Saturday July 13, 2013

Windham Foundation articles lacked vital perspective

Editor of the Reformer:

First, let me say I love the Grafton Village Cheese Company and the Windham Foundation. The staff and what the foundation stands for has helped evolve the way I view the world and business.

I felt the Reformer lacked additional perspectives on the articles recently published about the Windham Foundation. Therefore, I would like to make a few points of clarification.

I executed the production projection given to me on my first day of employment (and quarterly revisions by the foundation board). We started co-packing large volumes of young raw milk cheddar for Whole Foods which they aged themselves; it did not reach consumers until it was properly aged. This was done to reduce the financial burden the cheese company placed on the foundation by having such a large cheese inventory.

We did not change our business model to focus on commodity cheddar. All Grafton makes is raw milk cheddar (except flavored cheeses and cheddar curds which should be sold before the 60-day holding period of raw milk products), which has never been, and never will be, a commodity. The statement that we started producing commodity products is not accurate.

We also tripled the sales of two-year old cheese over the three years, exceeding expectations. Two-year cheddar was Grafton’s highest margin of return and highest pounds sold, before, during, and, I also assume, after my time as president.

In my opinion, which has not changed since 2008, the plant in Brattleboro should not have been built if the expectation was to generate cash flow on only producing 1.2 million pounds of aged raw milk cheddars.

The Windham Foundation staff and board of trustees lacked someone with milk marketing expertise, and knowledge of how the cheese manufacturing industry operates on a national and worldwide level. That is why they expanded in the wrong fashion in 2007. This is why they searched for someone like myself in 2008.

Only someone with a dairy economics background would have the knowledge to know how to achieve this. I am concerned because to my knowledge they haven’t filled the void that was left when I returned to my 119-year-old cheese and butter business.

They need someone on the board of trustees that has spent their life managing the economics of cheese plant operations.

I wish them all the best.

Adam Mueller,

Minerva, Ohio, July 12

You can run a successful business in Grafton

Editor of the Reformer:

My husband and I are both employees of the Windham Foundation, Russell for 11 years and myself for almost 4. My husband has lived in Grafton his entire life, and I have lived here for the 16 years we have been married. Aside from working for the Foundation, we also run two successful businesses without a stipend from anyone or anything. It is a fact that you have to work hard and, unfortunately, sometimes more than one job, in order to live in Vermont. In the 11 years of employment we have been through three CEO’s, four Inn keepers, two different VPs, and many other employees have come and gone; some willing and some not. Of course those who were let go or asked to leave are not happy about it, who would be? My husband found employment at the Foundation after being laid off from his job of 11 years. There was a 2-year-old at home, and a baby due in two weeks. He didn’t make his life’s mission to destroy that company, he moved on when the stakes were a lot higher.

As a member of this community and a past Select Board member of this town I can tell you that the Windham Foundation has given a lot to this town. Just in the past month the Foundation gave the town a gift of $50,000.00 for the Select Board to do with as they wish.

The past mistakes such as moving the cheese plant to Brattleboro can’t be blamed on the current board and president. Those were choices made by past presidents and employees and boards.

If a business can’t survive in this "ghost" town then why are John Cray and Kathy Metellica opening one in their home on Aug. 1? Some of the self sustaining businesses in this town are: The Grafton Store, My Minds Design, Blake Hill Farms Preserves, Rushton Farm, Jud Hartman, Jamie Gregory Trucking, Ivor Stevens Grounds Maintenance, Arol Ward Excavating, Record Welding, Record Property Management, Grafton Garage, J & M Auto, Plummer’s Sugar House and Saw Mill, Wright’s Sugar House, Stoneman Masonry, Grafton Bakery, Hallock’s Boarding, MJS Landscaping to name some. It is hard work to live here, but we wouldn’t change it.

As far as we are concerned some of the best and brightest are still here.

Please don’t just take the opinion of some disgruntled past employees, take it from two happy ones as well. Lisa and Russell Record

Grafton, July 10

Help us find our family heirloom

Editor of the Reformer:

On the evening of July 4, at the Living Memorial Park, our family’s beloved Gibson acoustic guitar became "lost in the crowd", and has been missing since. It is a brown guitar with lighter maple binding around the top and sound hole. The guitar was in a black, hard-shell guitar case with a plush yellow inside lining.

Please, if you found this guitar, or have seen it, call us at 802-387-4812 or 802-451-6006. We are heartbroken. I learned to play on this guitar in fourth grade (1967), and our son is now learning. It is not a high value guitar, but, to us, it means the world! We will gladly pay a $100 reward for its safe return -- no questions asked.

Dick Struthers

Rosemary Lewando

Rory Struthers

Putney, July 10

Thank you, Mesabi

Editor of the Reformer:

Kudos to Mesabi, LLC. The town of Brattleboro is indebted to you for your magnanimous commitment and contribution to revitalizing the Brooks House. Job well done and best wishes for continued success.

Peter and Suzanne McNeary,

Brattleboro, July 10