Non-Timber Forest Products

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As forestry educators, we often focus on timber sales (we want them to go well after all), but there are many more goods that can be harvested from woodlands for recreational or financial reasons.  These goods are usually called non-timber forest products (NTFPs), which although states what they aren’t, does a good job of indicating they are too numerous to try to categorize otherwise.  This entry will spend some time discussing what NTFPs are, why landowners might be interested in them, and what resources exist to support landowners who want to pursue various products.

Non-timber forest products are essentially anything that can be harvested from the woods.  This still includes wood products for non-commercial uses, such as firewood and character wood.  NTFPs may be plants or animals, but they may also be wild or cultivated.  For example, there are several good websites that teach you how to create logs suitable for starting your own mushroom crop.

There are a number of reasons landowners are interested in NTFPs.  Some landowners use it simply as a way to spend time in their woods.  Others collect products for their own for crafts, food, spiritual or medicinal uses.  A third group collects NTFPs for additional income opportunities.

NTFPs are used for food such as berries, mushrooms, maple syrup, nuts and game animals.  They can be used for crafts such as baskets (bark), wreaths (boughs), bowls (knots or burls), and flower arrangements.  Various roots, bark and berries have medicinal properties.  Fence posts and firewood are common products for on-site or home use.

Agroforestry is a management system that combines various aspects of agriculture and forestry for more production options.  These systems include any combination of agricultural crops, pasture animals, bees and aquaculture within a woodland setting.  Agroforestry systems allow someone to manage their forest for wood products, but still integrate other crops within the forest stands.

Future blog entries will focus on specific NTFPs and how to integrate them into your forestry plan.  In the meantime, check out several other good resources on NTFPs.  True North Woods hosts a Goods From The Woods Expo in Minnesota.  For examples of products, check out their website.  The USDA Forest Service has a detailed publication on NTFPs called  Income Opportunities in Special Forest Products.  TheUniversity of Minnesota also has several good resources on NTFPs.