The following article was submitted by Chris Hicks, Smith County Extension Agent: 

Most farms in Smith County raise a crop that is harvested and sold every year. Corn, soybeans, tobacco, and cattle are basically marketed once per year every year. If we make a big mistake and market one of these crops at the wrong time when the market is low, or at the wrong location, it causes some heartburn and a loss of income, but there is generally going to be another chance to do better next year. 

Now imagine a crop that is not marketed once per year, but maybe only once in a lifetime. It would be pretty important to do your homework and make sure you get the sale right because you’re not going to get another chance next year. Therein lies the somewhat daunting task of selling timber. 

Over half of Tennessee, about 14 million acres, is covered with forests, and according to the TN Department of Agriculture, the forest industry accounts for $19.6 billion, or nearly 4% of the state’s economy. On a more local scale, timber resources can be found on most farms in Smith County. When it comes time to harvest those resources, there are some critical steps to take to maximize your chances of success. 

At the outset, it is a good practice to consult with a professional forester. There is wisdom in seeking help from an expert and in all likelihood a forester who works in the timber industry on a daily basis is going to know more than the landowner who is selling timber every few decades. Talking with a variety of folks, from state foresters to private consultants will help you be more confident in the decisions you make. 

When harvesting timber, landowners should think about the future productivity of the forest. Don’t cut yourself out of business by only leaving weak or undesirable species with little chance of increasing in value, often referred to as high grading.

Creating a contract for the timber sale is a must. Oral agreements do not hold up in court. Read the contract, understand what it says, and know what is happening on your land. An example of a timber sales contract is available from the UT Extension office. 

As with any market, there are ups and downs in the timber market. Recognizing when the market is offering higher prices is important in determining the worth of your timber. Your forester will be familiar with the market trends and can assist in this area. When the time is right to sell, market your timber with a sealed bid. Your forester knows all the avenues to advertise your bid and can invite as many buyers as possible, encouraging more competition and higher prices than other methods.

If you are interested in the topic of forestry, I’d like to invite you to attend our February 6 Lunch and Learn session from noon-1:00 p.m. at the Smith County Chamber of Commerce. Larry Tankersley, UT Extension Forestry Specialist, will be on hand to discuss the topic “What are my Trees Worth & How do I Sell Them?” Larry is an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker so if you have marketable timber on your farm, you will benefit from his talk. 

Cost of the Lunch & Learn session is only $5 and includes your meal. Pre-registration is required by calling the UT Extension office at 615-735-2900 by Monday, February 4. I hope to see you there!