Sheep farmer plants 50,000 trees to secure farm's future

Derek Morgan planted the trees as part of a long-term investment and to help the environment
Derek Morgan planted the trees as part of a long-term investment and to help the environment

A Welsh sheep farmer has planted 50,000 trees on his farm to provide a new income stream and help the environment.

The tree-planting, part of a Welsh government scheme, will provide Powys farmer Derek Morgan extra income for twelve years.

He planted a mixture of broadleaf, such as oak and birch, and conifers trees on 18ha of his 80-hectare farm.

Beside extra income, the trees will help to alleviate flooding, combat climate change by storing carbon and provide a habitat for wildlife.

Mr Morgan, whose family have farmed the land since 1947, said sheep 'are not profitable as they once were'.

“My grandfather bought Safn Coed and I’ve lived here most of my life. The small family farm is the backbone of Welsh farming life and I want to retain that and keep the farm in the family.

“Sheep are not as profitable as they once were and the farm wouldn’t support a family as it is now, so I’m diversifying.”

Within 12 years, the first crop thinnings will provide small diameter wood both for on-farm use and off-farm sale.

Planting, maintenance and eventually felling will provide local employment.

The planting was carried out by Tilhill Forestry following receipt of an initial Woodland Creation planting grant, which will be bolstered by an annual maintenance grant for a twelve-year period.

Mr Morgan said he chose to plant trees as a long-term investment: “Replacing some of my sheep stock with a marketable timber crop will ease my workload, as I am beyond retirement age, and protect the family farm.

“Fifty years ago, I was paid to clear this land, as the post war focus was on maximising production to become, as a country, self-reliant on food.”

He said the challenges today are 'different' as many people become more aware of the issue of climate change, including farmers.

He added that the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme gave his business an opportunity to do its bit for the environment.

“It’s horses for courses. If it suits your farm enterprise, go for it – the reward is both financial and environmental.

“We’re lucky here – we’ve always had red kites. The newly planted trees will enhance the bird population and hopefully we’ll see more hares too,” Mr Morgan said.

Glastir is the Welsh government’s sustainable land management scheme, through which financial support is offered to farmers and land managers.

There are several different strands of the Glastir scheme, three of which are relevant to forestry: Glastir Advanced, Glastir Small Grants and Glastir Woodlands, covering Woodland Creation, Woodland Management and Woodland Restoration.