Last week I had the chance to visit the Bambra Agroforestry Farm and see a great example of tree growing for timber production in action. Rowan Reid, the owner and driving force behind the farm, has been planting a whole selection of different tree species on site for over 25 years — as shelter for stock animals that graze below the trees, to repair degraded land, for conservation purposes and as a harvestable product to mill high quality timber for craftsmen to build with.
One thing I hadn’t anticipated was the open spacious feeling beneath the trees. I had in my mind the suffocating feeling I get in an industrial pine plantation, but the trees on Bambra Farm are planted out at a decent distance and the branches are pruned as they grow so that the canopy casts dappled shade and grass can grow for the stock to graze.
Bambra agroforestry farm – 1987
Bambra agroforestry farm – 2001
Tree growing takes careful thought and time. Take for example the Californian redwoods that are planted out on the farm. They were planted out for conservation and it took them ten years to put on much growth at all. After the first ten years passed by they really took off and grew surprisingly well. When they are harvested they will coppice or re-sprout from the stump and a new redwood forest will grow over time.
Spending the day on the farm I realised how important a well thought out and managed tree system can be for homesteads and for farmlands. They improve the biodiversity, can stabilise the soil to prevent erosion, heat your home and your water and produce fine timber harvested sustainably.
Inside a blackwood tree
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