Open range woodlands: An untapped resource for small-scale farms

2008 Annual Report for FNE08-649

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2008: $6,432.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Chuck Talbott
Black Oak Holler Farm, LLC

Open range woodlands: An untapped resource for small-scale farms


Annual Report

Note to readers, attached is the complete annual report for FNE08-649

Farm Goals:

Chuck Talbott is interested in diversifying his farm and enhancing the earning potential and sustainability of his woodlands. His goals include: 1) enhancing mast production from crop trees (trees that produce soft or hard mast) for livestock and wildlife production and 2) introducing new varieties of hard mast (Chinese and American chestnuts) and soft mast (persimmon and red mulberry) to extend grazing season. Our goal is to produce 60-70% of our feed requirements on the farm. By managing our crop trees to increase mast production, we may be able to lower feed costs as well as produce a niche-market pork for high-end markets

Update on Farm

We are producing hogs on my 267 A farm in Mason Co. WV using heirloom breeds that will provide the kind of pork characteristics required to satisfy our charcuterie business. We produce an upscale pork by utilizing predominately oak and hickory mast as an alternative feed source. We document the environmental impact of integrated swine and sylvan systems (especially in mountainous terrain).


Scott Eggerud (Tri-State Timber Management, Inc., Ona WV) is responsible for conducting a Forest Management Plan and identifying crop trees and cull trees for our study (photo 1. Drs. Dave McGill and Jim Rench (WVU Forestry Extension) will assist in determining the animal impact on the study and Farmer/Student/Consumer education. Mr. Rodney Wallbrown , Mason Co. WVU Extension Agent, advises in animal management and assists in conducting our farmer and youth group workshops.

Activitites to date

In March 2008, Talbott and Eggerud surveyed the 230A of woodlands and Eggerud submitted an approved Forest Management Plan in February 2009. Eggerud identified 511 crop trees and their respective cull trees for the prescribed 70A study area in April (see Table 1.). Eighty percent of the crop trees identified were managed accordingly: cull trees were dropped and removed (by horses skidding the sawlogs) or double girdled and left standing (see photos 2-6 missing here).

Table 1. Predominant crop trees released and their respective cull trees
Crop Trees (CT) Released, #CT, %,Total, Avg.
DBH/CT Total
Culled # Culled/CT
White oak
Black oak
Red Oak
Chestnut Oak
(missing table)


We collectively (WVU Extension, Black Oak Holler Farm, LLC, USDA SARE and Rural Development) have undertaken a major study which could impact small-farm survival and profitability in Appalachia. Corn sold for over $7/bu in 2008 and consequently became a major concern for small-scale farmers who have to purchase feed for their livestock. Consequently, we are keenly interested in the economic outcomes and potential for training others to manage their woodlots and produce niche-market pork.


Our sylvopastoral- integrated farming systems have solicited interest from several Sustainable Agricultural Groups across the East Coast. I spoke at four professional conferences in the past year: 1.) The Swine School Conference, at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, co-sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute (“Feeds and Feeding: Influencing Pork Flavor with Swine Diets”, April 18, 2008 and “Silvo-Pastoral Opportunities with Pigs”, April 19, 2008, Tarrytown, NY). 2.) Pastured Swine Conference presented by Innovative Farmers of Ohio and The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Rural Rehabilitation Program on January 10, 2009: (“Marketing Appalachian Pork While Promoting National Food Security” and “Integrated Crop and Sylvan Systems with Swine: Underutilized Resources for Appalachian Farms”, January 10, 2009, Mount Vernon, Ohio) 3.) Organic Gardening and Farming Conference, sponsored by Northeast Organic Farmers Association of NY (“Crop-Trees:”, January 24, 2009, Rochester, NY ). 4) To Market To Market: Adding Value to Your Farm, the American Grassfed Association conference co-sponsored by Animal Welfare Institute ( “From Spain to Kentucky: Acorn-Finished Ham”, February 5, 2009, Lexington, KY).

Also, throughout the Dry-cured Appalachian Ham Day, our ham received favorable impressions from chefs (Chefs Collaborative for the 21st Century, March 2008; Innovative Farmers of Ohio)

Dr. Dave McGill (WVU Forestry Extension) conducted a FFA workshop on November 7, 2008. Twenty-eight FFA and Vocational Education Students from Hannan Jr./Sr. High School visited the pig plots and observed our crop tree study in progress (Photos 7-12). Talbott and McGill discussed the “Crop Tree” study to the students, record keeping (Excel spreadsheet, attachment), reviewed tree identification and identified wildlife habitats and scat. McGill also presented topics on Ginseng Production, Identification of Maple Trees for Producing Appalachian Maple Syrup and Shiitake Mushroom Inoculation. The students inoculated their own logs and took them home.

Site conditions: Killing frosts during the flowering of the crop trees will effect results. Drought will effect mast production.

Economic findings: The analysis is in progress.

Next step: Last year we had a dry fall and we had only one portable watering system for 50 A of fenced woodlot. We are currently examining ways to water our acorn finished hogs more sustainably.


Dr. Dave McGill

[email protected]
Technical Advisor
322 Percival Hall
P.O. Box 6125
Morgantown, WV 26506
Office Phone: 3042932941