.

 

Who is Regenesis Group?

The Regenesis Group is a world leader in providing deeply effective ecological system solutions and illuminating new understanding of how living systems can inform the mission of each client and project: linking Nature, the Community, Governance, Buildings, and Operations as an integral living system.

What is Regenerative Development?

Regenerative Development begins with the premise that all human activities have the potential to feed new life, health and wealth into the myriad ecological and social systems that they touch. The key to doing so is to understand the unique socio-ecological context that this work aims to impact, rather than applying generic, one-size-fits-all thinking to our work. In this way, regenerative development re-centers a place’s unique ecological identity as the foundational enabler of the health and future prosperity of our human communities (Regenesis Group).  

Why is Bark House Engaged In This Work?

The co-founders of Bark House have participated in whole-living-systems work for over thirty years.  Chris started her career as a registered nurse, practicing whole-health-community-care.  Marty designed and created pure products and pure manufacturing methods.  For many years, both have been tending relationships with the aim of forming a Regenerative Source Guild.

In regenerative systems work, you look for what is known as nodal participants.  These participants uniquely engage at key levels, if not all levels of the work.  Bark House is a nodal participant in this process, connecting landowners, loggers, businesses and organizations together in a scope of work that is unique and regenerative for our place.  Chris is a graduate of Phase I of The Regenerative Practitioner Series through Regenesis.  The work of Bark House has not been limited to their company alone.  One example of an impossible engagement that was accomplished under her leadership is the building of the Spruce Pine Central Park and the improvements to the Main Street Organization.  Already experienced in generatively working with every sector noted, and practicing whole-living-systems-process-development, Bark House is uniquely positioned to integrate all levels of this work-collective.

Bark House will benefit as a collective of businesses and organizations working together will lighten the load of single responsibility for such an enormous system that Bark House is already engaged in.  Area guild participants will provide third-party verification strategies that one-size, distant certifications could not.  We will be able to meet our mission goal to honor the eco-system of our place.  We will be able to respond to the question of our formation: how can cutting a tree save the planet and heal people; and how can this process be carried out honorably.

Purpose of this work

The purpose of this work is the deepening and expansion of a Regenerative Source Guild of the Blue Ridge.

We aim to align three groups of stakeholders around the unique principles, relationships, and strategies capable of transforming the health of this socio-ecological system, in a way that builds community, organizational, and individual capability and inspired commitment, so that Guild Participants and the people of this place will be able to activate a way of living that can become a model throughout the region (and world) for the way humans inhabit and care for the land and each other – and prosper.

Two important stakeholder groups include organizations that will both participate in and support this process and small loggers who will both participate in and benefit from it.  A third, core group of nature-based business owners will develop their nature-based businesses that flourish and expand generative workforces.  All working together will benefit farms, forests, and families developing within the Blue Ridge region of North Carolina.

Blue Ridge loggers, farmers, and families know that their ecosystem is completely unique in its working and in the way it shapes the life of the human community that forms in response to it. The complex interface between these human systems and ecological systems will be accounted for, understood and navigated uniquely in this unique place.  This individualizing-value-system is how the people and culture of this area seek to thrive and is the methodology that will be followed.

What are the benefits of this work to the Blue Ridge Region?

The benefits are: increased understanding of how rural Appalachia seeks to work – and how that system is productive, increased process and business efficiency, better front-end planning strategies so that long term results are realized and continue to evolve, lower project costs, retention and development of businesses and employees, increasing and enhancing a generative workforce, more positive community relationships, deeply meaningful and developmental organizational design, benefits to the planet with businesses engaged to reverse climate change, and, at the most fundamental level, a healing of the relationship (and interrelationships) between the human systems and the ecological systems of this place.

Bark House products are carbon sinks.  Products from other regenerative nature-based businesses will be as well.

Blue Ridge loggers, farmers and families know that their ecosystem is completely unique in its working and in the way it shapes the life of the human community that forms in response to it. The complex interface between these human systems and ecological systems will be accounted for, understood and navigated uniquely in this unique place.  This individualizing-value-system is how the people and culture of this area seek to thrive.

The Regenerative Practitioner series introduces the core concepts and frameworks that define the practice of regenerative development, a process and methodology for harmonizing human activities with the continuing evolution of life on our planet, even as we continue to develop our potential as humans.   A core of nature-based business leaders will be coached through this series and will encourage follow-on participation, thus growing local practitioners.  They will enlist a broad range of different disciplines and community sectors–public and private, nonprofit and for-profit–to come together to engage in deep and sustained co-learning around how to practice the art of regeneration in this place.

The environment will benefit as loggers, farmers and families grow in their capacity as ecologists of their place.  Many Bark House products are carbon neutral as we have created a system that accounts for and minimizes all of the carbon produced in our manufacturing, starting with the first person who touches the raw material in the forest.  New products developed by guild members will become a sink for embodied carbon as well.  Bark House uses zero water in direct manufacturing and we do stream improvements.  Guild work will focus further upstream, on area water-sheds.  Bark House products biodegrade to build clean soil; and micro-parcel, select cut logging with lighter equipment protects soil so that restoration occurs quicker.  Guild work will see soil quality monitored throughout the business-cycle process using an Ecological Balance Sheet.

