Specialty Forestry Products Professional Development

Final Report for ENC00-054

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $35,631.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $38,604.00
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Susan Wirth
National Arbor Day Foundation
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Project Information


A train-the-trainer workshop focusing on the production and marketing of specialty forest products was held May 23-24, 2002 at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Over 70 extension educators and natural resource professionals came from 12 states to learn more about the sustainability and financial potential of commercially valuable specialty products produced from trees and shrubs, including medicinal and botanicals, food products, woody decorative floral items, and handicraft products. Participants learned about ways to integrate such products into current farm or woodland operations, what is needed to process these crops, and the outlook for specialty product markets. Participants are now leading numerous workshops to create a multiplier effect to reach nearly a thousand producers and landowners across the Midwest.

Project Objectives:

Objectives of the project were to:
1. Hold a train-the-trainer workshop to inform, educate, and provide training tools and materials about sustainable agriculture practices focusing on specialty forest products to natural resource people working with producers and landowners.
2. Hold regional workshops and a field day to transfer information to producers, landowners, and other natural resource professionals about specialty forest products.
3. Develop and provide educational brochures about specialty forest products to partner organizations for distribution to producers as well as conservation groups and other visitors to the Lied Lodge & Conference Center and Arbor Day Farm.
4. Track implementation, by participants, of sustainable agriculture practices that focus on specialty forest products.


Susan Wirth, Arbor Day Farm Education Director for the National Arbor Day Foundation, and Scott Josiah, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Forester, coordinated the workshop held at Arbor Day Farm. Working in partnership with the University of Nebraska's Cooperative Extension System and several natural resource management agencies, the National Arbor Day Foundation sponsored a train-the-trainer workshop, produced four specialty products brochures, and conducted a fall field day during the harvest of the hazelnuts. The workshop and field day events provided natural resource professionals and extension educators with information and materials enabling them to explain agroforestry practices incorporating specialty forest crops to both traditional farmers with large landholdings and the owners of small rural parcels. Following the workshop, participants returned to their communities to conduct field day events or workshops to further disseminate the information.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Scott Josiah
  • Rich Straight

Education & Outreach Initiatives



The SARE workshop was held on the 260-acre Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Arbor Day Farm serves as a living laboratory with a number of agroforestry and conservation demonstrations located on site. The Arbor Day Farm demonstration sites permits training to be "hands-on" and participatory. Workshop participants were able to walk the grounds of Arbor Day Farm and see the demonstrations first hand. The National Arbor Day Foundation’s demonstration partners are the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the National Agroforestry Center, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nemaha Natural Resource District and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resource Sciences.

On-site demonstrations included alley-cropping, specialty forest products, living snow fence demonstrations with specialty forest products, a nine-acre hybrid hazelnut research field, walnut clonal seed bank orchard, black walnut seed source study site, riparian stream bank restoration with specialty forest products, preservation apple orchard, integrated pest management, commercial apple orchard operation, chestnut site, wetland restoration, pond restoration, biotechnological steam bank stabilization, windbreak demonstrations, short rotation woody crop agroforestry (fuelwood plantations), and Christmas tree plantings.

Well-known keynote speakers spoke in detail on specialty forest product opportunities, production, markets, and marketing so the workshop participants would feel confident when training others. Supportive materials on agroforestry and specialty forest products were developed and distributed as a packet at the workshop. Packet items included educational materials, brochures, CDs with presentations and visual images, web site lists for updated data about demonstration sites, and updated information for professional newsletters and resources.

Data and information about specialty forest products in demonstration on Arbor Day Farm was put on the National Arbor Day Foundation's web site and will be updated annually. People can view the demonstration sites on the web page at arbordayfarm.org. Links to partner agencies providing more detailed information are also offered.

Recognized experts in the area of specialty forest products wrote four brochures. A number of regional producers provided input and evaluation of this valuable information prior to printing the brochures. Distribution responsibilities were conducted by all the partner organizations of the workshop. The National Agroforestry Center reports that the four brochures are the most requested information by producers and educators. On the workshop evaluations and regional workshop reports, the brochures were consistently mentioned for the significant information included in them.

An article describing the workshop and materials was included in the National Arbor Day Foundation’s bimonthly newsletter, “Arbor Day,” which reaches nearly one million Foundation members nationwide. A second article focusing on hazelnuts and other specialty forest products was included in the November/December 2002 newsletter.

Outreach and Publications

Four brochures were developed to be available at the workshop and were later distributed by the trainers during their field day events.

1. Productive Conservation: Growing Specialty Forest Products in Agroforestry Plantings. This brochure discusses the four general categories of specialty forest products: 1) medicinal and botanicals, 2) woody-based food products, 3) woody decorative floral items, and 4) handicrafts and specialty wood products. Information on specific species, market values, and incorporation into agroforestry applications is provided.

