After a wildfire reduced one Oregon business to rubble last September, customers stepped up to help.

There wasn’t much left. That was the reality facing Jason Burns and his family after a wildfire tore through their town last September. Their business, located in Talent, Oregon, made raised garden beds from local cedar. When the fire reached their inventory lot, the kiln dried lumber and production facility ignited like tinder.

That was just over five months ago, yet somehow the family and their workers are back in production.

Related: Community Business Seeks Help Recovering From Wildfire

“We were starting from zero,” Burns says from his business’ new location in a nearby industrial park. “Basically, all of our equipment was destroyed.”

While a small insurance settlement got them started, more would be needed to get back in business. What helped pull them through was the support of loyal customers.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Naturalyards began accepting pre-orders soon after the fire, with a deadline of 8-10 weeks before orders could be shipped. Pre-orders were paid up front by customers who wanted to help.

“It was crucial to have that support,” Burns says. “That was the light at the end of the tunnel. It made a huge difference for us.”

The first thing Burns and his crew had to do was quickly rethink their manufacturing process in order to fit into their new location. Before the fire, business had been booming. Burns had leased a warehouse as the first step towards expanding. Suddenly that warehouse was needed more than ever.

“A lot of planning time went into trying to figure out how we would fit everything into a really small space,” he says. “We also started asking, ‘How can we get this done in more efficient way?’”

Reducing waste, increasing sustainability

Redesigning their manufacturing not only saved space, it increased the sustainability of their product. While Naturalyards has always been a business keen on sustainability—the company sources local wood that is SFI certified—Burns felt they could do better.

“Part of sustainability is making use of all your material, even the parts that don’t seem to have a place. Our new manufacturing approach lets us get more good parts out of lumber and throw away less waste…That has always been a priority for us, but this move enabled us to look again at how we do things.”

After losing everything in a devastating wildfire, Naturalyards was up and running again in five months. Staff hustled to get everything working again in the new space.

Getting their products back online as soon as possible was their top goal. Rehiring more than half of their original crew, Burns and his team worked hard and fast. “We hustled. We had key players who stepped up and helped. But we’re still setting up. There’s still work to be done.”

Burns notes how their laser focus on manufacturing has meant their offices still remain empty. With most of the administration happening from home due to COVID, he looks forward to the day when the whole team is working together again.

Challenges ahead

Others in the area are not so lucky. The town has been slow to recover. Driving down the highway through Talent and nearby Phoenix, there are still a lot of burned buildings. Everyone is doing their best, but “it’s a slow process, as you can imagine, with this much devastation,” he says. “There’s a rebuilding effort, but it’s going to take time.”

Given all the challenges Burns and his family have faced, they still look ahead with positivity to the future. Burns’ parents, who founded the company more than a decade ago, are semi-retired. Burns is the new CEO, and he’s working hard to build a team that can meet the growing demand for garden planters across the United States.

He also sees a silver lining. The hardship faced by the community brings out the best in people, Burns says. Shortly after the fire, one customer asked to donate his entire order to a school in need. Naturalyards matched the $830 order value for a total donation of $1660. The donation is going to Armadillo Technical Institute, a local charter school for at-risk students in Phoenix, Oregon, just blocks away from the Almeda fire.

“We are working with ATI to replace some existing raised beds that are falling apart, and to build a larger raised bed garden, where students can learn about gardening and grow food this spring,” Burns says.

The school has been using distance learning during the pandemic, but during the coming months anticipate a careful return to campus. The raised bed donation helps contribute to their efforts to expand outdoor learning and eating spaces on campus to help ensure a safe distance for students and staff.

naturalyards raised garden beds
Naturalyards products are made exclusively for Eartheasy from Oregon-grown cedar, which is more rot resistant than redwood. Each raised bed is coated with non-toxic waterproof sealant, which extends the natural lifespan of the wood. The corners are half-lapped and secured with stainless steel steel rods, making them quick and easy to install–without special tools.

For added strength and durability, all beds have the option to include trim. This attractive finish covers joints and locks boards in place. The innovative design allows the wood to shrink and swell for overall strength and durability.

To see Eartheasy’s full line-up of Naturalyards raised garden beds, visit our online store.

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