If you have a lot of land and pine trees, the way to make money in the woods is harvesting and selling pine straw with big retail dealers, and here’s how.
Rural landowners can be sure there is a robust pine straw market, so much that some people are willing to risk criminal trespassing and theft by taking it.
Pine straw offers rural landowners the opportunity to earn short-term income, because it can only be harvested when it’s falling.
Pine straw harvesting operations require some upfront investment from you.
One of the biggest expenses is making sure that pine straw is clean and free from debris, such as dead wood, pine cones, or tree limbs, and unsuitable vegetation, such as hardwoods, vines, or shrubs.
Is there local demand for pine straw?
The pine straw market is evergreen.
However, demand for pine straw may vary from region to region, the biggest demand is in the south.
Rural landowners should make sure that there is someone who wants to buy pine straw, and that your pine straw meets the quality specifications of the buyer.
Some buyers have characteristic preferences.
For example, buyers may prefer round bales (supposedly contains two bales for a higher price) to square bales.
Other preferences include baling technique (hand-raked or mechanically baled), bale binding (twine or wire), and species.
One of the most important characteristics buyers look for is bales that are free of debris, such as sticks, cones, vines, or leaves.
You need to be aware of these preferences, and the labor it require.
Demand may also vary from season to season.
Pine straw can be harvested any time of year, but is usually done after the main needle drop in fall (September through November).
It is best to harvest straw when it is dry, because wet straw is heavier and can mold when baled and stored.
Baled pine straw is usually stored on-site in a closed trailer until harvesting operations are complete.
Proper storage is important, because peak demand for pine straw from homeowners and landscapers is usually during spring months, after the straw has been harvested.
What type of contract is appropriate?
You can collect pine straw yourself, usually by hand raking and using a box baler.
You must perform hard manual labor, but also market the pine straw yourself, receiving payment on a per-bale basis.
This process is labor and time intensive, and require investment in equipment.
Rural landowners usually sign contracts with a pine straw dealer.
Before signing a contract, a landowner may seek sealed bids, especially if he or she has a lot of land with high-quality pine straw.
Lowe’s and Home Depot are the biggest bidders!
In most cases, contracts between landowners and pine straw dealers are either on a per-bale basis or a per-acre basis.
If paid on a per-bale basis, the landowner may be responsible for ensuring a proper bale count.
The price should also be for a specified bale size.
If paid on a per-acre basis, the landowner is paid a set amount per acre per year, regardless of the number of bales that come off the site.
Prices paid will vary depending on the condition of the site and, therefore, should fluctuate with changes in stand condition.
The amount paid may also vary depending on the level of involvement by the landowner, and his or her willingness to prepare and maintain the stand.
It is always a good idea to have a professional look at any contracts before signing.
Are there reliable contractors who can do the work?
Most rural landowners who have a contract with a pine straw dealer are likely to use harvesters hired by a forest labor contractor.
You need to find out whether reliable contractors are available and what distance the workers are willing to travel.
When hiring a contractor, it is a good idea to request references or ask others who have used the contractor about their experiences.
You also need to make sure any contract they sign specifies conditions of sale, when the baling will occur, when payment will be made, and what will be done about any damage done to trees during the harvesting operations.
You or a trusted friend or relative should visit the site during harvesting to make sure that workers are using appropriate management practices and fulfilling contractual obligations.
Are you leaving money on the ground in the woods?
If you have a lot of land and pine trees, the way to make money in the woods is harvesting and selling pine straw with big retail dealers.