Forestry group visits self-contained forestry operation in Kildare

William Merivale

Wouldn't life be boring if it were spent clocking in from nine to five, without the excitement of battling with the vagaries of weather and volatile markets to earn our livings?

Risks, along with hard work and some inevitable excitement, are part of the daily life of all good entrepreneurs and my dictionary defines them as: 'A person who owns a business and makes money by risk and initiative'.

Now that would surely describe most farmers, for anyone who plants a crop or purchases livestock and machinery is embarking on a speculative venture.

Good entrepreneurs are generally people who think for themselves and are not influenced by popular trends. They are the ones who sell when everyone else is buying and who pick up bargains when markets are depressed.

Begrudgers often disparagingly refer to them as being lucky but, in general, they make their own luck. It doesn't happen by chance for it takes courage to risk hard-earned money in any enterprise and even more courage to try again when something fails.

That is what entrepreneurs are made of, and they are the people who drive our economy and create wealth for the nation.

In my travels around Ireland I have met many such people and have always admired their approach to business, especially where it involves forestry.


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These individuals planted trees, often while enduring scorn from their neighbours, and they managed their woods in order to add value and create further lucrative spin-off businesses.

Those who succeeded now own woodland that is the envy of their more risk-averse critics. Many have, in addition, created jobs in their local communities by using their woodland to provide the location and the raw materials for wood fuel production, leisure and other activities.

A recent field trip organised by the Kildare Forest Owners group to woodland near Kilmeague demonstrated aptly the benefits of an entrepreneurial approach to forestry.

Here, Séamus Kennedy and his father have established a thriving wood fuel and contracting business which allows them to get the most from their 16-year-old conifers on some adjoining cut away bog.

More than 50 people turned up, which proves yet again the educational opportunities that local farm forestry groups provide.

Teagasc advisors Liam Kelly and Frances McHugh have been the primary movers in helping get this initiative off the ground, but it is now down to the members to decide its future.

The Kennedys have approached the tasks of harvesting and extraction by using their skills and knowledge of machinery to best advantage.

Given the difficulty of travelling on cut away bog, they purchased a relatively small six-tonne Hyundai excavator with rubber tracks and then fitted it with a Naarva harvesting head which combines a loading grapple and felling head.

The tree is gripped and the base is then cut by a guillotine- type shear mechanism and delimbed by a simple stroke head knife. The advantages of this system include versatility and the absence of chains or any computer controls.

This allows for basic repairs to be carried out and the entire set-up appears ideal for wood fuel harvesting.

Rather than using a forwarder, the felled timber is transported to the yard using a 4wd dumper with crane attached.

The close proximity of the storage yard is a bonus and also eliminates the need for large turning bays at the forest edge.

The harvested timber is then converted into logs using a Hakki Pilke processor and loaded into vented bags for further drying.


To complete the operation, a small truck and crane are used for delivery to customers and thereby the entire business remains self-contained, self-sufficient and viable.

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of attending such events and sharing ideas with other woodland owners.

It is only by our own initiatives that we can progress and make our woodlands pay.

In order to get the maximum out of them, we have to think progressively and remain open to fresh ideas.

It is interesting to observe how people who have no background in forestry are often the best at finding solutions to the problems associated with harvesting and marketing timber.

They have no preconceived notions and with this fresh approach, manage to get the most out of whatever assets they own. They are not afraid to take risks, for the man who never made a mistake, never made anything.

Irish Independent