20 Nov 2023
Blog: Boosting farm woodland opportunities in central Scotland
Across Scotland, farmers are seeking new opportunities for diversification to help boost their business.
At Scottish Forestry, we’re supporting this effort by providing support and guidance to those interested in exploring opportunities for integrating trees on farms.
Will Chadwick, Woodland Creation Officer for Central Scotland, is right at the heart of this work and is helping farmers navigate the process.
“My role as Woodland Creation Officer involves facilitating tree planting across Central Scotland’s Green Network” says Will. “We want to demonstrate the many benefits of integrating trees on farms and help farmers understand the variety of funding opportunities available to them.”
Will has a background in both forestry and agriculture and is working to bridge the gap between the two sectors. “I spent much of my youth working with my grandad on his small farm. His dedication to farming was extraordinary and it’s given me a great appreciation for the need to make the most of every bit of land. This role gives me the opportunity to support farmers like my Grandad to do just that, developing plans to diversify their farm and add value.”
Funding and Farm Woodland Assessments
One of the ways Will supports farmers and other landowners to get involved in growing trees is through the Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS). These grants can help fund planting, management and protection of trees.
Farmers in Central Scotland can additionally benefit from a free Farm Woodland Assessment. The assessment includes the identification of areas for planting, details of available grants through the Forestry Grant Scheme, predicted expenditure and cash flow, as well as advice on future management of the trees. This allows farmers the opportunity to assess the potential for planting with no obligations.
Farming Case study
One farming family that’s benefitted from this is the Imries, who have farmed at Hillhead Farm for four generations. In 2019 they took up the offer of a free Farm Woodland Assessment and by 2021 they had trees in the ground.
Matthew Imrie explained that “with six children in our family, succession planning was a key factor when deciding how to diversify. The tax benefits, as well as the harvestable crop at the end of the cycle, will ensure that the family is looked after while the farm remains in one piece.”
His father, John Imrie, has been working on the farm since leaving school and is always seeking ways to secure the farm for future generations. “We have been looking for an extra income to bring in more capital and Matthew’s suggestion of forestry ticked this box. The area where we have planted trees is poor land that we have been struggling to graze and make productive for about 20 years.“
Many farms may have areas of land that are not very productive, yet would be ideal for integrating trees as part of the business. Doing so can provide another source of revenue while also delivering many other benefits to their farm, local area and the wider community.
There are multiple benefits to planting trees on farms. Establishing woodlands can provide shelter and reduce heat stress in livestock, prevent crop damage and protect farms against flooding, while helping native wildlife to flourish by increasing biodiversity.
Trees can provide protection from extreme weather, which is increasingly an issue that famers have to contend with.
You can also generate a future income by registering in advance of planting with the Woodland Carbon Code, as the trees can offset emissions from the farm and help to tackle climate change.
Apply for a Farm Woodland Assessment
With applications open for a new round of Farm Woodland Assessments, Will encourages anyone in the central belt who is interested in exploring the potential for integrating trees on farms to apply.
“If you’re thinking of planting trees on your land but you’re not sure, the Farm Woodland Assessment is for you. You’ll receive expert advice with no cost and no obligations. What’s not to like!”
The deadline for applications is 31st January 2024, and with a limited number of assessments available you should get your application in soon.