Forest Income for the Small Farm

STOCKSCH 290 FI – Forest Income for the Small Farm

To be scheduled….


Dr. Jonathan T. Parrott,
15 Goose Lane, Chesterfield, MA

Course Overview

This course is designed as a broad overview of forest-related farming curriculum where students will delve in to the details of generating a secondary income from their non-arable farmlands. Topics will include Woodland Agritainment, Maple Syrup and Christmas Tree Production, as well as wild edibles (fungi, fiddleheads, ginseng, game etc.). Importantly the course will  focus on the financial risks, rewards, and investments necessary to provide financial sustainability to a small farming business. This course will involve a significant final project where students will develop a business model/proposal suitable for presentation to a financier.

Course Structure

This course is conducted entirely online, which means you do not have to be on campus to complete any portion of it. You will participate in the course using the Blackboard  learning management platform.


Students will be required to read the assigned material and/or watch the assigned videos by the appointed date and complete the related quiz/evaluation prior to the beginning of the following week.  *Syllabus dates and topics subject to change with mutual consent.

Academic Honesty: Academic dishonesty is a violation of the spirit and regulations of the University, and will not be tolerated. Examples of academic dishonesty include cheating, plagiarism, and fabrication. Any student found to be in violation of the University Academic Honesty regulations will automatically receive a falling grade for the course. For further information on academic honesty regulations, please consult Undergraduate Rights & and Responsibilities handbook.

Course Materials

Required Textbooks:

  • Beattie, M., C. Thompson, and Levine, 1993. Working with Your Woodland: A Landowners Guide. Revised Edition. University Press of New England, Hanover NH. 279 pp
  • Heiligmann, R.B., M.R. Koelling, and T.D. Perkins, Editors, 2006 North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual, Second Edition. The Ohio State University, Bulletin 856, 329
  • Nelson, R., 1997. Heart and Bloo: Living with Deer in America. Alfred Knope Inc. New York, 389 pp
  • Phillips, M., The Apple Grower. 1998. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction VT. 242
  • Rolfe, G.L., J.M. Edgington, I.I. Holland and G.C. Fortenberry. 2003. Forests and Forestry. Prentice Hall Interstate. Upper Saddle River, NJ. 492
  • Wray, R.D.. 2008. Christmas Trees for Pleasure and Profit. Fourth Edition. Rutgers University Press. 166

Optional References:

  • Filbrick & S. Filbrick The Backyard Lumberjack. 2006. Storey Publishing, LLC. 176 pp
  • Helms, J.A., 1998. The Dictionary of Forestry. Society of American Foresters, Bethesda MD. 210
  • Sibley, D.A. 2009, The Sibley Guide to Trees. Alfred Knopf Inc., New York. 427 pp.
  • Wessles, T., 1997. Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New The Countryman Press, Woodstock VT. 199 pp.

Grading Criteria

Assessment will be based on the following point system:

Assessment Points Percent of Grade
Exam 1 (Mid-Term Exam) 200 20%
Exam 2 (Final Exam) 200 20%
Quizzes (5) 200 20%
Class Participation 100 10%
Model Farm Design 200 20%
Model Farm Financial Plan 100 10%
Total 1,000 100%

Missed assignments or exams may not be made up unless your absence has been formally excused.  I will seek your input on how to handle late assignments.

Up to 50 points may be awarded for extra credit essay or journal writing associated with the class objectives (no more than 8 double-spaced pages). This could be an essay about your interest in forestry, or other topic related to the course objectives. A photographic journal with succinct narrative would also be accepted.


Introduction and Overview: A history of New England Land Use

With a history of multiple glaciations, productive soils, and colonialism, New England forests have experienced significant serial changes. This first week will introduce the structure of classical forest succession to better understand both human impacts and the ability of a forested ecosystem to recover.

Christmas Tree Production, Seasonal Wreath Making

With a nod to seasonality, this module will focus on the opportunities and challenges presented from the Christmas Tree (and related greenery) trade. Considered topics will include tree/land selection, tree pruning/shaping, maintenance (mowing and IPM), as well as marketing approaches.

Land Management for Fuel Wood and Biomass

Heating (and cooking) using solid wood fuel has affected the New England landscape since the earliest indigenous peoples. However, modern societal considerations related to air quality and sustainable forest practices have changed how this renewable resource may be harvested and burned.  This model will focus on the benefits and drawbacks of the fuel wood forestry.

Firewood” and How to Burn It

Building on the previous week’s learning, this module will focus on renewable thermal combustion technology. This investigation will consider domestic heating all the way up to large-scale co-gen utility electric facilities.

An Introduction to Small-scale Forestry Tools

A working forest requires tool. This module is designed to introduce the tools and vehicles necessary to effectively manage a woodlot. A key element in this investigation will be a discussion of safety and accident avoidance.

Maple Syrup Production

Breaking the back of winter, this module will introduce the art, science and culture of making maple sugar. Topics of consideration will include Agritainment, packaging and equipment considerations as well as the sizing of an operation to suit available time and sap availability.

Sugar Bush Management

Building on last week’s learning, this module will focus on the forestry practices necessary to establish and enhance a sugar bush for sap production. Topics will include single vs mixed aged stands, treatment seasonality and sustainability. Also considered will be methods and designs for both a road and tubing network.

Woodland Management for Game Production

Building upon last week’s module, we will now focus on land management practices intended to promote the growth and abundance of game animals. Additional consideration will be a given to hunting leases and the laws and liabilities associated with public access.

Conservation Mechanisms for Ownership Sustainability

While often viewed as a double-edged sword, conservation easements offered from Federal and State agencies (often facilitated by local NGO’s) can serve as a life line for both established and new farms. However, as is often the case, the devil is in the details. This module will consider the benefits and pitfalls of entering into a perpetual conservation agreement.

Silvopasture, Agroforestry & Passive Recreation Events within a Working Woodland Under some conditions it is possible to graze livestock under a forest canopy. This module will study some best management practices associated with this controversial grazing approach.

Important consideration will be given to the impacts of this practice on livestock health and forest regeneration. Additionally, this module will consider the various opportunities for non- motorized recreation and cultural events (weddings, seminars etc.) within a working farm.

Important considerations for this topic include the esthetics of staging, expectations of visitors, and consequential liabilities presented by event hosting.

An Introduction to Pomology

Not all forest land is natural. This final module will serve as an introduction to orchard science. Importantly, the coverage will involve varietal selection, pollination, pruning, sales and alternative products (cider, jam etc.).

Final Projects Due

Learner centered policy. I will be asking students to help decide how to handle late assignments.  Also, I will seek their input in deciding how to grade their final project.

Learner centered assignment. Students are asked to develop a project based on their interests. As long as it relates to the learning objectives, they will be encouraged to be creative or, if they prefer, do a more traditional type research project.  They will also help develop a grading system for these projects, so that regardless of whether a student chooses to do a media or other non-traditional type project or a more conventional project, they will receive a fair evaluation.

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science program.   Online classes cost $482/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.

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