Module 13: Non Timber Forest Products: Growing Opportunities

Lesson Eight - Know Your Markets - Before You Harvest!

Gathering NTFPs for one's own use is common practice among wildcrafters. Edible plants and mushrooms are harvested for consumption, greenery is collected for holiday decorations, and other forest materials are used for hobbies and crafts. Many people find satisfaction in these pursuits of self-sufficiency.

NTFPs for market

Others, however, may be interested in the financial returns that can be generated by NTFPs. Some small businesses are found within the NTFP marketplace, and nearly all are intended to supplement incomes from other sources. It is extremely rare to find someone who makes a living solely from wild NTFPs.

Effective marketing is critical to selling quantities of NTFPs. While some kinds of wild products such as seeds, berries, mushrooms and plant extracts may be available in large quantities, marketing these materials for reasonable returns may be difficult. It is therefore advised to research potential markets thoroughly before harvesting NTFPs.

Bunchberry flowers

Local farm markets can be a successful venue for NTFP sales, where sellers can market their products directly to consumers. In some cases the harvesters are also the sellers, which eliminates middle-marketers and maximizes returns to the harvesters. More often, however, the harvesters sell in bulk to vendors, each of whom may have several suppliers.

When a number of suppliers decide to market their products through one or more buyers, cooperatives can be successful. These individuals and companies can operate collectively as a group, which offers a more stable marketing environment. A number of NTFP cooperatives are present in British Columbia, where the advantages of working together have been well documented.

Walking sticks

There are few examples of formal NTFP marketing organizations in Atlantic Canada. These are dominated by the Christmas tree, maple products and blueberry industries, which have well-coordinated marketing structures.

Most small NTFP producers must usually undertake their own marketing efforts. Unless the products are destined for exclusive markets - such as pharmaceuticals - inclinations for creativity and entrepreneurship are real advantages to producers of NTFPs.

Moss for landscaping

While NTFPs are seldom the get-rich-quick commodities that some people envision, hard work and innovation have provided a reasonable income for those who are determined to succeed. For woodlot owners, NTFPs can yield another source of income when managed sustainably.


It can be difficult to calculate the commercial value of an NTFP. Often, no dollar value can be assigned to a particular product or service.

NTFPs have been important wherever humans have settled. As sources of foods, medicines, shelter and cultural significance, NTFPs will continue to provide important opportunities for woodlot owners.