Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Non-Timber Forest Products: Oregon Woodland Cooperative

Date of visit: July 2, 2019
Type of event: Study tour
Topic: Non-timber forest products from small woodlands
Organization: Oregon Woodland Cooperative
Location: Beaverton, Oregon
Hosts: Neil and Ardis Schroeder
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager

International Fellows with hosts Neil and Ardis Schroeder (center) underneath their grapevine
Neil and Ardis, our hosts for this study tour, have known each other since childhood. When they gave us a tour of their backyard forest, we could feel their passion for the trees and land. Neil’s father was also a forester who would ask for extra seedlings of various species from different experimental forests during his work travels. Neil would help his father plant these seedlings on their forestland when he was little. Now, these trees are ready to harvest, and some have just been installed as flooring in Neil’s daughter’s room. So, using timber from trees you have planted yourself is possible.

Neil Schroeder explaining how to make Christmas
boughs from Western Red Cedar 
The Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC) currently has 75 members with approximately 30,000 acres of land. During the 1940s and 1950s, loggers purchased timber from small family-owned forests at prices far below normal market value. Sawmills tend to pay less to small private forestland owners than to large timber companies. Additionally, landowners need revenue to pay their land tax. Therefore, OWC was founded in 1980 in order to protect the rights of small woodland owners and to strengthen the local economy. OWC members are all private forest landowners who own and manage family forest farms. The average size of their land is between 45-50 acres. Some members, like Neil, are very active and help the coop voluntarily, while some others are not as active but like to show their support for the OWC’s ideals.

In addition to timber, the co-op provides many non-timber forest products (NTFPs) from their members’ forests, including products to heat your home (firewood), decorate your surroundings (boughs, rustic furniture), and improve personal health and well-being (essential oils and aromatherapy). The co-op emphasizes providing sustainable, local, consistent, and premium-quality products. Direct delivery from the forest owners to stores is offered. They harvest to order to supply the freshest greens possible. Order far in advance is not necessary. All these aspects make the co-op very successful and competitive.
Various marketed and potential non-timber forest products of OWC

You can find more information about the Oregon Woodland Cooperative in our previous WFI blog entry.

Lessons Learned and Highlights from this year's Fellows:
1. Learning about NTFPs was very important for me as someone who is looking to increase income generated by forests.
2. The OWC’s target is a niche market with high-quality products.
3. Creating a coop allows for the respect of loggers and reaches a niche market which provides members with regular benefits and income.
4. We discussed issues such as drying firewood to ensure any pest species present leave the wood before it is transported and sold.
5. We were shown a new forest business opportunity; Neil showed us a variety of products that can be marketed through the aggregation of value to NTFPs but for this to be successful, you need to remove the middlemen from the value chain and encourage joint commercialization.
Besides regular firewood, OWC also provides
smaller wood pieces for chiminea use
6. This is an interesting case study for eco-cultural tours; Neil also shows interest in marketing agroforestry products from Central America.
7. Discovering the full potential of forests to make forestry more profitable and offer more opportunities for the younger generations.
8. Woodlands can provide much more economic benefits than just timber.

An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives 

Although the sale of timber remains the primary source of income from forestland, NTFPs are essential for most small landowners because timber supply is inconsistent, and you have to wait for a long time in between harvests. A long period of trial and error is usually required before any product becomes marketable. Neil, who is always willing to learn new ideas, plays a vital role at the co-op, as do some other volunteers.
Fen-hui Chen, International Fellow from Taiwan,
immersing herself in various NTFPs

Telling stories behind the product, and creating connections between the client and the product, is a great strategy and really makes things different. I believe people are willing to pay more money if they know where and how goods are made, especially if it was in a sustainable way.

Taiwan’s forests cannot be used for timber forest products by law. Local and indigenous Taiwanese people who live in or close to these forests are seeking sustainable NTFPs to improve their livelihood. As a researcher, I am always looking for creative, new, unique, and marketable NTFPs from our forests. This tour helps me to think outside the box!

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