‘You are not trying to force your land to do something nature had never intended it to do’
Michael Murphy is a tillage farmer in Midleton, Co Cork. Michael grows 10ha of barley, incorporating some wild bird cover, and leases out the remainder of his agricultural holding.
He planted an eight hectare native woodland over the winter of 2015-2016.
Michael's view was that the 8ha were, at best, only suitable for summer grazing because of impeded drainage. "This particular site has always been very wet and I felt the forestry would help to dry it out and also have a drying effect on the surrounding fields," he said.
Having looked at various land use options and considering his interest in both the environment and the recreational benefits of broadleaf woodland, Michael opted for the Native Woodland Establishment Scheme (NWS Est).
As well as earning a tax-free premium of €635 per hectare for the next 15 years, Michael feels he will (in time) be leaving a living, vibrant legacy to future generations of his family. While relatively uncommon, Michael decided to take on much of the work himself. As required by the scheme, he used the expertise and guidance of a registered forester, Mark Donnelly of Carrigrohane, Cork to process the grant application.
Taking into account the wet ground conditions of part of the proposed woodland, Michael and Mark decided to plant a combination of 30pc alder, 30pc oak, 30pc birch and the remaining 10pc with holly, Scots pine and hazel. In addition, paths and open areas were carefully planned and integrated through the woodland.
Once grant approval was received from the Forest Service (DAFM), Michael sourced the trees himself, organised ground cultivation and then planted (with some help!) more than 25,000 trees over the winter of 2015-2016.
Michael is keen to limit herbicide use unless absolutely necessary, so he trampled the grass vegetation around individual trees instead. A small number of the trees also needed replacing.
Michael is very happy with his newly created native woodland as well as his active involvement in its establishment and on-going management.
"One of the nice things about forestry is that you don't have to worry about the vagaries of the market, at least in the first 15 to 20 years, and you are independent of big agribusiness," he said. "You are not trying to force your land to do something nature had never intended it to do".
Michael and his family now look forward to seeing this very special woodland develop and thrive.
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