Bridget and Patrick Hopkins.

Ours is a hillside farm consisting of 21 hectares of free to poor draining acidic soils. Where drainage was good we were increasingly battling gorse and where it was poor rushes thrived – it needed constant attention and recently it began to feel like the harder we worked the more the rain seemed to undo any progress.

With over 150 ‘wet days’ a year we figured that there must be a better way of using the elements to our advantage and it was at this point we began to consider forestry – however finding a forestry consultant, was much more difficult than we had anticipated. After many calls where it was clear there was going to be no meeting of minds we were about to give up in frustration until a friend recommended The Western Forestry Co-op to us.

We called the number given to us and that evening met with Tony Lenighan. In just a few minutes we knew this was someone we could do business with. He asked what we had in mind as far as planting was concerned – we stressed that we weren’t overly enthusiastic about planting a slab of Sitka spruce and Tony made it clear that he would facilitate whatever it was we wanted. After surveying the land he told us that a large portion was suitable for afforestation and that we had quite a few options open to us.

We told him what we would like – a mixed plantation with a greater proportion of native species than was required by the department. On the map he calculated the potential economic outcome for each proposition we put to him (100% broadleaf; 50% of each; 70% conifer etc.) with respect to thinning and harvesting. He discussed the pros and cons of the various tree species with regards to soil chemistry and pests such as deer. In the end it was just a decision of choosing the trees and striking the right balance between the amount of softwood and native hardwood that we wanted.

When Tony presented us with his final plan for the farm – an eleven hectare plantation of which about 25% was going to be native species like downy birch, silver birch, alder, hazel, whitethorn and blackthorn we were impressed. He told us what forestry premium we should expect and roughly calculated the income from the first and second thinning’s. As far as the figures were concerned we were sold immediately.

Ambrose and Kevin Kilcine

Ambrose and Kevin Kilcline on Kevin’s recently planted 10.28ha site. Both men have a great interest in forestry and see it as great way to supplement their incomes whilst also contributing to the environment.

Nigel McWilliams, Dromahair

After contacting Western Forestry Co-Op Colm Gilheaney came to my farm to explain the process of planting and developing the forest. His personality and knowledge of the forestry sector worldwide very much impressed me. He paid regular visits to discuss all matters concerning the project. The planting and fencing was carried out quickly and professionally. I would like to thank Colm and all the staff in Sligo for their warm welcome and refreshments whenever I visited the office.

Basil Henry Grange, Co. Sligo

I farm part time with my son Ross on approximately 75 acres of owned and rented ground in Munninane, Grange Co. Sligo. The land type in this area is very variable ranging from free draining brown earth to higher elevated poor draining podzol type ground. We run a flock of Texel cross commercial ewes alongside a flock of pure bred Texel ewes (Benview Texels) and dry cattle. Our aim here on the farm is to produce high quality livestock which will attract premium prices at specialised mart sales and in the factory.

This was one of the main reasons why we decided to plant the less fertile part of our farm because we were not satisfied with the weight gains been achieved on the higher ground and it was costing us money each year to try and control the weeds and furze on this land parcel.

We now receive our annual forest premium each Spring and claim our Basic Payment (entitlements) on it as well so it is now viewed as a productive part of the farm again and an investment for the future. The whole planting process was straight forward with Western Forestry Co-op taking care of the application process, planting and maintenance on site and the trees seem to be doing a lot better on this ground than my sheep did.

As a forest owner now for 4 years we have found the whole experience very positive to date.

David Doherty, Kilclar, Co. Leitrim.

My name is David Doherty living in Kilclar near Carrick on Shannon county Leitrim.

For some time now my wife Lee and I had been toying with the idea of a woodland on our land. But, could not get away from the commercial aspect of the development. Ideally I would love to have a mixed broadleaf forest, with large Oak and Beech trees. Unfortunately, I knew that the soil depth and quality on my land in Leitrim meant this wasn’t a viable option. We enjoy our land and it was important to be a part of this major change therefore we felt a Sitka spruce forest wasn’t for us, due to it needing minimal work and we wanted more diversity from our forest. Colm from Western Forestry Co-op understood exactly want we wanted to develop and we were delighted with the ideas he was able to put together.

