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The Log Barn – A Modern, Environmentally Friendly Business

The Log Barn - Firewood

Mike Gillman, owner and founder of the Log Barn in Canterbury, is highly entrepreneurial and committed to improving customer experience with new technologies. He balances this modern approach with a passionate commitment to growing his business in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable ways possible. For over 30 years he has been supplying his customers in Canterbury, Thanet, Ashford and beyond, with high quality hardwood logs and kindling, sourced from local coppice woods, to provide fuel and kindling for their open fires and wood-burners.

Make or Break

Initially the business operated as a secondary income for Mike and his family and his productivity and profitability rose and fell depending on customer demand and his personal circumstances. In 2009 Mike realised it was make or break time and he either had to commit to growing his firewood business, or find employment locally and no longer be his own boss. He had always been resistant to public funding, believing that entrepreneurs should stand on their own two feet. However, he knew that others in the local firewood industry had successfully applied for funding and if he wanted to even up the playing field and gain a competitive advantage, he needed to make some changes and get some business support. He decided to apply to the Rural LEADER Funding Program to acquire the financial input he needed to modernise the equipment and premises of the Log Barn.

Cracking On

Mike was initially apprehensive about the application process. However, he was pleasantly surprised at the high level of support and encouragement he received from then Program Manager Matthew Hall, who helped Mike complete the forms, and whose mantra was always “crack on and get it done”! Mike admits the process was hard work, but says that Matthew helped lighten the load and that the end result made everything worthwhile, as he was granted £60k of funding in 2 tranches, £40k for the first phase and £20k for the second. He spent most of the first round of funding on equipment including a tractor and crane to move the timber; a telehandler for loading and handling; and a modern firewood processor.  to eliminate the need for painful manual lifting. The new equipment eliminated the need for painful manual lifting and sped up all the business processes for a better customer experience.  The second round of funding was used to build a huge log barn in which to dry the wood.

Supporting the Local Community

With the remaining money and the profit he was making as a result of the modernisation, Mike started employing local contractors to carry out his client work. He also hired a young man from Hadlow College, who he trained up for two years and who has now started his own local forestry business. Mike is passionate about forming partnerships and supporting other local businesses in the community and is delighted that the LEADER funding enabled him to increase his local spend from next to nothing to the £18k per quarter he now feeds back into the local business community. Mike says of the LEADER funding process, “It transformed my business and my life. There’s no doubt in my mind that without the LEADER funding I would have had to take a job driving a truck or in a local hardware store…”

A Smaller Carbon Footprint

It’s important to Mike to be accountable for his carbon footprint and take all possible steps to protect the environment. All of the Log Barn’s logs are sourced from local coppice with sustainable cropping plans to ensure regrowth and future supply. These methods provide sustainable fuel, benefit the environment and ensure that the flora, fauna and character of the North Downs are kept intact. After being logged, the wood is kiln-dried, using a process that uses waste woody material to provide the heat and solar panels to provide the power for the drying fans. The CO2 produced when the logs are burned, is combated by the vigorous regrowth of the coppice woodland. Mike is now waiting for vehicle technology to catch up, as he would like to source an electric or hydrogen cell powered van powerful enough to carry the 1400 tonnes of wood he transports each year. As soon as there is one available on the market he’ll be looking for funding to enable him to upgrade again to greener vehicles and machinery.

If you would like to buy your wood form the Log Barn or talk to Mike about potential business partnerships, then you can contact him via his website www.thelogbarn.co.uk or by email mike@thelogbarn.co.uk or phone 01227 709276.

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