Posts Tagged ‘economy’

We were taking a local mulch order the other day when the customer noted that she had been buying mulch every year for more than 10 years.  “The price of mulch has gone up so fast the past few years”, she noted.

Don’t we know it. And it just doesn’t seem right when economic conditions have been the worst in 70 years, with high unemployment, smaller consumer budgets–and lower demand for mulch and other landscaping materials.

It was more than higher grinding and transportation costs due to rising fuel prices. Although mulch raw material cost is always affected by higher fuel cost in raw material trucking and processing  (as is delivery to homeowners and middlemen), there was more to it this time. We were no longer riding the wave of higher home prices and home building.

Bark mulches are chiefly made from bark slabs trimmed from logs by mills as a by-product of  lumber production. As the construction industry slowed and the house builders were truly clobbered, mills sharply curtailed production. The result was less bark supply and lumber mills that were eager to raise pricing to make up for reduced lumber sales. Even land clearing operations diminished resulting in fewer wood chips on the market.

All this reduction in wood by-products ocurred just as wood pellet manufacturers, driven by a jump in those installing wood pellet stoves, took huge amounts of wood off the market.

Wood shavings and sawdust

Prices on farm supply products were even more affected by this.  Sawdust and wood shavings bedding for horses or in dairies is more of a necessity than mulch.  Here, too, there was less demand as folks “went a little longer” or maybe substituted hay or straw. But in this market there was a true shortage of wood shavings in the northeast US.  At one point we saw potential new customers for bulk shavings scrambling to find supply, but we were having to ration supply to our own best customers. We scrambled to find new suppliers, too, reaching further up into Canada.  We even set up one of our grinders to produce a new bedding product for us: “wood grindings”.  Sure, it was not ideal, but it was cheaper and usable.  Desperate times, desperate measures.

Two men with beards and hats stand in front of a bark hut.

Folks have made bark slab houses. We like grinding bark to mulch.

Thankfully that crunch seems to be behind us for now, but some pricing pressures remains.

Bridgewater Farm Supply is located in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

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