Okay, so you’ve conducted your forest inventory, identified your personal goals and objectives, set yourself up with a management plan and now you’re thinking about marketing your forest products.

It’s important to remember: you’ve spent a long time growing your trees. It makes good sense to spend some time marketing them to make sure you get the best return on your investment.

A number of factors can influence the products you choose to produce; for example:

  • The short- and long-term objectives you have for your property
  • The species mix, age and quality of your forest
  • The markets you can sell to

Like any decision-making process, a good way to begin is to make a list. Start by identifying the personal goals and objectives you have for your woodland. In a separate list, you can itemize the potential products available from your woodland (based on the species mix, age, size and condition of the trees in the stand). The next step is to find the most effective way to use your inventory to achieve your goals.

If you’re wondering how, we’ve compiled a list of 6 important principles to help along the way. Thanks again to Managing Your Woodlands: A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-scale Forestry in British Columbia for the inspiration and the information.

Educate yourself.   The more you know about your forest inventory, the harvesting process in general and available markets the better situated you are to make informed decisions that will help you get the best value for your forest products. Start by talking to your neighbours, other forest owners, woodlot licensees—people who have firsthand experience selling small parcels of logs. Ask them for references, suggestions, tips, mistakes they wish they hadn’t made. Collect as much information as you can.

Do your research first.   You’ll get the best value for your timber if you know where it’s going before you harvest it. Different markets have different specifications: by cutting to match your buyer’s preferences you ensure the best value for your forest products. Alternatives almost always exist. Find out how much you can get for different products so you can compare their values, costs of production, and the impacts of their production on your woodland.

Contact a local broker. If you’re a small owner, who doesn’t have a lot of recent experience selling forest products, dealing with a broker is often your best bet. Invite potential buyers out to your woods. Walk them through your stand and show them what you’re thinking of doing. Take notes. You’ll learn a lot from this discussion about what products your stand can produce, as well as prices and marketing options for those products.

Pay attention to market conditions. To some extent the market is cyclical, but it’s dynamic. What was hot last month might be an over supply this month. Market conditions will affect the price you get for your products. Since production costs remain fairly constant, the ability to take advantage of high points in the market cycle will make a difference in the profit you receive.

Be prepared to take advantage of market conditions. If you follow the ups and downs of the markets you’re selling to, and you’re ready to act when markets are paying top prices, you’ll get the best value for your products. To do this, have your roads in place and your production processes clearly outlined. Decide, as early as possible, what your role is and identify potential sub-contractors for felling, skidding or hauling.

Look for opportunities to increase the value of your products. Market conditions will largely determine selling prices, so look for opportunities to increase the value of your products (e.g. forest certification, log exports, specialty products). A process like forest certification or a change in production may create a higher value product that appeals to different markets. Adding value can be as simple as bucking or as complex as handcrafting furniture.

Want more information? We’ve compiled a list of contact information for local buyers and brokers. If you’re a forest owner who’d like more information, or if you’re a local buyer who’d like to be added to our list, please email: info@pfla.bc.ca or call: 250 381 7565.

Feel free to add your own tips, suggestions and helpful hints in the comment section.