Business leaders seeking to benefit others, sometimes called benefit corporations will benefit themselves as their work occurs collectively, in alignment to their core values and in a way that is congruous with natural-living-systems process.   These practitioners will create a generative source of raw materials and a work-force to serve the growing field of regenerative development.

Colleges and Universities will benefit as programs are expanded to teach students a new set of best-land-management practices and students are engaged in place-based internships.

Just as we can take the approach of developing the health and well-being of our businesses and employees, we also can participate in a developmental relationship with the living systems of our community and its unique environment.

What this Work Will Produce

  • Exploration of the potential of this place with community members, organizations, guild members, loggers and farmers
  • Alignment of a shared core purpose around the patterns of life in the Blue Ridge region will occur between participating nature-based business owners, organizations, loggers and farmers.
  • Identification of leverage points to continually add value to the social, ecological and economic systems in the Blue Ridge region of NC   – a Qualitative and Quantitative understanding
    • Possible Examples: which college program(s) can support the development of a regenerative ecologist program, land management plans for landowners of micro-parcels, tasks and deliverables for a grant request, effective engagement and sourcing of a generative workforce and shared creativity
  • Facilitation of multi-level team meetings to allow for cross-fertilization of information and ideas.  The purpose of the Regenerative Development Process is to provide the freedom and time for communicating the relationships between the work of the Guild and community systems so that these systems may be most effectively optimized for social, environmental and economic benefit.
    • Providing support data and encouraging the teams at all levels to understand this new living-systems mental model and to help the team with the will to break old patterns of the design process (Change Management).
  • Development of “Storying of Place” summary document (essential patterns of life in this place); an understanding of the community’s relationship to this place (starts with the Organizational Engagement).
  • Development of a work plan that elucidates: Patterns of life supporting the community’s understanding of itself; identifying what is needed to engage the community, businesses, loggers, farmers, and ecosystem in a healthy interrelationship; the process and governance needed to inspire, grow, and manage these socioecological relationships in an on-going process.
  • Development of Principles (guides to action) to create value-adding relationships and establishing stakeholder partnerships and Master Plan design input that addresses these Principles
    • Ecological System Analysis and Design
    • Natural system restoration
    • Regenerative Agriculture
    • Metrics and Benchmarks to measure community, prosperity and natural system health.

The information that is gleaned from the process will offer all stakeholders invaluable insights into how their community works, how to serve it better and how to position their business within the whole system to create shared mutual benefits.

The Work Will Occur at Three Levels 

Level One
Organizations with a mission to develop the Blue Ridge Region will be supportive of these activities.  Some will choose to participate in the Regenesis process of Story Of Place.  Meetings will occur once weekly via on-line meetings with one final project and in-person meeting.

Level Two
May occur simultaneously or at a later date.

Small 2-3 person loggers, who are uniquely positioned to connect business leaders to land-owners will be supported in developing as forest ecologists, gaining important ecological and business skills, and long-overdue support.  Regenesis Group will coach loggers on an independent and collective basis in tandem with Bark House.  These meetings will occur in person.

Level Three
A max of 25 participants is allowed.

With a desire to join the guild, and having at least two years in operation, a core group of nature-based business owners (service providers and product makers) will engage with Regenesis Group on the development of this guild through a Regenerative Practitioner Series.  These business leaders will develop all aspects of a supply chain as they work in support of farmers who want to manage their land regeneratively, loggers who want to work generatively in forests, and families who want to develop within this ecosystem.

These activities will culminate in a work-plan and potential grant request.

The Process Will be Occurring With All Three Work Levels to Create Integrated-Benefit

  • Research – Participants will provide documents with technical information, literature, maps, and research – history, economics, culture, geology, hydrology, habitat, etc.
  • Group Work – shared assessments of living patterns of the place.
  • Stakeholder Engagement – To develop an understanding of how the community and people live – so as to ground an understanding of what they want – and what is needed for a healthy social, natural, and urban ecological system. These ‘kitchen table conversations’ also serve to engage stakeholders’ will and develop their understanding of the place and the potential of the Guild.
  • Story Development – We develop the story first as an instrument to guide the work of the Guild-design team.
  • Principles Development – Developed collaboratively with the design team.
  • Summary Document – To capture the thinking that was generated and serve as a touchstone going forward.
  • Coaching meetings to help develop the Guild and community core team’s ability to work with this living system and participate/guide adaptive management processes.  A consistent practice of meetings – of pro-actively engaging community stakeholders and Guild Members in working on new perspectives and policies: moving us beyond simplistic protectionism into a renewed role for humans supporting the evolutionary health of the area.
  • Facilitation of integrative design meetings/workshops to identify highly effective ecological and social leverage points – thus realizing cost and time synergies in the development of the Guild and subsequent workforces.
North Carolina led the conservation movement in the “first great experiment” with the first land management plan and the first school of forestry.  These two elements led to the formation of the National Forest Service in response to a time of crisis in our nation’s resource management.
It is natural that North Carolina will lead the US once again as the developers of regenerative resources.

 

Excerpts have been included in this page with permission from Regenesis Group. 

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