Farmers Learn that Money Really can Grow on Trees

Tree growers and timber experts got together to share their knowledge and experience at the Master TreeGrowers (MTG) Prep Course.

The prep course ran for two days, 10 – 11 March, beginning at Southern Cross University (SCU) and visiting nearby growers’ properties in the Northern Rivers.

Meet Rowan Reid

The Master TreeGrowers course was designed by forest scientist Rowan Reid in 1996 when he was an academic at The University of Melbourne. Since then it has been delivered to more than 2000 farmers across Australia through more than 100 courses.

The complete MTG is an 8-day, field-based, course for landholders interested in planting and managing trees for conservation and profit. The course brings attention to the conservation science behind tree planting and highlights ways for farmers to make money from farm forestry.

To me, cutting down native forest is not the end of the world. The biggest environmental issue is not the logging of forest, but the loss of biodiversity and subsequent issues such as soil erosion. Most people view conservation and production as mutually exclusive. I don’t see there’s any conflict in planting trees to generate money. I’m comfortable marrying the two together, especially when the agricultural landscape is so degraded and in need of trees. – Rowan Reid.

The MTG Program

The program does not promote particular species, products or management options, but offers skills and support networks for farmers to manage and design their own farm forests.

Rowan agrees that while any farmer can plant trees, his program tailors farm forestry to their needs, “identifying their motivations and using science to support that.”

The philosophy of the MTG program is to train farmers through shared experiences and group discussion rather than attempting to educate them through expert tuition. Rowan was joined by a team of local experts and tree growers including Dr Graeme Palmer and Dr Kevin Glencross from SCU, Martin Novak and Dr Joe Harvey-Jones from the Subtropical Farm Forestry Association (SFFA), and renowned local furniture maker Tony Kenway.

We are going to pack in a lot of information and practical demonstrations over the two days. We will meet at SCU and then travel out to different farms in the Northern Rivers to measure trees, discuss harvesting and milling techniques and equipment, and learn more about air and solar kiln drying. – Martin Novak, President of SFFA

The dates for the remainder of the course will be agreed upon by the participants. Thank you to Rowan Reid for an amazing weekend!