Land owners can profit from timber farming program

The East Tennessee Nursery in Delano in Polk County. WRCBtv.com photo

A type of tree used to make paper products is in demand, and if you're willing to donate your land you could make some money. The Huber Trees for Tennessee seedling program is looking for qualified landowners. The seedling program is a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's forestry division and Huber Engineered Woods (HEW) in Spring City.

Loblolly pines are the focus. They make up a very small portion of the state's forests, yet they are needed to make paper and construction products used every day. 

"Planted pine is a crop that's used to produce fiber for a number of purposes," says Tim Phelps, Forestry Communication and Outreach Leader.

The state-run East Tennessee Nursery in Delano (Polk County) can provide the seedlings at no cost. Landowners who may not be able to farming traditional crops can help grow the state's Loblolly population by making their land available. Nursery manager John Conn says it's a genetically improved species that can grow well in east Tennessee and grows in about half the time as most hardwoods.

"We have selected trees in the woods that we thought had superior characteristics. We test them out. The ones that actually turn out to be the best genetically, we establish an orchard," explains Conn.

HEW in spring city is buying more than 200,000 Loblollies from the nursery to use for future products, mainly oriented strand board which is similar to particle board..

"It will increase our revenue and help us come closer to a break-even situation," adds Conn.

It's a revived partnership that stopped in 2009 due to a plant shutdown at HEW. Procurement manager Robb Kidd is glad to be back in business.

"We consider it a renewable natural resource and it's going to help our wildlife, it'll provide jobs, income for the landowners," says Kidd.

It takes 12 to 15 years before landowners, who agree to take the seedlings, can have the trees thinned and start selling the timber for income. Conn says it's worth the wait.

"This will be valuable to keep land in forested condition," states Conn.