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The Center for Agroforestry

Agroforestry Practices

Forest Farming

In forest farming, high-value specialty crops are grown under the protection of a forest canopy that has been modified to provide the correct shade level. Crops like ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, and decorative ferns are sold for medicinal, culinary, and ornamental uses. Forest farming provides income while high-quality trees are being grown for wood products. Turkey, deer, songbirds and wildlife may find ideal habitat in a forest farming setting.

Forest Farming Success Story

Shiitake tray

Cultivating Specialty Mushrooms through Forest Farming
Ozark Forest Mushrooms, Timber, Mo.

One of the state's most significant demonstrations of a successful forest farming practice is Dan Hellmuth and Nicola MacPherson's Ozark Forest Mushrooms, Timber, Mo. The entrepreneurial couple established the specialty mushroom operation in 1990 on what was then a timber operation, and coordinate every step of the value-added process, from the inoculated log to packaged, consumer-friendly products. Under the guidelines of the Stewardship Incentive Program, administered by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Hellmuth and MacPherson harvest a renewable supply

Log stacks
of mushroom bed logs while simultaneously maintaining their forested acres in a healthy ecological state -- and what began 14 years ago with only 100 oak logs in production has grown to include 12,000 shiitake logs in production.

A new greenhouse with a wood furnace for burning spent/culled shiitake logs has recently been completed for researching mushroom cultivation during the cold season and sustainable usage of wood resources.

Dan and Nicola

"It's hard work that doesn't stop," MacPherson said, "but when I walk into a restaurant and see my mushrooms on the menu, or walk into a supermarket and see our products on the shelf, that gives me huge pleasure and makes all the work worthwhile."

Markets for Ozark Forest Mushrooms include retail grocers and chefs across Missouri. Visit to learn more. The business was also featured in a previous issue of Green Horizons.

Additional Resources:

Medicinal Herbs: A Forest Farming Opportunity

Ginseng plant

Market prices for ginseng, black cohosh and other medicinal herbs are rising. These shade-loving plants thrive in the canopy created by a forest farming practice.

Researchers at the University of Missouri Southwest Center at Mt. Vernon, Mo., are collaborating with the Center for Agroforestry on one of the nation's premier studies for the cultivation of Black Cohosh for medicinal uses. Read more about this project.

Ginseng in bed setting

Ginseng: The Center's collaborative research program includes work to study the effects of deer on American ginseng, as well as ongoing research on cultivation of simulated ginseng in Missouri. Read report "Effects of Deer Herbivory on Population Dynamics of American Ginseng."

Golden Seal Turkeys

Value-Added Forest Products:

A successful forest farming practice begins with sustainable forest management and timber stand improvement strategies, which can help create an environment for shade crops like mushrooms and medicinal herbs to flourish. These practices may also offer income potential for value added forest products, such as wood blanks and furniture-grade lumber.

Value Added Forestry Success Story:

Oak Leaf Wood 'N Supplies,
Moweaqua, Ill.

Paul with sawmill and kiln
Paul Easley purchased a portable sawmill and dry kiln for processing "trash" wood from his acreage into value-added products.
Paul Easley of Moweaqua, Ill., knows there is money to be made in sawing and selling wood that to others, is waste. Wood byproducts, including those usually left in the woods following Timber Stand Improvement (TSI), can become blanks for gun stock, bowls, or other craft wood projects that do not require the typical boards sold by larger mills.

Easley has established a successful business during the past 18 years, utilizing a portable sawmill and a dehumidification dry kiln. His retail store, Oak Leaf Wood 'N Supplies, sells retail hardwoods, imported lumber, hand tools, and woodworking supplies to customers across the U.S. and overseas, in addition to the value-added wood products that are sawed, dried, planed and shaped on-site - including cabinet and furniture-grade lumber, carving stock and mantles.

Oak Leaf Wood 'N Supplies store
Easley's store, "Oak Leaf Wood 'N Supplies," offers a variety of wood blanks for producing furniture, flooring and hobby wood projects.

"We believed there had to be a wiser use for the trees that needed removed than trash wood or firewood," said Easley. Through selective harvesting, he removes undesirable species from his woodlots for processing into value-added products, then replants new trees.

"Do the job with a smile on your face and be enthusiastic about your product. Do that, and talk with your customer, you can succeed. We're living proof."

Read more about Paul Easley in Green Horizons


Learn more about forest farming from the following UMCA resources, available for viewing or ordering from the Publications page:

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