Ozark Forest and Farm Project
The Ozark Forest and Farm Project is an association of rural Ozark residents with diverse backgrounds in wild crafting, farming and non-timber forest products marketing. It was formed in an effort to strengthen local lands knowledge and create environmentally enhancing, regional economic opportunity. The Project fosters the potential for under story forest vegetation utilization, supports bio-diversity and works to engage families in woodlands environments. The project was conceived as a stepping stone in developing alternative revenue potential for local people from forest under story plant utilization. We seek to reinvest families in local lands through providing expanded opportunity from under story vegetation in forest systems.
Historical income opportunity for non-timber forest products has been an important regional industry. This industry has declined as the result of lost bio diversity, decline of the non-timber forest products buyers, restrictions in harvest and loss of local knowledge. Simultaneously economic pressures are creating destructive, mono-culture land use. Our regional emphasis on forest restoration has been seated in timber values rather than forest systems with little appreciation for the economic potential of under story vegetation or the regional gene pool. The cumulative effect of these land use patterns represents a threat to our regional environmental security.
The need for off-farm income in rural farming communities limits agriculture related enterprise. Beef and livestock grazing represent the primary ways in which local land owners can both hold a job and farm. As a result, there has been an expansion of grasslands to the detriment of forest systems. Through expanded income opportunity derived from forest/woodlands plant utilization, we believe we can help curb woodland destruction, or at least offer an economic alternative for local people. Additionally, we seek to support families' ability to derive livelihoods from their lands. Parents who expend energy to travel great distances to jobs, or engage in labor intensive, local minium wage jobs seldom have energy to plant gardens, prepare decent meals and generally care for the needs of our young. Our project envisions the incorporation of the family unit working model. Through working family units, we would hope to reconnect children, as well as adults to the bio-diverse "web of life", enhancing stewardship's value potential for coming generations.
Additionally, there is little understanding or knowledge about under story plants, as a result people are disconnected from their environment. We note that there is declining local knowledge about the potential value and use of these woodland plant non-timber species. Finally, knowledge about the traditional uses of many woodland species is threatened as there is little field application for that knowledge.
Our long term goal
Our goal is the development of a Ozark Native Non-timber forest plant utilization center. The center would provide seed stock and propogation information on Ozark non-timber forest plants and products. We seek to provide traditional use information, together with disseminating information on emerging potential in botanical industries. We wish to develop collaborative relationships between universities and industries based in woodland plant resources, while networking for botanical industry partnership. Simultaneously we seek to create community tools for marketing, and value added utilization of forest/woodland plant resources. We wish to encourage livelihood development from woodland forest resources, including "reinventing" family harvests, investing in cottage industries, providing a central facility for retailing local products and market support for cottage industries. Additionally the center could supply products for engaging in wilderness crafts, such as plant presses, soap making supplies, tincture ingredients, drying racks, and classes, creating a self-supporting community facility.