Each year, forest landowners consider starting new businesses to make the most of their wildlife, water, cropland, and forest resources. Some landowners are traditional farmers who want to diversify their operations. Others are new property owners in search of a sustainable, long-term source of income or recent retirees who now have time to start a hobby business.
Unfortunately, many such endeavors are less than successful -- or fail altogether -- because the landowner lacked information to make informed decisions; had insufficient technical, business, or marketing skills; or had a shortsighted view of the enterprise. A new book, Forest Landowner's Guide to Evaluating and Choosing a Natural Resource-Based Enterprise ($19.95 plus S&H/sales tax; 102 pages; 2004), leads potential business owners through an evaluation process to better their chances of launching a successful business. The guide will be a useful resource for landowners, extension educators, consultants, and other natural resources professionals.
The book begins with a discussion of proper stewardship of forest resources. This is of utmost importance, because if lands are improperly managed, the natural resources for any business can't be sustained. The book then guides readers through a step-by-step process of sieving through potential new business ideas. Discussions, worksheets, and illustrative examples using the fictional Smith family help readers assess personal and family goals; determine financial, labor, and management resources; assess the site and inventory natural resources; and evaluate potential markets and marketing options.
The last half of the book includes detailed enterprise budgets for eleven different businesses, including Christmas trees and holiday greenery, custom portable sawmills, vacation cabins, shiitake mushrooms, fee fishing, hunting leases, horse boarding, and ginseng. A four-page appendix lists other sources of information and counsel, including state, regional, and federal government agencies; web sites; and books and magazines.
Some who work through the exercises in the Forest Landowner's Guide might conclude that starting a forest-based enterprise is not for them. Others might decide on a completely different enterprise from the one initially considered. And others will forge ahead with their original business plan with more confidence. In any case, the guide will help landowners save time and money through more informed decision making.
The Forest Landowner's Guide to Evaluating and Choosing a Natural Resource-Based Enterprise was written by Jonathan S. Kays, an Extension Specialist in Natural Resources with Maryland Cooperative Extension, and Joy Drohan, a former Faculty Extension Assistant with Maryland Cooperative Extension. It was published by NRAES, the Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service.