Oregon Woodland Co-op



Recipient of 2009 and 2005 USDA Value Added Producer grants.

The Beginnings

Oregon Woodland Cooperative is a cooperative of woodland owners. Since 1981, this cooperative has been working together to improve, manage and market products from the forest. Current membership in the cooperative is 43 landowners with 20,000 acres in 10 counties throughout northwestern Oregon. Most of the woodlands are very modest acreages, but a few members of the cooperative members have several thousand acres of woodlands. Logging and woodland management is increasingly dominated by very large, integrated companies.

The genesis of the cooperative took place in the late 1970s. A group began to discuss ways that small woodland owners could pool their resources and market together. Two years after investigating the idea and determining a strong market potential, the group organized into a formal cooperative.


The Cooperative Today

Today, the cooperative is working together to improve each member woodland owner’s ability to manage their woodland and market their woodland products over the long term through members helping members. The key is trust and a common set of goals. Members take advantage of educational opportunities, networking opportunities and the services of the cooperative’s contracted professionals to improve their management of their woodlands and market their woodland products in a manner they could not do alone. In this way they have more than just better volume to offer the market. They also have better managed resources, which lead to a higher quality product.

One of the goals of the cooperative has been to develop specialty markets so members do not have to sell into the regular commodity market. Today the cooperative has 93 product markets and harvest projects selling over 11.4 million board feet of logs from members’ properties. Last year products worth more than $5.5 million were sold. Some of the unique products include distilling Douglas fir needles and selling them into the aromatherapy market, extracting oils for medicinal purposes, development of specialty wood markets and carbon sequestration opportunities. The cooperative has aggressively marketed products that grow below the trees in the forest such as the Oregon grape root, which has medicinal usage, mushrooms and mint.


Services of the Cooperative

In addition to the market development activities of the cooperative, the organization also provides conservation-based forest management expertise and assistance with certification in the Forest Stewardship Council as well as the American Tree Farm system. The cooperative has several consulting foresters who work with members to develop long-term management strategies. Members of the cooperative also have access to a Wilco Agronomy Center, another cooperative that services agricultural producers purchasing needs for fertilizer, chemicals and other products.


VAPG Grant

The cooperative received a USDA Value Added Producers Grant (VAPG) planning grant in 2005 to write a new, more comprehensive business plan that addressed the changing landscape of the marketplace. After successfully writing a new business plan, the Oregon Woodland Cooperative applied for a VAPG working capital grant to implement several facets of the new business plan, including developing a bundled firewood product and providing members access to custom mills and sales expertise in niche lumber markets.



The price of lumber and the impact that the weak housing market has on demand for the product is an immediate challenge to the industry and to the cooperative. Volatility is a standard feature in this market. The past few years the lumber market has been strong overseas. The weak dollar has made American products a value in many markets. However, as the dollar strengthens, cooperative members are concerned that they may no longer be competitive in that market.

The cooperative members are also concerned about the impact of consolidation in their industry. This affects the market competiveness and their ability to get competitive bids for the products. Product innovation and quality are key elements to the future of this business. One of the primary features the cooperative offers to the marketplace is a product with a unique identity based around family forestry. Customers gain a connection with the resource and the people providing it.

The cooperative has to improve constantly. The cost of various transactions whether they are information, negotiations or completing business, represents the primary variable costs in this business. New innovative products are important to the future of the company. But also important will be improving the costs of doing business. Widespread and variable supply is a challenge today as it was back at the start. Dealing efficiently with that is a hallmark of the cooperative.

Many of the woodlands are located next to large population areas, so there continues to be pressure from housing developments and ratcheted that take the land out of production. Many of the cooperative members are also getting older and are trying to determine appropriate land succession strategy for interested family members.

Recently several large bug infestations have devastated forests in the state of Washington and Canada. The landowners are concerned about the potential migration of these infestations into Oregon. But if managed properly, the decrease in available timber from Canada creates a potential opportunity for woodland owners in Oregon.

Today the cooperative’s role is evolving as always. But the original mission remains, which is to help members improve production management and expand markets.


VAPG funding has been offered by the USDA periodically since the early 2000s. A new round of funding is anticipated to be announced in the coming months. To be considered value added, projects must show how products are differentiated in specific ways from commodity crops. Typically, projects must also show how they may deliver greater returns to producers.

Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations, may apply. In previous cycles, applicants were required to be producers of the raw commodity who will maintain ownership of that commodity through the process of creating a value-added product. Grants have been available for planning projects (such as marketing and business plans and feasibility studies) and working capital projects (which might include wages or packaging supplies). (http://www.rd.usda.gov/)