In July the Western Forestry Co-op was delighted to welcome Minister of State for Forestry Mr Andrew Doyle TD to Leitrim where he visited an afforestation site planted by Western Forestry Co-op (by local co-op forester and Ballinamore native Colm Gilheaney) for local farmer Sean Creamer outside Ballinamore, Co Leitrim. The Minister was attending meetings in Drumshanbo with local farmers to discuss issues relating to forestry and farming in the county. Sean is a suckler farmer and also works as a green keeper in the local Ballinamore golf club. The Minister (who is also a farmer and forest owner) and Sean were happy to discuss the benefits that forestry has been to their farm enterprises. Sean outlined how he took the decision to plant 25 acres of the wetter more marginal areas of his farm. Sean found that with the recent wet summers, this section of land was more and more difficult to graze each year. He contacted Western Forestry Co-op for advice on planting and species selection and after meeting on site and agreeing a plan; Western Forestry Co-op submitted an application for approval to the Forest Service. Sean’s father and grandfather had a great interest in trees and Sean had a preference for a mixture of broadleaves and diverse conifers to plant on the land. Sean is delighted with how the trees are thriving in an area where he found it very difficult to grow grass and was delighted with the additional benefit of receiving his single farm payment and forestry premium on the same land. Western Forestry Co-op has dealt with many farmers and landowners in Leitrim who are happy with their decision to plant, indeed some of these who planted in the late 80’s and early 90’s are now reaping the rewards through both thinning and clearfell income
ranging from €7,000 - €10,000 per acre at clearfell, which is income tax free. This income from harvesting is being used by these farmers and landowners to invest in other areas of the farm and assist in buying other land. Forestry is not for everyone, but for many it is proving to be a viable land use providing an alternative income on marginal land. When a local landowner plants some of their land, the income from the forestry premium and harvesting will be spent in the area, which will in turn benefit the local community. Marina Conway, Western Forestry Co-op CEO and a Sligo native, says that their Co-op ethos is to help local farmers diversify their land uses when it is beneficial and thereby retain the valuable forest industry and its benefits for the local farmers. The alternative is often that land is sold to external pension funds and the short and long term benefits leave the area.