IF YOU are a farmer or crofter and want to find out more about tree planting, then you can’t beat seeing and hearing from those doing it practically on the ground.

That’s the aim of the new Integrating Trees Network which is in the process of setting up a number of farm woodland demonstration sites across Scotland.

The initiative is being led by farmers and supported by Scottish Forestry and the Scottish Government.

It’s all about encouraging more trees to be planted on Scottish land, in the right place, for the right reason and to give guidance on how this can be practically achieved.

At the moment there are two sites in the demo network – Andrew Adamson of Messrs W Laird and Son, of Netherurd Home Farm, Peeblesshire, and the Imrie Family of Hillhead Farm, Torrance, Lanarkshire. Both are family -run farming businesses, and more hosts are to be announced in the coming months

Scottish Forestry’s forestry and farming development officer Lyn White said: “It’s great to get this new network up and running. We have had a great response to a call for host farmers, crofters, estates land managers from across Scotland, but we are still keen to hear from land managers who might like to be hosts – please do get in touch.

“We currently have two fantastic farming hosts who are willing to share their practical experiences, discuss their objectives, challenges and benefits of their tree planting projects."

As the network of demonstrator sites develops across Scotland, the aim is to have a site in each geographical region linked to a Scottish Forestry office.

“Obviously during Covid-19 we can’t go visiting, but when restrictions allow, these demo farms will be available for us to arrange visits so all those interested can see them first hand," said Ms White.

She suggested that farmers and crofters have become more aware of the multiple benefits that woodland creation can have for their business – benefits which might include providing shelter for livestock; habitat for wildlife; reducing the business’s carbon footprint; providing future income from timber; and the prevention of flooding.

Due to the pandemic, the Integrating Trees Network project formally started last week with the first of two online events. The next one is scheduled for March 17. All those who wish to learn more about tree planting on their farm or croft are very welcome to book into the project's free online events. Questions and ideas on future event topics are also encouraged.

Lyn added: “As this is a farmer led network, we want hear from land managers about what topics they want to discuss so we can bring in expert speakers to present alongside our farmer hosts."

The first online Integrating Trees Network event was hosted by Andrew Adamson at Netherurd Home Farm. Andrew is a fourth generation farmer, farming 570 acres, near West Linton, where the family have been since 1940’s. Andrews’s wife Jayne, their daughter Hazel, and son Jon, also live on the farm. Andrew is in partnership with his mother and Jayne helps out on the farm when required.

The farm is 721 to 1150 feet above sea level, providing excellent grassland, grain and fodder crops for fattening the 200 bought in store cattle. This is alongside 690 Scotch Mules and Texel crosses ewes, and 150 Texel ewe lambs tupped per year, producing prime lambs.

Netherurd has 98 acres of woodland, which provides shelter from wind and inclement weather, and provides shade for the stock in summer months. The continued management of the woodland has provided the farm with an alternative income and is an enhancement to the landscape. 28 acres of this area have been planted within the last five years to assist in the continued diversification of the farm.

At the event, Andrew introduced the farm and discussed his business’s objectives and woodland creation and management and the multiple benefits trees provide. He answered questions around wildlife, thinning, management, challenges, species choice and protection.

There was also brief introduction to the Forestry Grant Schemes and how land managers could take their woodland creation objectives forward. The aim is to feature Andrew again in the coming months to discuss topics that farmers would like to chat over with him on a practical level.

Take home messages from the Netherurd event were:

  • The importance of getting right tree in the right place;
  • Know where your drains are before you start;
  • You don’t plant trees for you. You plant them for the next generation and longer;
  • It’s your land – don’t do something you don’t want to do;
  • Use well known contractors. Not always the cheapest but being recommended by others shows they know their jobs.

Nearly 60 people attended the hour long event, and their feedback was positive. Messages on social media included: “Informal but informative, interesting and good response to questions. Great to hear one farm’s journey with trees.”

The second event is on Wednesday, March 17, between 7pm and 8pm, where the Imrie family of Hillhead Farm will be talking to online visitors about their family's new venture into woodland creation and how this has helped them to maximise their marginal land and safeguard the future of the family business, discussing the initial thought processes, the decision to plant trees, objectives, challenges and benefits –. and how a 'No, no trees' attitude became a 'yes!'

There will also be a speaker from Scottish Forestry joining in to discuss funding and the first steps to woodland creation.

More information and to book visit https://www.farmingforabetterclimate.org/integrating-trees-on-your-land/