Part-time farmer Noel McMahon plans to grow 36,000 trees on his farm by January.
he West Clare man who manages a small herd of suckler cows planted his first orchard of over 3,000 trees last year as part of the Illaun Farm forest program, relaunched as the Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project.
Hometree’s new project sees the charity buying land along the Wild Atlantic Way to put forestry where it once was. It will also support farmers to start their own plantations.
“I’ve always had a low-intensity farming system with low stocking rates, which makes the farm ideal for allowing native plant and tree species to thrive,” says Noel.
“I have never overgrazed it and have always been interested in biodiversity.
“However, I didn’t know anything about the program until I got a letter about it in the mail.”
Noel was one of 12 West Clare farmers who took part in the first scheme.
“My land was evaluated and when it was found suitable, the wheels of the plantation were set in motion,” he says.
“Before planting the trees, I attended workshops and farm walks hosted by Hometree and it deepened my knowledge and passion for biodiversity.
“Then the Hometree volunteers came and planted the trees – I helped.”
Noel planted a variety of native woodlands including sessile oak, Scots pine, rowan, hazel, spindle, birch, hawthorn, sloe, willow, elder, and alder.
“The project gave me around 400 euros to cover the cost of fencing the trees,” he says.
“I planted an area of 800m x 5m – just over 3,000 trees. I have planted them as protective belts around my land boundary leading to a 4ac plot of my farmland down by the river.
Though the financial reward was small, he says, the other rewards were great.
“I was never interested in making a commercial return from it. I have two adult children who are not interested in farming and I saw this as an opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations so my grandchildren can reap the rewards.
“I could have chosen to plant Sitka spruce, which would have added monetary value in 20-25 years, but that was never my intention.
“Since we planted the trees we have discovered rare plant species growing on the farm and there is more wildlife inhabiting it.
“From a stock management perspective, it’s also great for farmers – having the trees there and having them fenced off secures the land and prevents stock from migrating.”
As part of both Hometree’s old and new programs, landowners have their land’s biodiversity assessed, which can help with water quality management, he says.
Since forestry planting, Noel has hosted farm walks for other landowners interested in planting some of their land with trees.
“My wife Angela and kids Aoife and Niall have been a huge support,” says Noel. “Although we wouldn’t get a huge commercial return from it, they knew it was something I was passionate about and could benefit future generations.”
Noel plans to plant an additional 33,000 trees in January as part of the new forest program that Homeland is helping farmers join.
“The new Wild Atlantic Rainforest project offers additional payments and bonuses in addition to the regular forest program payments you receive over the 20 years,” he says.
“It works on a reward-based system, giving farmers incentives to keep going and keep improving. You will be financially rewarded for the forestry you plant and the improvements you make to your land.
“I’m not involved, but I think it will be more attractive to farmers than the previous program I was on.
Noel’s new plantation will join his existing Shelterbelt plantation.
“It will provide a path for wildlife and nature to roam and live, and act as a barrier for livestock to enter the river,” he says.
“Midwest Forestry handles everything from prep work to planting – all I have to do is provide the land.”
Hometree will be hosting an information and launch event for the Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project tomorrow (Wednesday 16 November) from 5pm to 7pm at the Buswells Hotel in Dublin.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/rural-life/why-this-clare-farmer-is-planting-36000-trees-on-his-farm-even-though-he-was-never-interested-in-making-a-commercial-return-from-them-42144147.html Why this Clare farmer is planting 36,000 trees on his farm — even though he’s “never been interested in making a commercial profit out of it.”