Skunk business plan – a progress report

Skunk Ranch is creating a prototype for profitably restoring fire prone, unhealthy forests with innovative techniques that use removed forest fuels and thinned even-age trees for a variety of products to cover the costs of restoring productive, well balanced forests.

Products range from lumber,  poles for pole building and tipis, value added wood products like furniture and high quality hardwood flooring, worm castings to supply the local soil industry demand, forest garden mushrooms, goat husbandry to remove brush and supply meat to local markets, bees because Skunk ranch is contaminant free, chickens and eggs for sale, a modular nesting system appropriate for free range chickens build from our wood, harvesting of grass in meadows for bulk animal feed for sale, etc.   all to attain a modest monetary income.  The present phase consists of testing various micro industries ascertain their viability before investing heavily in infrastructure.

We use mostly volunteer labor through the Work Away Program and the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (Woofers) program to help us. We have engaged independent contractors for specialized tasks, and paid labor when needed who we insure with a Workman’s Compensation Policy. We use our cabins for our seasonal helpers, visitors and friends.

Now that we are demonstrating potential for business income we have begun seeking additional partners to add their skills and capital to our enterprise.  Potential partners live in the cabins or in the main house while assessing the partnership and joining the Skunk Community.

The three components to our business plan are:

1. The timber component and associated potential industries.

2. The garden produce and animal husbandry.

3. Use of cabins for workshops, retreats, vacations and wildlife conservation activities.  Use of senior unit to provide board and care for one senior.

Our progress so far:

The timber component

1. We applied for, and obtained in 2014,  a  grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service  (NRCS)  to  help defray the cost of the forest management plan. We have again applied to the NRCS to help pay for the forest restoration. We are awaiting their decision end July.    Our ten year  forest management plan  improves our risk of fire ignitions because we are reducing fuels.  removing fire ladder fuels and thinning the over-stocked forest stands.  As per our introductory sentence. if successful our plan can serve as a model for forest restoration in other US coastal forests. and we can hold workshops on site when the cabins are not needed for seasonal labor.

To create income we sell the lumber that is milled as part of the forest restoration program.  We invested in a sawmill which will process 3400 board feet of lumber per day.  In 2014 we sold lumber for $7000.  We continue to sell lumber, 2400 board feet so far.

We are utilizing some non-timber fuel wood for organic fiber, to be combined with Bio-char from brush removal to make soil and worm castings. While evaluating it’s market potential, we are using it to increase our own ranch soil fertility. We project making larger amounts for sale.

We can sell firewood in our local markets which will help cover operating expenses. .

We are composting wood chips/masticated waste wood and plan to collect and bottle methane byproduct, using the Jean Pain composting technique. We plan to use the heat from the composting process to heat a greenhouse.

The goats grazing is a part of the forest restoration work.

The farm produce and animal husbandry component

2012 our chicken flock was 11 chickens. We now have 100 egg/meat producing chickens which  produce over 30-40 organic free range eggs per day and chickens for meat.  Our turkeys, last year, did not get along with the chickens so we are sticking to chickens for now.  They produces organic fertilizer for our garden.  We designed and are building modular nesting boxes to improve roosting, laying, sitting and hatching for our ever enlarging  flock of free rangers. If as successful as we think, we will advertize them for sale, made from our lumber.

2013   We produced 170 pounds of extra food. Our garden suffered in 2014 from a poorly installed drip irrigation system.  This year we have improved the irrigation and are adding permaculture systems to improve production.  We sought information from local agencies regarding regulations for selling organic produce. We were told we qualify as organic and could start selling locally with minimal additional cost,  which we will do  once our systems are in place.

2014  We harvested apples from the apple trees, made apple sauce, apple juice and apple vinegar. They were very popular but our Health Department said the apples are subject to more restrictions as they can be picked up off the ground, which requires special inspections before being allowed to sell the. We will follow up later this yea as time permits.

2014 Our two Great Pyrenees, in addition to their function as livestock protectors,  produced five puppies which we sold, four for $1200 and one donated to a person (who had a ranch for abandoned  children and abandoned horses which provide therapy for the children).  Our dame  is pregnant again and due mid August.  Our Web site to reach potential purchasers is ready.

2015 we added 5 goats, producing 2 quarts of milk/day for ranch consumption while helping to remove unwanted underbrush and  producing fertilizer.

Our forest gardening has resulted in a proliferation of honey bees not present before. We are seeking a bee keeper to start in 2016.

We are maintaining and increasing the populations of grouse, turkeys, and other wild and semi-wild birds and animals  by planting native and ecologically compatible perennial food crops in meadows and areas frequented by wild life. We have seen more wild turkeys close to the main house,  deer are more frequent visitors, as well as jack rabbits. grouse and quail.

Miscellaneous future income generating projects

Essential oils for medicinal use, cosmetic products, aroma therapy, fungicides, and/or pesticides can be produced from viable local and compatible flora.

The sale of carbon credits to carbon emitters may help off-set fire proofing and restoration costs,  provided a baseline is begun prior to major restoration work.

As we progress we plan to use our cabins and main ranch house as residences for workshop participants on forest restoration and perma-culture organic farming.  We can accommodate one senior citizen in our ground floor elder unit as assisted living quarters, providing an income for one or more members at the ranch by providing care for that person.

We have the potential to create a wildlife rescue release facility and an elk nursery to stock the Ranch and surrounds with Roosevelt elk.

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