11 Aug 2022

Forestry must have community and family at its core - Michael Somers

Forestry must have community  and family at its core - Michael Somers

Michael Somers (2nd from right) of Teagasc with CBS Kilkenny first years in Callan as part of national tree week PICTURE: Pat Moore

How many times in the recent past have we heard that peoples diets are all wrong and that we must do more exercise?
Our foods are too fatty, too sugary or too processed. Health and wellbeing are vital for a fulfilled and spiritual life. Ying and Yang it might be called. As a forester, my knowledge about people’s diets are limited.
But one thing foresters do know a lot about is wellbeing. Forest development must have community and families at its core. Walking within forests is just one very simple and inexpensive way to get out and be healthy.
Enjoy the balanced diet maybe indulge a bit but get out and walk.
The Japanese identified this many years ago. In fact they have a national policy where people working in offices get time and tax breaks to walk in the forest.
While this has not happened here yet, Coillte have an open door forest policy. Its free to walk state forests. Many of which are gems.
Kilkenny is blessed with some of the best forest parks in the country.
Woodstock, with its majestic Monkey Puzzles, Castlemorris and its rich forest tradition or the great Sequoias in Jenkinstown.
Castlecomer Discovery Park is a tremendous success. This is the time of year cherry blossoms pink up the hedges and woods of Ireland.
Next month the blue bells come. It’s not a case of identifying every tree or every species in a forest its appreciating them for what they are.
And while Coillte manage 6% of Irelands land mass. Farmers too can have an opportunity here. Many are sceptical that their forests are young.
But young forests bring other traits. The 15% bio diversity will show the public what species live in a forest. Food production is just one product farmers with a little bit of imagination can bring to commercial level.
The most expensive product we import every year per Kg are truffles. As nice and rare as they are they can grow for free in a forest.
When planning forests the objective needs to be clear. Many farmers think commercial. And that is fair enough.
Others have environment or bio diversity as their main driver. As we move into planting better land farmers have an incredible opportunity.
While climate change is now a real driver they can set out forests that can sequester carbon more efficiently, derive an income and set up a secondary enterprise. eight million forests visits every year tells its own story. It’s up to land owners to decide for them selves how much of that business they want.
Last week the first years from Colaiste Eamon Ris in Callan came on a talk with us for national tree week. The enthusiasm and questions these boys asked was far beyond their years.
If they hold even 1% of their enthusiasm climate change will not be a problem but an opportunity waiting to be harvested into a business.
Timber price has been driving forestry recently but others exist. Its an exciting times to be a forester. So get walking and use the resource on our door step.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

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