GreenWood, a nonprofit that trains woodworkers to make high-quality products from their local forests, will offer its first Artisan EcoTour in Puerto Rico on May 15-25, featuring workshops led by Michael Fortune and René Delgado.
“It’s exciting to me because I know there’s a large global audience for ecotour experiences and a large North American audience for high-quality woodworking instruction. I have never seen these two together, but it just makes so much sense to me,” says Scott Landis, GreenWood’s founder and president.
GreenWood launched its initial artisan training program in Honduras in 1993 as a field project for the Woodworkers Alliance for Rainforest Protection, and its later efforts led to the founding of the Forest Stewardship Council certification program. In creating the Artisan EcoTour program, GreenWood collaborated with the USDA/Caribbean Climate Hub.
Landis says the idea of combining workshops with an immersion in the tropical rainforest will not only enlighten participants but serve a greater cause helping to strengthen the connection between Puerto Rico’s diverse ecosystem and its historic community of talented wood artisans.
“The idea is to strengthen that connection both with folks on the island and people internationally who may not be aware of those valuable resources,” Landis says.
“The reality is that Puerto Rico in the last 120 years since U.S. took possession has essentially been reforested. It’s gone from being almost entirely agriculture, was maybe 5 percent forest when the U.S. took over, to 65 percent today. Yet, Puerto Rico imports virtually all of its wood off the island from the U.S. at great cost and economic loss to the island. We’re aiming to strengthen the connection between that valuable, sustainable natural resource, local artisans and island markets.”
Fortune, a contemporary furniture maker in Canada, and Delgado, director of the Taller Escuela woodworking school in Puerto Rico, will guide participants through six days of design and furniture construction with a focus on salvaged hurricane wood from Hurricane Maria in 2017. Three days of planned forest tours will be interspersed to compliment the workshop experience.
“The hands-on ecotour component will involve getting out into the field with professional guides to see what it’s like to regenerate a forest after a Category 5 hurricane. The island was devastated four years ago, and millions of cubic yards of wood were almost entirely wasted because there was no local capacity to process of get it to market,” says Landis.
The May event is limited to 12 participants and Landis says GreenWood is intent on hosting similar Artisan EcoTour programs in Puerto Rico in the future.
For more, visit greenwoodglobal.org.
This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.