Small-farm foresters seek growth in direct sales

Type: Case Study

6 June 2018: Boutique timber growers in Victoria are calling for renovators, architects and builders to contact them directly to source premium woods.

Farm Forestry Growers Victoria (FFGV) is a volunteer group (pictured below) of about 30 farm tree growers across the state that received help from the Australian Government’s Farming Together program to devise a marketing strategy.

Philippa Noble, group secretary, said small-scale plantations of different species presented logistics problems for large-scale timber companies.

“That’s why we are seeking potential customers to contact us directly. We can match their needs with varieties of timbers, local suppliers and small local sawmills,” she said.

Organisational members of the group are Farm Forestry North East, the Gippsland Agroforestry Network, the Box Ironbark Farm Forestry Network, the Ballarat Region Treegrowers Network, and the Otways Agroforestry Network. Altogether, these represent more than 300 landowners across Victoria growing hardwoods such as ironbark, spotted, blue and sugar gums in plantations ranging from 24 to 21,000 trees.

The group has strong collaboration with the University of Melbourne, Vic Forests and the Victorian Association of Forest Industries.

Research undertaken through the Farming Together project found that while architects and builders were keen on sourcing quality durable timbers, “they tend to be time-poor and need to be able to access information easily and in a timely fashion”.

The group is seeking to establish a website for online sales and to earn commission from timber merchants. The group is also seeking funding to employ a part-time project officer for a year.

Farming Together consultant Kerry Anderson said: “Of particular relevance to small-scale timber growers is the decreasing number of small sawmills operating in rural Victoria. While there is growing pressure from a discerning public and government policy to harvest timber more sustainably, price is still a key driver putting pressure on the entire supply chain to compete against larger processors and cheaper imports.”

Ms Noble, from Brimin Lodge, near Rutherglen, said: “About 20 years ago farm foresters started developing planting and managing fast-grown younger eucalypts. Many of these plantations are now reaching harvestable size and are of magnificent quality, but farm foresters are not usually in contact with suitable buyers.

“Buyers usually need minimum lot sizes and/or continuity of supply, so if our network of farm foresters were able to have confidence in being able to market their products on the internet, buyers would be able to fill their requirements from purchasing a small supply from many different growers each year.”

For information about using Victorian timber in your building project, contact the FFGV on 02 6035 7245 or email philippa@briminlodge.com.au

Program director Lorraine Gordon said: “Farming Together works with agricultural groups of all sizes, across all industries, delivering these marketing smarts.”

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