Happy tree-growing farmers

In travelling around and talking to Tasmanian farmers and others about growing blackwood I’m often faced with the statement (or some variation of it) – “but they take so long to grow!”

I’m certainly not saying that time and money are not essential issues in investment; but good money can still be made on investments up to around 40 years. And this is without considering the many other benefits in growing trees on farms.

Amongst the blackwoods

So how do farmers get past this initial resistance to investing in trees and including trees in their farming business?

As a passionate forester I’m always inspired by the stories from New Zealand where many farmers have taken to growing trees as part of their farming business. Twenty years ago the New Zealand Government (which was then the major player in the forest industry) decided that politics and forestry didn’t mix, and if the forest industry was to succeed and thrive then it was time for the Government to exit the industry. So the Government shut down the public native forest industry and sold off the large public plantation and sawmilling assets. It was a controversial decision that was opposed at the time by the industry and the forestry profession, but the Government still went ahead. Today the forest industry is a thriving cornerstone of the NZ economy, and the farmers are the beneficiaries of that brave decision 20 years ago. I only wish Tasmanian farmers were in the same situation.

The organisation that represents New Zealand farm foresters is the NZ Farm Forestry Association. Their website has a vast array of information and ideas. One is this collection of farm case studies that showcase 15 farmers and their experiences with growing trees. They are all well worth reading. Some of the stories include farmers growing blackwood.

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/farm-forestry-model/case-studies/

These stories demonstrate that farmers can overcome their reluctance to long-term investment of trees. Where the opportunity allows, a series of forestry investments over time can eventually make a major ongoing contribution to farm income. Some of the case studies include harvesting and the financial returns that have been achieved. Perhaps the best example is “Hockings, Bulls, Wanganui” the sixth on the list that includes a table showing the significant contribution of forestry to farm income over an 18 year period. Very impressive! Indeed I have read of NZ farmers who over time have converted their entire properties to forestry and become 100% tree farmers. They have discovered that farming trees is both enjoyable and profitable.

And because blackwood is high-value, smaller investments are still viable and profitable, compared to hardwood pulpwood or radiata pine where scale of investment is more important.

I hope you find these stories inspirational and educational.

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