Photo by Aleksandar Radovanovic
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Pennsylvania (PA) produced over 425 million board feet of lumber in 2012. Mixed hardwoods make up the highest percentage (20%), of the forests in PA. The forest products industry is one business that can use all parts of a tree or log. From sawed lumber to selling the saw dust from the mill. Even logs that do not make lumber grade may be sold as pulp wood or fire wood.
Many of the farms in PA have wooded land included in the farm acreage. This information will highlight some of the possible enterprises you may enter into on your farm. Some of these woodlots may be small however, many farms have substantial wooded acreage. Penn State Extension's Small-scale and Part-time Farming Project produces a articles, including one titled Managing Small Woodlots. The National Sustainable Assistance Program (ATTRA) also has a publication titled Agroforestry: An Overview which is available as a free download. Also, The University of Missouri also has information from The Center For Agroforestry covering many potential income sources from the farm wood lot.
While the trees are growing and increasing in value in your forest or wood lot, you may choose to cultivate crops in the understory of the forest. Medicinal plants (especially ginseng) can be a high value crop if you have the correct soil types and structure. Medicinal plants have very specific areas and conditions under which they may be produced. Cornell University Extension has a publication that will point out how and where these crops may be produced. The Virginia Cooperative Extension has information governing the harvest and sale of wild ginseng. This information will be valuable as you consider your options.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA/NASS) Census of Agriculture, in 2012 PA produced over 96,250 gallons of maple syrup. Sap is harvested in late winter when day time temperatures are in the 45 to 60 degree range and night time temperatures are in the 20 to 30 degree range.
Maple Syrup Productionwill inform you of the basics of maple syrup production. Ohio State Extension has a more in-depth book titled The North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual which anyone considering syrup production should read.
The University of Vermont is in the state which is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States. View their information and research results.
Another high-value crop that may be harvested from the understory of your wooded land is mushrooms. Many types of mushrooms grow wild in the forest and many of these species are poisonous. Before picking any mushrooms for consumption, make very sure you know which are poisonous and which are not. Always go with someone very experienced with mushrooms for several harvest trips to be sure you know the difference.
One way to be very sure of the types of mushrooms is to cultivate them yourself. Penn State University Press has a book titled Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic. This book contains considerable information and a good place to begin your research. ATTRA also has a for sale publication titled Mushroom Cultivation and Marketing which you may choose to review. Cornell University's Small Farm Program has a group of Extension personnel which you may contact with questions and view their information. The site also contains informational blogs you may review.
The farm woodlot is not a place to store abandoned equipment as some may believe. There is considerable income potential in a small area but the work may be time-consuming but rewarding.