Not the trees. The needles.
The longleaf pine’s most obvious attribute is its strong, straight timber — perfect for utility poles.But the reason that longleaf pines are prized around here: their needles.The dropped needles are in such demand that a lucrative business has grown up around raking, baling and selling them to landscapers and homeowners as mulch. Three varieties of pine needles are farmed, but the discarded debris of a longleaf pine is the most sought-after — and fetches the best price — because of its unusual length and high resin content, making it an attractive, water-retaining ground cover for gardens....He could get $4,000 an acre for clear-cutting his mature longleaf pines for timber. Or, he said, he could earn $1,200 an acre collecting pine needles from the same trees — every year... His workers are paid by the bale. It’s tough, seasonal work. But they can earn $900 a week, Wilson said. He recalled one notably efficient worker who pulled in $1,400 a week.