Farmers glad they branched out
Gray Baldwin proves that forestry and farming can go hand in hand. Petrice Tarrant reports
Not many dairy farmers can say they have a pine forest harvest up their sleeves as superannuation.
But Gray and Marilyn Baldwin have been breaking the mould ever since they began planting forests on the slopes of their Putaruru dairy farm.
Gray said he headed into forestry after attending a New Zealand Farm Forestry Association meeting more than 20 years ago.
In 1994 he planted 14 hectares of pinus radiata, or ‘‘good old pine’’, as he called it. The idea was to harvest the trees after the normal 27-year growth cycle and they are now only about five years off that point.
But his dabble in forestry did not stop there. In 2003 the couple bought 19ha of Carter Holt Harvey land which was already planted with pine.
‘‘Then we thought hmmm, we can do better than that [pine].’’ Gray’s first foray in ‘‘exotic’’ trees
Gray and Marilyn Baldwin are reaping the benefits of planting forests on the slopes of their Putaruru dairy farm. was the planting of a redwood forest in 2004.
Native trees now submerge the couple’s driveway, providing a much more pleasant smell on arrival than many dairy farms.
The aesthetic appeal has been what Marilyn loves most.
‘‘The hard work went in years ago and now we are reaping the benefits, It’s the beauty of sitting on the deck and seeing the trees grow, that’s what I love,’’ she said.
Gray, who was born on the family farm, said he was more about the money.
He said the reality is that trees on sidelings and steep slopes give a better return than lazy, uncoordinated cows.
‘‘We probably lost two-three cows a year getting injured on hills, now we don’t lose any.’’
The money was not the only perk, as Gray has discovered.
Pruning was almost as good as a gym work out and it provided a bit of variety from milking 450 cows, he said.
The pair must have seen more than dollars when they planted trees which they knew they would not live to see the harvest of.
Five of the 187ha have been dazzled with kauri trees.
‘‘That’s a very very long-term commercial forest.
‘‘It will take 180 years to grow them out to harvest. We see that as a family heritage.’’
Gray said it was the only commercial kauri forest he knows of in the country and ‘‘longitudinally speaking’’, the kauri were equal to the southernmost kauri tree known in New Zealand, which is in the Kaimais.
‘‘We are surprised at how well they’re doing in the South Waikato.’’
In 2004 the couple planted 4ha of Japanese larch; hazelnut trees line many of the paddock fences, and they have another 7ha of mixed species.
‘‘What we’re trying to do is work the flat areas of the farm really hard. Then on the sidelings we plant trees firstly to make money.’’
There are also environmental influences.
The trees protect soil erosion much better than stomping hooves ever could, Gray said.
And all their forests are registered with the carbon emissions trading scheme, which allows them to claim carbon credits for every tree.
‘‘That was the ‘‘icing on the cake’’, Gray said.’’
ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS: Every tree registered with the carbon emissions trading scheme earns the Baldwins carbon credits.