Jewett Farms & Company

For Newburyport and York cabinetmaker, crafting an enduring product is as green as it gets

Written by Jim Cavan, Green Alliance

This classic country kitchen on Lake Winnipesaukee includes high ceilings and cupboards with traditional raised panel doors and paneled ends, beautiful soapstone countertops and a curly maple kneading bench.With so many big box stores housing aisle upon aisle of composite cabinetry, seldom do you encounter a kitchen motif older than a decade. Like many other products, furniture and cabinetry are fast-becoming mere consumables, often disposed of without a second thought. The quintessential Yankee (and “green”) philosophy of making the most out of what you have, while creating something as beautiful as it is enduring, is continually being buried deeper in the modern consciousness. Jewett Farms & Co. Cabinetmakers intends to resurrect the concept of green and custom cabinetry, and along the way help to define green for the woodworking industry itself.

Founded in 1999 by Matthew Lord, Jewett Farms began its journey with the vision of creating a furniture and cabinetmaking design company that embodied the woodworking traditions of old New England. Jewett was initially a one man show before Mike Myers contracted Lord to help finish his own kitchen. Myers was so impressed with Lord’s work that he decided to become a full partner in the company, and the duo opened their York, Maine studio shortly thereafter.

Nine years later, in 2008, Myers and Lord unveiled their first satellite showroom in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Since then, the company has enjoyed steady growth despite a challenging economic climate. While part of the reason for the company’s success has to do with the quality of its products, Jewett Farms’ partner, Elena Ruocco Bachrach, thinks just as much credit is due to the company’s down-to-earth ethos.

“For us, every client is unique, and in that sense it makes our approach to a given project very organic,” explained Bachrach. “The company culture is incredibly team-oriented, and we apply the same green quality control principles to any project we do, any customer we work for and any collaboration we are a part of with our professional colleagues.”

The company’s progressive commitment to collaboration and quality goes hand-in-hand with its equally strong dedication to green and sustainable business practices. “We’re definitely driven with quality and durability in mind, things we consider very green in and of themselves,” said Bachrach. “Beyond that, the materials we use are the best and greenest available.” 

Jewett Farms’ wood sources, for example, are almost without exception local and sustainably harvested. The manufacturing process routinely makes use of reclaimed, antique and old-growth woods. The finishing arm of the operation uses water-based finishes, paints, stains and glazes only, and the sheet stock material is formaldehyde-free.

The Jewett Farms’ offices are similarly green-minded, with e-mail invoicing, electronic faxing and an aggressive recycling program in the office, studio and workshop. Wood cut-offs from various projects are used in the designing and building of cutting boards, spice rack pullouts, cutlery dividers and other cabinetry accessories, while the sawdust generated from machinery is provided free of charge to local horse farms for animal bedding. In short, nothing is left to waste—a green approach to be sure, but also one that is time-tested and reliable.

Clean lines and all-white cabinetry with Shaker-style feet gives this kitchen the feel and authenticity found only in a truly custom design.Myers and Lord have plenty of green plans for the future as well, including a more comprehensive wood recycling program; more efficient lighting for each of the company’s showrooms; decreasing or eliminating the studio’s dependence on oil for heating; bolstering the studio’s insulation to help make it more energy-efficient; exploring the possibility of a solar hot water or photovoltaic system; generating zero landfill waste; more effective use of natural lighting; and a program to help capture wastewater for future use on the property.

The staff also continually seeks effective avenues for educating their clients about ways to become “greener.” Their Continuing Education Series, held on most Wednesdays at the Newburyport facility, features tutorials on subjects ranging from earth-friendly insulation to floor refinishing, are conducted by local businesses and are free and open to the public. Jewett Farms also hosts Lunch & Learn programs for colleagues and clients and organic wine tastings and cooking classes that, depending on the season, focus on local produce.

Jewett Farms is becoming a Newburyport staple, but when they started advertising their green credentials, they joined the Portsmouth-based Green Alliance, a green business union and discount member co-op that helps to raise the profiles of green businesses throughout the region. Jewett Farms offers Green Alliance members fifty percent off design fees, rendering their unique brand of quality and craftsmanship accessible to more people.

Jewett Farms is currently in the process of finalizing plans to expand their cabinetmaking facility and studio, efforts which Bachrach hopes will support the growing interest in the company’s unique approach to design and custom cabinetry.

“The sensibility about green is growing here and in wider communities, and we’ve definitely seen growing interest in that aspect of projects,” said Bachrach. “But this is something we’ve been doing all along. This is not a new marketing approach for us. This is who we are and it has always impacted how we approach our designs, our craft, our business, our clients and the world environment.”

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