OWC Grant Promotes Income Diversity for SWO’s

OWC Grant Promotes Income Diversity for SWO’s

Oregon Woodland Cooperative logoBy: Tom Nygren

The Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC) has just received a Value-Added Program grant (VAPG) for $150,000 from the Rural Business and Cooperative Development office of the USDA. The grant will prove working capital funds for the Cooperative to develop capabilities to harvest, process, and market non-timber forest products (NTFP).

The Cooperative has been in existence since 1981, and currently has 55 members and over 22,000 member acres. The Co-op has been evolving over time to meet changing market conditions and member needs. The recent downturn in lumber markets has accentuated the need for Co-op members to diversify their income sources from their woodlands. Non-timber forest products can fill the “gaps” in the income stream for members, as they increase the total income available from managing woodlands for forest products and values. Oregon Grape is an example of a non-timber forest product the OWC is studying the feasibiity ot. It can be chipped and dried for medicinal use. Photo by Janet Burgess, Stock-xchngThe VAPG will provide matching funds to the Co-op for identifying viable NTFPs, such as essential oils, medicinal plants in the forest, craft and niche products, and other potential income producing products. Members who wish to participate can then get expert assistance in harvesting, processing, and marketing their products. Through the grant, the Co-op will be able to acquire this expert assistance, and provide the organization and structure for processing products of members efficiently. The grant will also provide the funds needed to acquire expert marketing advice and assistance. The grant requires “matching fund” from the Co-op. These “matching funds” will be generated as “in-kind” – the value of the time and material contributions of Co-op members and partners.

This is the third VAPG that the Co-op has acquired over the past 8 years. The first planning grant enabled the Co-op to prepare a professional business plan. The second grant, for working capital, enabled the Co-op to develop capabilities for a variety of marketing strategies, such as Co-op marketing of logs and special milling of products for retail sale. The Co-op has also expanded its products to include an on-going bundled firewood program and a floral greenery retail sale program.