Integrating Sustainable Forestry into Whole Farm Management of Minority and Limited Resource Landowners in Two Regions of Arkansas

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1994: $246,710.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $159,086.00
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Erin Hughes
Winrock International

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: trees
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: agroforestry
  • Education and Training: participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change


    Traditionally, forestry extension has not been as effective as agricultural extension in disseminating information to landowners. Small landowners, or farmers with small woodlands, tend to be unaware of the value and methods to sustainably manage and harvest their timber and non-timber forest products.

    An innovative effort between Winrock International, The Nature Conservancy, Arkansas, Ozark Foothills Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), and the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Council (ALFDC) has educated non-industrial forest owners of the value of their timber and to emphasize the need to seek professional advice before cutting trees. The working hypothesis for this project is if landowners realize their trees have value which increases over time, they will be less likely to clear cut their forests, will sustainably manage their forests, and will be more likely to plant trees as an investment. Through the education of landowners, this project attempts to increase landowners’ income while improving the hardwood ecosystem.

    This pilot-research project initiated collaboration between government and nongovernmental agencies, private foresters, and landowners to increase awareness of the value of hardwood timberland. Two areas of Arkansas have been the focus: the Mississippi Delta Region and the Ozark Foothills. Both regions are rural and have limited economic opportunities. Poverty is prevalent and individuals have the potential to make money from the sale of their timber.

    This project follows an “action research” model which monitors the process as well as the results. Since all social interventions are experiments, understanding the success or failure of approaches can be as important as understanding the impact. If a participatory approach succeeds in the Delta, then a similar project can be replicated in other areas. In addition, by constant monitoring and evaluation, the approach can be changed or adaptively managed, to achieve the desired results.

    The project is testing the following two assumptions:
    1. Educating landowners about management and harvesting options will increase their income and encourage sustainable management and;
    2. Participatory approaches are the most effective way to educate landowners in the Delta and the Foothill ecosystems.

    Winrock and its partners see the process and the results of this project as important components in understanding social, economic, and ecological changes in both regions. The objectives of this project as outlined in the original proposal are to:
    • Test participatory strategies to promote sustainable farm forestry in the Delta and Ozark Foothills regions;
    • Compare contexts and strategies to identify factors that influence effectiveness;
    • Engage limited-resource and minority landowners, community-based organizations, technical advisors, and policy makers to determine how to promote sustainable on-farm forest management;
    • Evaluate existing policies and programs; and
    • Recommend improved policies and programs.

    The methods used to achieve the objectives are:
    • Encourage interagency cooperation by establishing a working group and facilitating interagency activities;
    • Develop informational material for the landowners;
    • Conduct landowner workshops to promote sustainable hardwood forest management practices;
    • Demonstrate land use options;
    • Establish two forest landowner associations in the Ozark Foothills region; and
    • Analyze the approaches and share results through a case study/issues paper.

    Impact of this project will be evaluated by measuring the following indicators:
    • Number of interagency working group meetings and collaborative efforts;
    • Number and/or distribution of useful extension materials; Understanding the economic impact of various land-use options on marginal land in the Delta;
    • Number of workshops convened and number of participants;
    • Number landowner requests for assistance in managing timber;
    • Number of site assessments conducted for private landowners;
    • Development of forest demonstration site(s) and number of people who have toured
    the site(s); and
    • Number of landowner associations, members, and types of activities.

    Primary Results include:
    • Three coordination meetings for representatives from collaborating agencies were held;
    • Two Fact Sheets, one discussing how to receive the top dollar for your timber and the second discussion how to manage forest lands for wildlife;
    • Top Dollar For Your Trees, an instructional video, was produced and will be distributed to 200 extension agents throughout the state;
    • An analysis examining the economic return from growing hardwood forests on marginal lands in the Delta region was published and distributed;
    • Six Top Dollar for your Timber landowner workshops were held attracting more than 435 participants;
    • More than 100 requests for information on harvesting and timber management were received;
    • Nine site assessments/evaluations were conducted by private consulting foresters;
    • More than 200 people visited ALFDC’s demonstration forest;
    • Shiitake Market Research Study conducted;
    • Demonstration Forest established that will show managment systems for three different ecosystems;
    • The Ozark Woodland Owners Association was formed and conducted four meetings. Two newsletters were produced as was a woodland management video; and
    • Case study of the project completed and distributed.

    These activities have had an impact on government and nongovernmental agencies, private foresters, landowners, and the environment. The Arkansas Forestry Commission, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the Arkansas Forestry Association, and the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service have incorporated the Top Dollar for your Timber workshop in their office activities. Collectively, these agencies have received more than 100 phone calls from people who are interested in selling their timber and heard about the workshop but were not able to attend. The NRCS and Cooperative Extension are referring clients to professional foresters and/or to the Forestry Commission for information about management plans. An NRCS office outside Arkansas has requested information about the Top Dollar for your Timber workshop so it can implement the workshop in that region.

    Landowners who have hired private consultants have reaped economic benefits. One consultant has worked for seven landowners who chose to get a professional appraisal based on recommendations of the workshop. These landowners have or will increase their income by an average of 25 percent over earlier timber estimates. With the exception of one landowner, all will be cutting less timber than they would have based on their initial estimate.

    In sum, landowners have become more aware of the value of their timber and have demonstrated an interest in managing their woodlands for the long-term.

    The contributions of this project for producers or consumers are not easy to measure. They may include increased sustainable forest management practices which will have both economic and environmental benefits. Landowners already have benefited from a greater economic return from their timber. Secondary wood processors will have access to high-quality, locally grown timber in the future. Landowners who sought professional woodland management advice have, in general, cut less timber than they would have without consultation. This results in unquantified environmental benefits to society including carbon sequestering, providing wildlife habitat, and reducing soil erosion.

    Project objectives:

    This project has two distinct sets of objectives. There are objectives and methods, results and discussion which relate directly to the research component of this project. They focus on interventions that can change landowner behavior. As written in the proposal, they are:
    1. Test participatory strategies to promote sustainable farm forestry in the Delta and Ozark Foothills regions;
    2. Compare context and strategies to identify factors that influence effectiveness;
    3. Engage limited-resource and minority landowners, community-based organizations, technical advisors, and policy makers in determining how to promote sustainable on-farm forest management;
    4. Evaluate existing policies and programs; and
    5. Recommend improved policies and programs.

    Implicit in these, is another set of objectives which define the strategies to promote sustainable hardwood forest management in the two regions of Arkansas. They are:
    1. Develop informational materials and resources for landowners on sustainable forestry management; and
    2. Educate landowners about sustainable management techniques.

    The report that follows focuses on the project objectives related to improving sustainable forest management. The research based objectives are discussed in the case study (see Annex).

    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.