Reap the forest benefits
Initial woodland investment is daunting but it pays dividends
Perhaps the best way to convince people of the benefits that forestry can bestow on their properties is to show examples of how farmers have already established woods on their land and profited from them.
Sean Ronan is one such farmer and owns 70ac near Callan, Co Kilkenny. He is 61 years of age and has spent all his life farming and contracting, and is considered one of Ireland's best ploughmen.
In 2001 Sean planted almost half his farm, choosing the heaviest and lowest-lying areas for trees. His decision to plant was made after an assessment of forestry benefits combined with stacking entitlements.
While his woodland adds greatly to the landscape, and will continue to do so in the future, Sean emphasised that this is a commercial forest venture and must earn its keep.
Around 19ac are planted with a Larch/Sitka spruce mix, with the balance containing Norway spruce and four acres of ash and alder. The general layout and quality of the trees so impressed the judges for last year's RDS Farm Forestry Awards that Sean received a gong and a cheque for €1,000.
Several factors influenced the judges' decision, including the manner in which the best use was made of the available land and how both the layout and choice of species were well thought through in order to maximise benefits for the farm.
They felt that Sean's woodland was a fine example of the way in which farming and forestry benefit each other. The site was well chosen, in that road access is good and it adjoins other woodland which, in total, comprises a large block of around 500ac. Management of the woods can thereby be carried out in co-operation with neighbours, making full use of available machinery during thinning and other operations.
Medite in Clonmel are nearby and provide a convenient outlet for the thinnings and final crop. Sean also hopes to bundle the brash and sell it as fuel, and, again, his proximity to Medite will ensure this operation is viable.