Adopting the discussion group model
A forestry discussion group can help us small woodland owners boost our future earnings
A meeting of woodland owners was recently held in Co Meath to kickstart a producer group within the county.
Hosted by Teagasc and facilitated by forestry adviser Kevin O'Connell, the event was well attended and, listening to the questions from the attendees, it was apparent that a 'self help' group of this nature is essential if we are to make the most of our woodlands.
We are all familiar with the truth of the saying "a problem shared is a problem halved". When we share our problems with others, the knowledge gained can often turn a potential difficulty into an opportunity.
There are producer groups all over Ireland where progressive and successful beef, dairy, tillage and sheep farmers meet to discuss the specific problems and opportunities of their respective businesses. It's time now to begin to take our woodland assets seriously, get to know our farm forestry neighbours and co-operate in managing our assets to the best advantage.
As Kevin pointed out, farmers with woodland need to learn a new language and familiarise themselves with the terminology connected with forestry.
There is too much negative talk going around about the difficulties of managing small woodlands, and surprisingly much of this talk often comes from people with professional forestry backgrounds. Perhaps this is because they have little or no experience in making the most of smaller planted areas. Many of them learned their trade managing huge tracts of conifers and often cannot visualise any system of forestry that does not include planting and clearfelling vast sections of Norway or Sitka spruce.
Coillte, the guardians of some 8pc of our land, are wedded to the concept of what is often described as industrial forestry, which requires clearfelling huge coupes in one season. This system has been widely criticised but who can blame them when their remit is to maximise the financial return from the land?
Because of the size of their operation, they can justify bringing in costly harvesters and benefit from the economy of scale -- but this comes at a cost to the landscape.