From the Washington Post
Forest farming can be an attractive option for property owners who want to earn more from their land without cutting timber.
It generally involves thinning existing woodlots to leave the
best canopy trees for wood production while opening the forest floor to
understory crops — things like mushrooms, blackberries and ginseng.
The combination of those products with timber “is a real winner,”
said Kenneth Mudge, an associate professor of ornamental horticulture at
Cornell University. “It’s a good way to get some early returns while
waiting for your trees to grow large enough to be processed into
The potential is huge, said James Chamberlain, a
non-timber forest products technologist with the USDA Forest Service
Southern Research Station, at Blacksburg, Va.
There are about 53
million acres of family-owned forest in Appalachia alone, Chamberlain
said. “Much of that area has habitat for growing herbaceous plants that
can be harvested.”
Almost any shade-tolerant plant or fungus will grow in a wooded setting.
“I recommend native plants, though, that are attuned to the area you’re interested in,” Chamberlain said.
The costs of producing non-timber products in forest farm setups can vary dramatically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.
“Maple syrup or woods cultivated for ginseng production may need an
investment of several hundred dollars or more to purchase the necessary
equipment to get started,” the agency said in a fact sheet. “On the
other hand, craft materials, leeks, native fruits and nuts that are
already growing on a site may not require any out-of-pocket costs other
than containers to gather the products while harvesting.”
difference between forest farming and “wildcrafting,” which is
gathering and processing naturally occurring forest products on private
or public lands.
“Advantages forest farmers have over wild
harvesters is they can produce large volumes of the product that is in
demand, their product will be more uniform and they can provide quality
control,” said Jeanine Davis, an associate professor at North Carolina
State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension
Center, at Mills River.
Read the full article here