2. Hybrid Hazelnuts: An Agroforestry Opportunity. This publication offers an introduction to hybrid hazelnuts from domesticated to woody perennial plants. Hazelnuts can produce food for ready materials such as confections, oils and flavorings, reduce the use of chemicals, and reduce the loss of topsoil. Information on growing, planting, caring for, and harvesting was included in the brochure.

3. Edible Woody Landscapes for People and Wildlife. Information on designing an "edible" landscape is provided in this brochure that would help individuals select varieties of trees and shrubs that produce high quality fruits and nuts, as well as food and habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.

4. Marketing Specialty Forest Products. In this publication, information is provided about the wide range of specialty forest products and markets. There are hundreds of plants that produce SFPs; a list of additional resources is provided to find more specific information.

These brochures received the 2002 Gold Award for Short Publication by the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals. Dr. Josiah noted in the grant proposal, "At the present time, there are very few publications on the production and marketing of specialty forest products, and those that do exist are far too general to be of much use. Thus, the publications to be developed in this project will fill a great void, and will further stimulate landowner interest and adoption." From the evaluation comments noted by the workshop participants after their field day events were held, this objective was definitely achieved.

Outcomes and impacts:

One of the Objectives and Performance Targets was to “hold regional workshops and a field day to transfer information to producers, landowners and other natural resources professionals about specialty forest products.” From the natural resource professionals and extension educators who attended the train-the-trainer workshop, 39 follow-up workshops have been held across the 12-state area to educate individuals about specialty forest products. A follow-up letter to emphasize the importance of reporting back to the project coordinator, so the information could be utilized for the final report, was sent in April as a reminder to project participants. A few individuals responded that they have planned their workshops and field day for fall 2003. The following information was obtained from SARE individuals to fulfill the second requirement.

Regional field days and workshops were held throughout the nine months following the initial workshop at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska on May 23 – 24, 2002. Several participants held their activities with another SARE attendee who represented a different public or private entity. The positive aspect of this type of partnership for a field day or workshop is that two different agencies working together having a larger impact on a diverse group of individuals. For example, workshops that were conducted by two or more SARE participants had larger attendance at their events. The extreme diversity of the partners was noted in the reports. In Nebraska, several workshops were held with the cooperation of the local natural resource district office and University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension. Several workshops were held in conjunction with their various county agencies, state universities, state forestry service agency, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Other organizations noted in the report were Trees Forever, Illinois Farm Bureau, Rural Action Forestry, Headwaters Forestry Cooperative, Blue Earth River Basin, Natural Resources Adventure Camp, Farm Fest Ag Fair, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Kansas Chapter Black Walnut Council, and Farm Services Administration. Each partnership offered a positive and wide range of networking to get the information to more individuals.

From the evaluations sent to the coordinator, it was reported that 873 individuals attended community workshops and field day events. The highest attended workshop had 78 participants in Piketon, Ohio, and was conducted by David Apsley. The least attended workshops had 12 – 15 individuals at six workshops. Generally, the low numbers of attendees were at activities held in sparsely populated areas of the region. Regional workshops were attended by a significantly higher number of males (519) than females (265).

Strong interest in the production and marketing of specialty forest products is coming from producers. About half of the total attendees of the regional workshops were producers in which the majority responded that they were part-time farmers. Characteristics of the other attendees at the regional workshops were: 185 individuals who represented an agency, 380 homeowners, 91 individuals from the private business sector, and 61 people in diversified fields such as a profession related to forestry, retired, or individuals that are landlords of a farming operation.

A vast majority of SARE-workshop attendees indicated they used the information and materials given to them at the conference held at Arbor Day Farm. Specifically, they identified the Specialty Forest Products (SFP) Workshop manual, SFP Workshop CD that contained copies of presentations done at the Arbor Day Farm training session, SFP publications (brochures) such as Productive Conservation: Growing Specialty Forest Products in Agroforestry Plantings, Edible Woody Landscapes for People and Wildlife, Marketing Specialty Forest Products, and Hybrid Hazelnuts: An Agroforestry Opportunity. Other informational resources they utilized during the workshops and field days were Nebfact NF 99-404, EC 91-1771-X Windbreaks Sustainable Agricultural Systems, speakers such as Scott Josiah, copies of materials on CD for handouts, the National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Arbor Day” newsletter, and a list of websites available for further information. Several individuals had snacks of hazelnuts spread on hazelnut crackers, jams and jellies from local producers, plus items locally made from native materials.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Over 70 natural resource professionals and extension educators from 12 states came to Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm on May 23-24, 2002 to learn more about the financial potential of commercially valuable specialty products sustainably produced from trees and shrubs, ranging from Saskatoon to hazelnuts to curly willows. The highly successful “Specialty Forest Product Production and Marketing Workshop” examined growing, processing, and marketing of sometimes-overlooked products such as nuts, decorative woody floral items, and medicinal crops like ginseng, goldenseal, and ginkgo. Participants learned of ways to integrate such products into current farm or woodland operations, what is needed to process the crops, and the outlook for specialty product markets.

