A new way for farmland to pay for itself

A new way for farmland to pay for itselfImage: Two-year-old GreenTrees forest at Petrus property. Picture taken January 25, 2012. The hardwoods are 6-10 feet tall and the cottonwoods are 26-30 feet tall.

Even in the best of times, farming in Louisiana has always been a risky business; a gamble on rainfall, storm events, and fluctuations in the price of crops, chemicals, equipment and fuel. Rather than pinning their hopes on the success of farming in a market that is increasingly difficult to prosper from, some landowners are establishing alternative crops on their properties, including, in the case of the Petrus family of Monroe, a forest of native hardwood trees.

Though his 1,320-acre family farm of prime soils had been cleared and successfully worked by leaseholders for some fifty years, the Petrus family was eager to find a means of providing steady income without the seasonal risk of traditional farming.

In 2008, Wayne Petrus heard a presentation at the Madison Parish NRCS office by a company called GreenTrees which offered to replace his cotton, corn and beans with hardwood trees, all the while earning the Petrus family regular payments.

After lengthy consultation with his family and financial consultants, Petrus converted 1,162 acres of prime cropland to forest, persuaded by the prospect of multiple streams of guaranteed revenue: GreenTrees funded the forestation process, CRP payments rewarded his creation of wildlife habitat, and eventually he will selectively harvest valuable timber.

Part of a large family of sportsmen, Petrus was eager to derive an income similar to his farming lease while expanding his wildlife habitat for hunting deer, turkey, dove and waterfowl. All of this was welcome news to the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, which adjoins the Petrus farm on two sides and benefits from the farm’s forested corridors which permit wildlife migration.

The Petrus family made a major change in their land use to escape the financial uncertainties inherent in agriculture. Not only have they chosen a more assured financial future than traditional row crops agriculture can ever provide, they are actively contributing to cleaner air and water and more abundant and diverse wildlife in the area.

Today the Petrus family enjoys life on a thriving wildlife preserve—lately they have even spotted endangered Louisiana black bears on the property. A steady source of income based on hardwood reforestation promises to keep their farm prospering, no matter what the weather or the markets may bring.

About GreenTrees

GreenTrees is a Delta conservation firm specialized in reforestation and the associated ecological markets, such as carbon, water and biodiversity. As one of the largest carbon reforestation programs on private lands, GreenTrees has over 2 million tons of carbon credits under contract for Fortune 500 companies.

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