Growing the community

Farm forestry providing income for small farms

From SAGE member and market gardener Fraser Bayley

A social media post from a person I respect and admire, forester Rowan Reid really pricked up my eyes.

He posted a few pictures with the caption:

31-yr-old eucalypt (E. regnans x E. obliqua) we planted, pruned and thinned around over the years. Reached 93cm diameter. The 6m pruned log was 2.5m3 (about 1000bf). Milled it as 2 x 3m long logs. Yielded 1.1m3 of 1/4 sawn board free of sapwood and the core. Now drying in the solar kiln. Value? Standing = maybe $300, Green sawn = $1200, dried $2500 (plus small logs and firewood which should cover all labour). We now have enough trees to produce one tree every week in perpetuity. Value of this is incorporated into the value of the farm.

It does sound a little confusing to those who may not study this stuff, so I’ll translate:

Rowan felled a tree he planted 31 years ago. He pruned it each winter and gave it enough room to reach its potential, cut it down, milled it and dried it in a kiln into $2,500 worth of high quality, straight and even-grained timber while the rest of the offcuts can be made into posts and firewood which, once sold, will pay for the labour. Here’s the best bit… they can do this every week in perpetuity — P.E.R.P.E.T.U.I.T.Y — like, forever.

Value of this incorporated into the value of the farm — I don’t know of any plot of just over 100 acres on this stretch of coast that can earn $2,500 a week for the forestry alone not including the income from grazing. There’s room and water enough on Rowan’s farm for a market garden our size, easily. If you had the inclination, you could rear pigs and chooks not only without affecting the forestry but each enterprise actually benefiting the other.

This is the farming of the future. Can you imagine how much more value a farm like this is than a block subdivided to oblivion? Talk about jobs and growth. High value timber is becoming scarce. It’s only going to get more expensive, so that $2,500 a week… can you imagine inheriting a farm with such a legacy? Could you leave a better legacy behind?

[ed: just days after Fraser contributed this post, ABC’s Radio National aired their regular program “The Money” discussing “The many branches of the tree economy“, in which they interviewed Rowan Reid and he mentioned this very tree. The half hour program is an excellent examination of forestry in Australia and illustrates where farm forestry fits into the bigger picture. You can listen online here or download using your podcast app.]

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