The train-the-trainer workshop provided participants with information extensive materials and a comprehensive Specialty Forest Product Production and Marketing Manual and CD. The CD included all PowerPoint presentations, a specialty forest product image archive, several market assessments, and a variety of other course-related material. These materials provided participants with tools needed to transfer knowledge of SFPs to producers with large landholdings, traditional family farmers, and the owners of small, rural parcels.

Included in these materials were four brochures focused on specialty crops that were produced in 2001 through this same grant. These four publications received the 2002 Gold Award for Short Publication from the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals (ANREP) (a national competition). They describe how specialty forest products can be produced in a number of agroforestry practices and provide guidance on markets and marketing. The brochures are:
•Edible Woody Landscapes for People and Wildlife
•Marketing Specialty Forest Products
•Hybrid Hazelnuts: An Agroforestry Opportunity
•Productive Conservation: Growing Specialty Forest Products in Agroforestry Plantings

The brochures have been in high demand worldwide since publications, and tens of thousands of copies have been distributed to nearly every state and many countries through the efforts of USDA National Agroforestry Center, the National Arbor Day Foundation, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Attendees at the SFP Workshop were required to complete novel pre- and post-knowledge assessments (attached) specifically designed for this project as a means to help workshop organizers determine workshop impact. The summary of these assessments is also attached. Overall, participants indicated they increased their knowledge of SFPs dramatically over the two-day event. Prior to the workshop, most attendees indicated they had been exposed to the information for most of the topics, but could not express it. After the workshop, most attendees indicated they could express the knowledge without assistance from others, or could in fact instruct others – the goal of this train-the-trainer workshop.

As this was a train-the-trainer workshop, and following the May workshop, participants had nine months in which to host one or more regional workshops to further disseminate information on specialty forest products. Participants were asked to report on their workshop success and impacts to the National Arbor Day Foundation.

A feature article in the January/February 2002 National Arbor Day Foundation’s bimonthly publication, “Arbor Day”, which reaches nearly one million members worldwide, spread the word about the newly created publications and the Specialty Forest Products Train-the-Trainer Workshop. A follow-up article in the November/December “Arbor Day” newsletter discussed the workshop’s success as well as specialty forest product options.

On September 24, 2002 a Field Day Event was held at Arbor Day Farm to observe the first-ever test trial of a mechanical blueberry picker as it harvested hybrid hazelnuts. Over 40 people, including a number of previous workshop participants, were in attendance for the demonstration. The harvesting demonstration showed local landowners and natural resource professionals those practical and needed harvesting applications for specialty woody crops, like hazelnuts, are on the horizon.


Potential Contributions

According to Dr. Josiah, this project will build the capacity of extension organizations across a multi-state area to deliver high quality technical and training assistance to landowners interested in diversifying their farming operations with woody species that produce specialty products. As more information is generated by a number of research products around the country, it is essential that we begin to transfer this information to agents across the region. This project would vastly increase the capacity of cooperative extension in four states to provide accurate information on the production and marketing of specialty forest products, and in doing so stimulate the adoption of these diversified sustainable systems on a large scale. In addition, it would allow the National Arbor Day Foundation to better inform over a hundred thousand visitors annually, both national and international, of the agroforestry opportunities in producing specialty forest products through demonstrations at Arbor Day Farm. Finally, through the National Arbor Day Foundation’s web site and membership, the information can be utilized by a large audience that will definitely be impacted by the data.

Future Recommendations

Comments related by the conference attendees about their workshops and field day events were extremely positive about the materials and information presented. A few comments about the need for additional workshops and information on medicinal utilization were mentioned in the survey. For their own workshops, a few individuals used a pre-conference and post-conference questionnaire from the SFP CD, which will help future workshop planners design the training topics. In addition, the questionnaire showed a significant increase of knowledge about the topics presented during the workshops. Mr. Larry Godsey and Mr. Michael Gold related in their survey, “The participants indicated a strong appreciation for the content and organization of the conference. They demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm maintained from the beginning until the last topic was presented.” This statement sums up the positive attitude expressed by a majority of the attendees on their Specialty Forest Product Training Evaluation Form. The details of this information will provide valuable data for future conferences in the area of specialty forest products.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.