Wild Forest Goods

Expanding small woodland income opportunities

through economic and ecological diversification.

Review of the National Core Adviser Meeting, Portland, Oregon May 2010

Julie Miedtke – UMN Extension, Forestry

Dave Wilsey – UMN Extension, Forestry

Dean Current – UMN Center for Integrated Natural Resource and Agricultural Management (CINRAM)

In late May, we joined a remarkable assembly from across the United States and Canada, gathered for discussions about the potential roles of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in landowner income-generation and diversification strategies.

In attendance were woodland owners, members of one Oregon Woodland Cooperative, researchers, educators, ecologists, entrepreneurs, foresters, and others. Over the course of three days, the group held engaging conversations, an exchange of information and resources and emerged with an undeniable commitment to help landowners across the nation diversify their livelihoods through NTFPs.

Neil Schroeder-Oregon Woodland Cooperative talking about Oregon Wild Grape.

A core discussion topic was the need to help family forest landowners, whose holdings represent a substantial component of our forest land base, develop strategies that will help cover the costs associated with land ownership. Recent downturns of our economy and consolidation of global wood markets have negatively affected the financial viability of landowners in Minnesota and across the nation. The conference solidified the idea that NTFPs are available option that will help landowners diversify their asset portfolio, providing supplemental income and the potential to expand green jobs.

IFCAE’s Eric Jones leading discussion during field trip.

A Brief overview of a few topics:

1. Financing:

There is a need to look beyond traditional financing options to helpgrow a forest based business that will include help to write business plans and provide sound advice. There are some opportunities including: USDA Value Added Agricultural Product Market Development Grant (VADG) was authorized by the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000 and has two primary objectives:

  • Encourage independent producers of agricultural commodities to furthered refine these products increasing their value to end users.
  • Establish an Information resource center to collect, disseminate, coordinate, and provide information on value-added processing to independent producers and processors.

ShadeFund is a new, joint project of The Conservation Fund developed through the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities. ShadeFund

sustains rural communities and the environment by connecting entrepreneurs with investors. Individual contributors can support entrepreneurs who are growing forest-friendly businesses. ShadeFund works to create jobs, preserve working forests and save rural communities across the US and makes loans to small-scale businesses that keep forestland in sustainable production supporting: sustainable forestry and wood products, other forest dependent products such as: maple syrup, wood crafts, shade grown plants, natural medicine, biomass and renewable energy and ecotourism.

Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, is a common conifer found on the west coast.

2. Market identification:

A common challenge is the need to identify and characterize markets, provide connection strategies to markets, and to identify organizations or representatives who can help make connections to local, national and international markets. The seasonal nature and scale of operations provide challenges form NTFPs, but there are opportunities for integration into overall management strategies that are in alignment with private landowners goals for their land. UMN Extension’s Dave Wilsey and CINRAM’s Dean Current shared some of their work on the identification and development of a “green” market opportunity for Eco-Palms, which are sourced in Latin American and sold to Church congregations in the United States for Palm Sunday celebrations. This work has been underway for over ten years!

3. Labor:

A discussion on challenges and opportunities for landowners to help understanding the full suite of options for securing labor to harvest, process and market NTFP markets.

4. Stellar Programs:

Institute for Culture and Ecology is currently developing a business directory working with Oregon State Extension, helping conduct in-depth market analyses on NTFPs with strong existing or emerging markets, case studies, a landowner survey, and are the catalyst for developing regional and national NTFPs networks.

North Carolina State University-Jeanine Davis is leading programs in the SE that are relative to commercial development on small forest lands, including overlap between NTFPs and Agroforestry. Check out her website—she’s fabulous!

Oregon Woodland Cooperative– a group of woodland owners formally organized into a cooperative to improve each member woodland owner’s ability to manage their woodland and market their woodland products over the long term through members helping members. Members take advantage of educational opportunities, networking opportunities and the services of the Cooperative’s contracted professionals to improve their ability to manage their woodlands and market their woodland products in a manner they could not do alone. Interestingly, Oregon Woodland Cooperative is supporting research on the Oregon Wild Grape, which is used as a medicinal being conducted through Extension.

Field trip:

NTFPs in action-John Belton, a retired university professor of biology, hosted a field trip to his land in Clackamas County. During his land tenure, he has been managing his land for wildlife (bear, mountain lion, elk and over thirty species of birds) and recreation. It was an outstanding opportunity to learn about how he has actively managed in land, thinning his stand of Douglas fir seven times over the last fifty years and harvesting boughs is part of his strategy.

Gusto the Truffle Dog in action

-Jean Rand & Gusto the truffle dog provided an outstanding demonstration on using a dog to find Oregon’s native truffles. Gusto, a black lab, is a trained search and rescue dog, that also uses her keen nose to hunt truffles.

Conference Sponsors:

Dave’s work addresses forest livelihoods, focusing on Tribal traditions and uses. He’s based in Cloquet, MN.

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  1. Thank you to Julie, Dean and Dave for this excellent summary. Minnesota and other upper midwest states are another hotspot for NTFP activity, from the innovative White Earth Recovery Project to the many commercial businesses throughout the region to the important research and development activities in university and county extension. More than ever it is a critical period to network and financially support these regional efforts that can help small landowners diversify their income by managing their lands for greater biodiversity and culturally important species.

  2. Great article!!
    Hi Julie, Shipped all the skunk cabbage root. Now drying Juniper leaf.
    Ed Fletcher has requested samples of various products. This proves that meetings like this are beneficial for everyone. May the fish boil be with you.


  3. Just finished reading the book “The Tiger” from which was mentioned fir needle oil. Can this be done with US species? I’m only thinking of very small production for personal use and as gifts.

    1. Kim,
      Yes, fir needle oil can be distilled from US speices. Abies balsamea, or balsam fir, would be one example from our region. It is the oils in balsam that make it so popular for Christmas trees and wreaths. The method of extraction for essential oils from fir trees would be steam distillation [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_distillation ], as essential oils cannot stand up to the high heat of traditionally distillation. If you look online you will likely find a number of suggested uses for balsam fir oil. I have never distilled nor used this product and must emphasize that you should look into this carefully on your own, preferably consulting with someone experienced in production and/or use. Ehow provides an interesting home steam distillation tutorial [ http://www.ehow.com/how_2193197_do-steam-distillation-home.html ].