By Jim Merzenich, Oak Basin Tree Farm, Brownsville, OR
Several years ago OWC helped to develop a market for essential oils derived from conifer needles. In 2012 the cooperative had a Woodland Fair at our tree farm where the process for extracting these oils using steam distillation was demonstrated. Together with my late friend Dave Bateman, I thus purchased a still. The process is to collect and grind the needles then run them through the still. The needle oil evaporates with the steam and is condensed back to a liquid. The oil can then be easily separated because it floats on the water. A one hundred and fifty pound batch of ground needles generally produces from 3 to 8 ounces of oil.
We currently produce and sell oil from ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, incense cedar, western red cedar, noble fir, and grand fir. This oil is sold under both the Oregon Forest Canopy label and our private Oak Basin tree farm label. When I thin and prune my conifer stands I am now collecting needles to run in my still. Oils are available for purchase online through Oregon Heartwood and at New Seasons Markets in the Portland area.
A small firm in Eugene called Broom Magic makes and sells traditional brooms using real broom corn and nineteenth century broom-making equipment. The handles for these brooms are harvested from our tree farm and several other farms in Linn County. The handles are manufactured from 6’ long sticks that vary from about ½ to 2 inches in diameter. These sticks are cut in the winter when the plants are dormant and are then kiln dried with the bark on. Favorite species for handles are hazel, cascara, and cherry. While most sticks are relatively straight defects such as unusual crooks or animal gnaw marks can add character and value to a finished broom. We are paid for these sticks when we deliver them to the kiln.
Other products such as bundled firewood, holiday boughs, and wood craft with the Heartwood label are now produced and sold by OWC members. I am in the process of training my 18 month-old pup to help me find and market truffles from our young Douglas-fir stands. Many other opportunities exist to derive added income from your farm. The Oregon Woodland Cooperative may help you find that niche market. Happy tree-farming and good-luck chasing your dream.