Windbreaks, streamside buffer strips, living snowfences and other conservation plantings can greatly improve the quality of your land and your life. Conservation plantings provide wildlife habitat; protect soil from wind or water erosion; improve water quality by filtering sediment; and shelter homes, crops and livestock from harsh winds and blowing dust and snow.
With tight margins, you might be reluctant to take crop land out of production for conservation purposes. But what if your conservation planting produced commercially valuable, salable products? What if you could turn your conservation planting into another profit center on your farm or acreage?
With proper species selection, however, taking land out of crop production for a conservation planting doesn't have to mean taking a reduction in profits. There are many species of trees and shrubs that enhance the environment and produce commercially valuable specialty forest products. Some specialty forest product production operations may require a considerable start-up investment, while others may be implemented with minimal expense. To determine possible investment requirements and potential earnings, see our Specialty Forest Product Financial Calculator. Remember that specialty forest products have niche markets, so careful planning is required for their marketing.
Specialty forest products generally fall into four categories:
- medicinals and botanicals
- woody-based food products
- woody florals
- handicrafts and specialty woods
- Medicinals & Botanicals
- Woody-based Food Products
- Woody Florals
- Handicrafts & Specialty Woods
Medicinals & Botanicals
Medicinals and botanicals are plant-derived substances that are used in an enormous variety of food supplements, herbal health items, cosmetics and other products. Medicinals and botanicals can be developed from nearly all parts of trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants, including wood, bark, buds, leaves, roots, fruit, flowers, nuts, sap and pollen.
- Go to a list of medicinal-related Forestry Specialty Products.
Woody-based food products include nuts, fruits and some mushrooms. Nuts with commercial markets include black walnut, Chinese chestnut, pecan, hickory, butternut, hybrid hazelnut and ginkgo. Commonly harvested commercial "minor" fruits include chokecherry, highbush cranberry, sand cherry, currants, Corneliancherry dogwood, elderberry, Saskatoon (serviceberry or juneberry), Nanking cherry, chokeberry, buffaloberry, pawpaw and persimmon. High-value gourmet mushrooms, such an shiitake or oyster, may be grown on logs or wood chips in a forest setting.
These products may all be harvested for personal or commercial use. Markets for nut products exist for in-shell products, whole and crushed kernels, oils and soft abrasives from the shell. Fruits may be sold commercially for fresh fruit, jams, jellies, syrups, concentrates, flavorings and wines.
Woody florals include any woody plant species that has a colorful or unusually shaped stem, bud, flower, fruit or leaf. Common examples include pussy, fan and curly willow, red- and yellow-stemmed dogwoods, forsythia, apple, cherry, plum and witchhazel. These plants, and many others, are regularly used in the floral industry.
Woody decorative florals may be sold to florists, retailers or wholesalers. For information on which plants produce marketable woody florals and where you can buy them, click here. To buy Nebraska-grown woody florals, click here.
Select type of woody floral:
Handicrafts and specialty woods are frequently used by artisans. For example, “basket” or “Streamco” willow can be used to stabilize a streamside, as well as for rustic furniture. Smooth sumac, diamond willow, hickory and aspen seedlings can be used to create beautiful walking sticks. Cottonwood bark, butternut, basswood, figured walnut and catalpa are favorites among wood carvers.
- Search Specialty Forest Products
(Alphabetical Search by Common Name or Genus)
- Marketing Specialty Forest Products
- Specialty Forest Product Resources
- Retail Nursery Stock Sources for Plants That Produce Specialty Forest Products
- Wholesale Nursery Stock Sources for Plants That Produce Specialty Forest Products