Seeing the forest through the trees
There’s money in woodlots. That was Dave Pullen’s message at a session at the Southwest Agriculture Conference held at the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph on Jan. 4.
Woodlands have the high potential to generate a more significant part of farm revenue in southern Ontario, said Pullen, who is a municipal forester for Huron County, where his roles include forest conservation, management and extension services.
Input costs to manage woodlands are low and timber production potential is high, he said. There’s money in woodlots in the form of financial returns on the timber harvested and protection against soil erosion in adjacent fields caused by both wind and water.
Sometimes there is a struggle within agriculture about the value of woodlots, but
Pullen said the two can exist very well.
“I think woodlands and agricultural are existing very well in a lot of areas,” he said.
He noted that Huron County has 16 per cent forest cover and a very strong agricultural industry.
“We have a lot of people who are maintaining ( and improving) their woodlands while they intensify their production on their best land. Quite often woodlands occur on areas that are not suitable for agriculture anyway, so I do believe that they co-exist very well together,” Pullen said.
The forester said in today’s specialized agricultural landscape, many farm operators are again exploring the benefits of farm woodlands. Not only are there soil conservation and water management benefits, but forest cover provides a home for pollinators and the high potential for carbon sequestration and bio diversity.
Maintaining and improving woodlands, in tandem with sustainable food production, provides opportunities for the farm community to provide solutions to pressing environmental issues, Pullen said, .
“We know that woodlands and forest cover are a major factor in protecting all those things. We really look at is as woodlands protecting agriculture, not competing with agriculture,” Pullen said.