Alternative Enterprises


Selling firewood can be a profitable forest enterprise in several counties in Florida.  The harvesting and marketing of firewood can bring extra income as well as provide an opportunity to improve your forest for other values.  If you have a timber harvest planned, wood from the tops and branches left on the site can be sold as firewood.

University of Florida Extension and Other Resources


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Christmas Tree

In Florida a profitable Christmas tree operation is possible, but it requires intensive cultural management if well-shaped, high quality trees are to be produced over a short rotation. 

The northern conifers traditionally used as Christmas trees, such as balsam fir, Norway spruce, and Scots pine, will not grow well in Florida.  These trees require long, cold winters because they enter a period of dormancy during this time. This dormancy period is essential to their natural development.

We can't grow northern conifers here, but we can grow southern ones. Certain conifers native to Florida will grow well and provide less expensive Christmas trees.  Three native tree species are recommended for Christmas tree production in Florida:

  1. sand pine (Pinus clausa)
  2. southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola)
  3. Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana)

University of Florida Extension and Other Resources

Other Sites

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Pine Straw

Pine straw is simply the needles that fall from pine trees every year.  This pine straw can be raked, baled, and sold to garden centers.  Pine straw is used by landscapers and homeowners as a mulch or ground cover in gardens and landscaping.

If you have an established stand of slash pine or longleaf pine that is eight years of age, you are ready to start pine straw management.  Slash and longleaf are the only two Florida pine species that can be baled.  The needles of other pines are either too short to be baled or are considered to be of inferior quality for use as mulch or cover. 

Keep in mind that pine straw management can have negative effects on tree growth and soil productivity. Pine needles serve as shelter for the soil and the nutrients required by trees for growth are recycled when needles decompose on the forest floor. When pine needles are removed, the soil becomes more susceptible to erosion and nutrients are removed from the ecosystem. Fertilization is recommended for stands from which pine straw is frequently harvested.

University of Florida Extension Publication

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Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

Some landowners have discovered that growing shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) can generate extra income from your their forestland. Growing these delicacies has proven to be a profitable, worthwhile enterprise for many private nonindustrial forest landowners throughout the country.

Shiitake mushrooms are the most common edible mushroom grown throughout Asia, and they are becoming a more familiar delicacy in oriental food stores and restaurants, specialty food stores, and supermarkets throughout the United States.  Growing these mushrooms takes a considerable amount of effort, but it is a relatively simple process.  Here is the basic step-by-step procedure for growing shiitakes:

  1. Cut small live trees into logs 40 inches long and 3 to 6 inches in diameter.  Drill 3/8 inch diameter holes 1 inch deep (depending on form of the inocculum), arranged 6 to 10 inches apart down the length of the log.  Space the rows 2 to 3 inches apart.  In Florida, logs from water oak (Quercus nigra), southern red oak (Quercus falcata), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), turkey oak (Quercus laevis), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sycamore (Platanus americana), and ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana) are considered to be the best for shiitake mushroom cultivation.
  2.  Into the drilled holes, insert shiitake spawn (fungus on a substrate such as sawdust) obtained from a supplier.  Seal with a soft melted wax.  Be sure not to expose the spawn to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.  The heat of direct sunlight can kill shiitake mushrooms during hot weather.  Generally, the best time to inocculate the logs is in the spring after the last hard frost or at least 2-3 weeks before the first frost.
  3.  Stack the prepared logs on end at an angle, with about 2 inches of space between them.  In Florida, a heavily-shaded area (at least 75% shade) exposed to rain and good air movement is best.  These conditions will protect the logs from direct sun and reduce the chance of contaminating the fungi.  To maintain moisture, wet the logs with a sprinkling of 2 to 8 hours duration.  This should be done no more than once or twice a month.
  4.  Fruiting will generally occur 9-12 months after inocculated.  Rainy, cool weather will generally induce fruiting.  To "force" fruiting at other times, immerse the logs for 24 hours in cold water.  Mushrooms will appear about a week later.  Mushrooms can be forced to fruit 3 to 4 times a year.  Pick the mushrooms when the caps have unfurled, but before they are flat.

Note: Heavy rain can damage mushrooms, so it is important to keep them under some sort of shelter.

Additional Resources

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More Resources on Alternative Enterprises


Small Farms Alternative Enterprises

UF-IFAS Publications

Farming in the Forests of Florida

UF-IFAS Extension Bookstore

Cover Your A$$ets: Estate Planning, Conservation Planning and Additional Income Options for Forestland Owners, 2 DVDs presentations / 1 CD info and materials

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