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September 19, 2018

Commodity Focus: Pairing Forest Farming Alternative Crops with Timber

Forest farming offers options for timber producers to diversify their operations and find new income streams for their agribusinesses.

Timber producers are turning to forest farming as a way to diversify with alternative crops. Unlike their row crop counterparts, timber producers have a long-term crop that takes years to mature, not just a season. However, there are a variety of shade-loving plants and crops that prefer the darker conditions found under timber’s forest canopy that can be grown and harvested for a profit. Explore the benefits and options found in the world of forest farming below.

Forest Farming Benefits

Timber producers don’t have the benefit of yearly receipts like conventional ag operations. Introducing new crops that offer an annual income helps diversify the timber operation and provide income between logging harvests.

Trees can be damaged by fire, wind, disease and pests just like yearly crops. Additionally, timber producers could suffer losses through downturns in the market; these can be difficult to predict ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. Adding additional crops helps offset the risk associated with such a long-term crop.

Forest Farming Options

The University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development offers a guide on alternative crops for forest farming for timber operators. These crops work well with the unique shade conditions found under a forest canopy. Timber producers can try forest farming with:

  • Mushrooms desire the dark, wet places of a forest floor. They are also a commodity that is in high demand.
  • A variety of different herbs prefer the shady or partial sun conditions of the forest floor. Herbs like Chicory, Echinacea, Leeks, and Goldenseal are well-suited to growing under timber trees. Some herbs can bring top dollar, like Ginkgo biloba and Ginseng.
  • Plants that naturally prefer shade are good candidates for forest farming on a timber farm.

Researching the best plants and processes can be done through your local Extension office or Tree Service Divisions of your local college or university.

AgAmerica Lending is always on the lookout for options that the country’s producers and operators can use to strengthen the finances of their agribusinesses. We have a history of helping the country’s ag industry grow and prosper with timber land loans and other agriculture land loan packages that offer low interest rates, long amortizations, and outstanding 10-year line of credit.

photo courtesy of USDA National Agroforestry Center

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