IS planting trees a viable enterprise for the future of your farm?
That’s the question The Southern Star asked those attending a recent conference, promoting the forestry industry, in Rosscarbery.
The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine promotes a ‘Farm Forestry’ approach to increasing forest cover where farmers are encouraged to include afforestation as part of their overall farming mix.
‘In order to encourage higher levels of afforestation the Department has funded new promotion initiatives,’ Minister Michael Creed told The Southern Star.
‘Additional funding was provided to Teagasc for a Forestry Promotion Campaign to cover the period up until the end of the Forestry Programme. In January 2019 the Department issued a call for proposals to promote the benefits of forestry, to focus not just on the income and employment opportunities but also on the social and recreational opportunities, the contribution to biodiversity and the important role of forestry in climate mitigation.’
Stephen Lynch from Schull first planted trees on his farm over 30 years ago.
‘I started out 33 years ago and planted 11 acres with Sitka Spruce,’ Stephen said. ‘Since then I’ve planted more trees, hardwoods, more sitka and holly, it has all worked out very well with premiums over the next 20 years or so. We are all beginning to look at forestry in a different light and I would recommend it. You have to get advice and plant the right trees in the right place.
‘I have six children and none of them have any interest in farming but with the forestry I will be able to leave them 20 acres of trees each.’
When it comes to forestry, Ireland is bottom of the class in Europe with only 11% of the land given over to planting trees, a situation that the government is determined to rectify over the next 20 years.
For Alan Jones, who inherited land in Rathmore, planting trees made perfect sense for his farm enterprise.
‘I have a 15-acre plantation, planted back in 2002, and as I am from a non-farming background, forestry is a perfect way for me to make use of the land and also to protect the environment and help with climate change,’ Alan said.
‘I know that some farmers are totally against forestry but with marginal land this is a very good option. This is for my retirement and I have a mixed plantation with hardwoods and native varieties.’
Madeline McKeever, planted trees on over 50% of her farm on Turk Head with broadleaves back in 2005.
‘I love having the trees and while our main planting is of oak and I don’t expect any return from them in my lifetime, we are self-sufficient when it comes to our own fire wood now, I could probably make more money selling wood on my farm than I could with beef on my farm now.
‘We need to be planting more of our own hardwoods right across the country and I would encourage more farmers to get involved with forestry because it gives you a diversity that you can off set against, for example if you have a bad year in beef.’