Starting OutThere are many good reasons why woodlot owners should asses the potential of non-timber forest products on their property:
- NTFPs can provide added income
- Learning about NTFPs can help you learn about the various components on your woodland
- NTFPs represent an opportunity to produce value-added products
- Harvesting NTFPs can become a past time to fulfill spiritual needs and enhance your well being.
When harvesting NTFPs for profit there are many factors that vary for timber production. You will need to take these in consideration to ensure your success:
Production cycle: NTFPs generally have a short production cycle relative to timber production. To help you plan where, when, how and how much to harvest so that the volume can be sustainably harvested, you should learn about the production cycle of the crop.
Perishability: Many of the products are perishable. You will need to design distribution and marketing systems that maintain quality of products from the woodland to the end user. This could require processing, handling and storage facilities.
Handling and distribution: Improper handling can reduce product quality and lead to lost revenue. You should ensure that harvesters and distributors know how to handle your product properly. Estimate volumes (yields) before distribution. Knowing the volume can help you arrange for transportation, storage and processing. When distributing small volumes, it is important to set up an efficient distribution process to reduce costs.
Market characteristics: You may have problems finding markets and delivering your products to markets, especially if you are looking to sell fresh produce. Non-timber forest products are often sold through a transient broker, onsite, at farmers' markets or via the Internet.
Price variation: There are often price variations and unlike selling timber products, there is limited opportunity to wait for better prices.
As these factors indicate, you will need a well-developed marketing plan.
If you are planning to sell NTFPs for extra income from your woodlot, you should keep in mind these issues:
Safety: It is very important to properly identify any product collected for human consumption. Not all NTFPs that are identified in popular literature as edible are safe. Certain edible product can be mistaken for noxious or poisonous species so be very careful when studying products.
Sustainable harvesting: When harvesting NTFPs you should develop a management plan including long-term objectives to ensure sustainability.
Species of special concern: There are certain NTFPs found in New Brunswick that are considered of special concern due to low numbers. A prime example of this is wild garlic (Allium canadense). It is suggested to only pick very small quantities of this plant in order to ensure population viability.