With good planning and careful attention to your crops, you can make a small profit. However, It is rare for this kind of farming to earn any more than supplemental income over a long period of time. If you are looking for potentially small income after expenses, and you enjoy the challenge of doing something new, forest farming might be for you.
If you are asking this question early on, then forest farming may be disappointing for you. Forest farmers are people who enjoy the outdoors, are curious about the complex ecology of the forest, and are willing to lose money in the interest of learning and gaining a unique experience. Profits will be small, yet the earnings can cover all equipment and labor expenses, perhaps the taxes too.
Many forest crops can be raised profitably in very small forests – less than five acres. More forest is better because the unique conditions required by forest crops are created by very large groups of trees.
Your capital expenses will vary depending on your project and how much equipment your already have. Most projects listed on this website require $250 – $1000 to get started. If you need to buy valuable equipment such as a chainsaw, a rototiller, or an ATV, you should plan on shelling out much more than $1000. One of the biggest expenses is fencing and purchasing the raw materials such as pots, seeds, or mushroom spawn. The money your spend on equipment may be tax deducible if you qualify.
Your forest has unique characteristics that go beyond the tree species. Many projects work best if you have shady, mature hardwood forests. If you have a pine plantation, a moist stand of saplings, or a very young forest, there are still some projects – like berry propagation – that will work out fine.
Time and family support. Make sure you are not adding forest farming onto a long list of incomplete projects in your life. To do it right, you will need to spend several hours a week or days per month devoted to your forest farming project. If your spouse, partner, or children have other ideas of what you should be doing with this precious time and discretionary money, make sure you have their backing. Otherwise, a well-intentioned project can become an unfortunate loss of time and money.
Content for this page was written or compiled by CCE of Schuyler County.
Senior Resource Educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Regional Director for the CCE Master Forest Owner volunteer program, Forest Manager for Cornell’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest
Last updated July 26, 2019