His planning, organisation and the way the workforce operated was extremely professional and precise.

We now have a mixed species woodland with plots containing conifer species including Scots pine, Larch and a small amount of Douglas fir and broadleaves including Birch, Alder, Rowan and some Maple.

We would not have decided to get involved with the idea of a woodland without the input and ideas from Colm from Western Forestry Co-op.

Tom King, Hollymount Co. Mayo

From the start, I found western forestry and Tony Lenighan of Western Forestry Co-op very helpful.

I called into his office which is located at the Aurivo Mart in Ballinrobe, enquiring about forestry. I am at the age of which the workload was becoming too much for me and rent prices were not matching what the forestry was giving.

With Tony’s help, I originally intended to plant trees on 42 acres. But Tony advised me to hold onto ten acres so I could still claim my single farm payment, on top of the forestry payments. I did not know about this rule regarding the single farm payment and I found Western Forestry Co-op very helpful/honest in this regard. I then decided to plant 25 acres of Sitka spruce and 5 acres of oak.

Tony drew up a plan and organised the planting for me, he covered all details from start to finish. I am very happy with the work he did, especially the fencing work. Western Forestry Co-op use very high quality, heavy stakes and wire and I expect them to last a lifetime.

Then on top of that, Tony and the lady in the office organised all the folios for my land to ensure all the land was in my name.

Finally, Tony also ensured I received compensation for a gas pipe and ESB cable that were running though my land (due to restrictions, I could not plant in these areas). This was an additional payment I did not realise was available, and gave me more income in the first year.

The best thing about the forestry I feel is that I did not have to do any work bar signing a few forms. Tony was very trustworthy and was out managing the digger, planters and fencers from day one. He has now also sprayed the land to kill off grass competing with the trees.

The entire duration from visiting the office to planting the last tree was about 2 months.

Until this, I had to organise rent money, cut down on stock and try maintain the land. Now the forestry grant money comes in every year without asking any questions, I’m not worried about neighbouring stock coming onto my land or mine going out since the land was fenced. I am very happy with my decision to plant on my land, and extremely happy that I arranged for Western Forestry Co-op to do the job for me.

Bernard Brennan, Sheep Farmer and former Department of Agriculture Inspector, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo

“I remember reading about the setting up of Western Forestry Co-op and thought it was a very good idea. I like the idea of Co-operatives as they are not for profit and people have a say in the running of the Co-ops not being dictated to from the top. They feel that the Co-op is theirs and that there is continuity with people being replaced if they have to leave or retire. Forestry is a crop that continuity is very important considering the length of time it takes to mature and how it has to be managed during that time.

My first meeting with Western Forestry was in 1994 when we planted our first 40 acres of forestry. In 1994 planting was very unpopular and indeed people told me it was referred to as the grave yard of farming. This has indeed proved not to be the case and since then I have planted more land and am financially very happy with my decisions. Western Forestry Co-op have looked after my planting, inspection Paths, forest road and felling licenses. Most importantly the advice I received from Western Forestry Co-op was invaluable in order to maximise my profit from forestry as my knowledge of forestry was very limited due to the fact that agriculture was my life. Victor Barber covers our area and I have had many dealings with him in the last few years and all very successful.

I joined the Sligo/Leitrim Forest Owners Group in 2011 and am chairperson for the last two years. We invited all the forestry groups to a meeting and asked for quotes for Inspection Paths and other forestry works and every time Western Forestry responded with a very good deal. As a result, we have used Western Forestry and found them to be excellent whether it was Inspection Paths, forest roads, thinning or clearfell. I would have no hesitation in recommending Western Forestry Co-op for any landowner considering forestry or with existing forestry”

Please contact Western Forestry Co-op for more information.

Western Forestry Co-op Offices.