3 Jun 2021
Small forestry businesses – getting value from local woodlands
Scotland has a rich history of small businesses and community initiatives working hard to get the best out of their local woodland resource.
These dynamic small scale enterprises deliver significant ecological, social and economic value from woodlands.
In many cases, these businesses or initiatives have received some support from Scottish Forestry, mainly through Forestry Development Programme funding and the Harvesting and Processing Grant initiative.
There's a vast array of smaller businesses and projects on the go, yet many might not grab the headlines. This short blog hopes to bring these smaller businesses to the fore and give the reader a glimpse of the great work being done.
Forest Policy Group
The independent Forest Policy Group brought together many of these smaller businesses and community initiatives for a conference to showcase and share their experiences of owning, managing and using woodlands and their produce.
One of the key outputs of this conference was a series of case studies to help promote smaller scale woodland businesses and owners, and the fantastic work they are doing.
The case studies are an invaluable resource for individuals or groups who are thinking about setting up some sort of forestry based business or activity.
There’s 23 case studies in total but here are a few to give you a flavour:
Abriachan Forest Trust
With regular and recent news of community buy-outs, this is a great case study to look back at one of the first community purchases of state forest that now has 20+ years of experience in its pocket. Abriachan Forest Trust bought 540 hectares of mainly conifer forest and open hill ground in 1998 above the banks of Loch Ness. They have gone on to transform it into a multi-purpose forest, delivering public access, forest school and adult education. Their forest management activities include restructuring through clear fell and thinning operations, forest enterprise initiatives with biomass and firewood and new native woodland creation and employability programmes.
Cassiltoun Housing Association Project
The local housing association set out to improve Castlemilk Park in Glasgow with support from the community. They wanted to halt decline and renovate the park into a space for all local residents. Volunteer sessions, run by a specifically employed Community Woodland Officer, started the transformation which garnered more support and use of the park by local people. The project has enabled people to learn new skills, gain confidence, qualifications and improve mental and physical health. This example could be replicated in other urban areas with the right staffing and local community enthusiasm.
Gatehouse Nursery Firewood
This case study examines a local tenant farmer within Perthshire who saw an opportunity that has gradually evolved and expanded. Having experienced changing landlords, foot-and-mouth disease and declining sheep prices in the early ‘90s, this individual diversified his farm business using existing machinery, hard graft and his farming business skills. From small beginnings, the business now delivers over 2,000 tonnes of firewood annually, employs three full-time equivalents with an annual turnover of approximately £220,000.
Scottish Wood Hardwood Sawmill
Scottish Wood is a local hardwood sawmill in Oakley near Dunfermline. It was set up as a social enterprise in 2000, employing local people and investing profits back into the yard. It also put back into the local community activities along with targeted funding into near-by areas of deprivation associated with the ex-mining villages of Fife. This business initially employed one full-time staff member and a trainee, and now has grown to eight skilled, hard-working permanent staff. The ethos focuses on skill-sharing, revitalising wood culture, forging positive links with local communities and education settings, along with generating job satisfaction. The Sawmill is also a member of the Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers which is another organisation that Scottish Forestry supports.