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What to do?

Joseph Zorzin redoak at forestmeister.com
Fri Aug 21 02:38:49 EST 1998

(posted in bionet.agroforestry)

ddd wrote:
> Aloha:
> Been reading in the background for a few days to get the
> feel of this newsgroup.  It appears to be pretty much on
> target with some spam, but several knowledgable folks
> contributing.

Not much spam here unless you consider revolutionary politics to be
spam. But don't worry about that too much, as foresters are without a
doubt the LEAST revolutionary people on the planet. <G>

> Which brings me to my question.  My wife and I are tossing
> around the idea of buying some land (in southern Missouri)
> and planting some trees for our retirement.  We're in our
> mid 30's now and hoping to retire around 60.  Our questions
> are:
> 1. Is this approach (buy land, manage it loosely for ~20
> years, then harvest) financially sound?  Would we do better
> by sticking our retirement $ in CDs or would the potential
> future timber sales offer a greater return?

Don't manage it loosely. Manage it intensely. Another consultant here,
Karl Davies of Northampton, Mass. will argue that under good management
you can earn a very high rate of return. He's been researching this for
years. I have several of his essays on my web site and he's working on
his own web site which will have hundreds of pages, a sort of Forestry
Journal For the Rest of Us. I'm sure he'll have something to say about
this. As regards the alternative of CD's- just use the old saying,
"don't put all your eggs in one basket".

> 2. If this approach offers significant returns over other
> savings/investment methods, what trees should we consider
> planting, realizing that it'd be 15-20 years before we even
> consider starting to harvest?

Find yourself a local consulting forester, especially one who
understands the long term economics of forestry. The key is to get the
growth on the right trees and over a period of thinnings and harvest,
remove the others. You won't be able to do this without professional
advice. Karl will argue that you can get 15% or more in return.

> 3. Can you point me to any good readings on the financial
> aspects of tree farming?

Well, you can find textbooks on forestry economics at any forestry
school- books that will bore you to tears- and most states produce
various brochures and pamphlets about the subject for local forests- and
written so that any 5 year old can read them- but I won't vouch for
their value. I think the best thing to do is - don't try to learn this
yourself- find a good consultant- it's like finding a good doctor- you
need to know something about the subject but not too much- because you
can't really understand it that deeply- which is why forestry- in some
states any ways- is a profession- in those states with REAL forester
licensing laws, unlike in Massachusetts where the licensing law does
absolutely nothing but define what a forester is, despite the fact that
the definition has been in dictionaries for centuries- and as result-
the most common form of forestry here is high grading (forest raping)
rubber stamped by the state- and which continues because my state
politicians won't do anything NOT approved by the loggers- who of course
don't approve of the rise of the forestry profession, who they consider
to be carpetbaggers- except of course their own "foresters" who are in
the business of managing their own company high grading.

There are several hundred state "service foresters" whose job it is to
help private landowners. They sit by their desk and anxiously await your
calling them. Notice how many are here in cyberspace? Not too many. They
should be. In my state that would be verboten for them to do so, even
though some would like to do so and they could make some contributions
here, but the "leaders" will NOT allow it. Not even the extension or SIP

But, in fact, there is Susan, a state service forester from Missouri who
shows up here once in awhile unofficially. She is a pioneer amongst the
service foresters. I'll give her credit for that even if I don't agree
with some of her views. She is the only service forester I've seen here
(and never an extension or SIP forester). I'm sure if she reads your
message, she'll help you. If you don't find any consultants in the
yellow pages or on the net search engines, I'm sure you can find the
state forestry agency and either Susan or another will help you find a
consultant. I don't have her email address handy. Perhaps someone else
here knows it.

Joseph Zorzin, Yankee Forestmeister
"Still, after 18 months and counting, the only forestry web page in the
otherwise sophisticated state of Massachusetts, the Athens of the
western hemisphere."
"In wilderness is the preservation of the world."
Henry David Thoreau

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