Making HAY from Your Forest

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

many times before being processed into a consumer product. Global markets are active. The Internet is helpful in locating dealers and individual markets.

Medicines & Pharmaceuticals

Medicinal compounds used for naturopathic remedies include a large number of herbs used to make teas and oils. These markets are well established and growing. Manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs also require specific chemical compounds contained in plants and trees.

Wild crafting or gathering these plants has historically provided income for many rural families.

Pharmaceuticals are not the only use for many of these plants. Some dyes, cosmetics, fungicides and insecticides also are derived from relatively common plants. Several botanical companies with headquarters in Missouri purchase and market botanical plant material throughout the world. All regularly publish price lists and specifications for the plants or plant parts they purchase.

Some of these plants are relatively rare and may actually be listed as rare or endangered. Landowners are advised to become familiar with harvesting regulations that might be applicable if these plants are marketed.


Bark is used for medicinal and "natural" food supplements.

Cottonwood bark is prized by wood carvers, who cut faces and caricatures from the thick plates. It is also used for bases for floral arrangements and crafts. It is softer than wood, but dense enough to maintain detail. Pieces 3 to 4 inches wide, 10 to 12 inches long and 2 to 3 inches thick would sell for $5 to $15 at craft and carving shows.

Bark with distinctive patterns (hackberry, winged elm, persimmon, etc.) or color may have a market in your area. The problem with harvesting bark products is that it usually kills the trees.

Use of private forest land for recreational pursuits offers private landowners potential for annual income. The landowner has almost unlimited options in this area, from doing almost nothing to intensive development.

Recreational Enterprises

The old real estate adage of "location, location, location," certainly is true here. If your land is located near population centers, your options are probably greater than if it is in a remote area. However, remoteness is a commodity that can be marketed also. Fee hunting and fishing have been sources of income in some areas of the country for many years. Urban families are willing to pay for places to enjoy nature photography, harvesting wild edibles, farm vacations, hiking, photographic tours, picnic areas and bird watching.

Allowing people access to your private property is not without risk. Liability insurance rates vary widely for recreational enterprises.


We've named only a few of the thousands of potential forest products. For the innovative landowner or entrepreneur, however, these brief descriptions will point the way to specific products and markets. To begin research, obtain a copy of Income Opportunities in Special Forest Products, Self Help Suggestions for Rural Entrepreneurs; USDA-Forest Service; Agricultural Information Bulletin No. 666, 1993. The initial printing has been sold out, but most libraries can obtain microfiche copies. For more specific assistance, contact the nearest Conservation Department office and talk with a resource forester.

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