IF anyone should know the lie of the land it is farmers. 

They walk it on a daily basis from those early hours in the morning until dusk, along every burn, up every hill and down every hollow. There’s clearly no point in telling them how they should be using it  – but there is a lot of merit in highlighting the valuable option of planting trees.

That’s Lyn White’s job as Scottish Forestry’s first forestry and farming development officer. She introduces herself as having an agricultural background (HND in agriculture and a post-graduate qualification in organic farming) plus practical farming experience rather than someone with a CV in the forestry sector. 

HeraldScotland:

“The post is relatively new and having a foot in both camps has been interesting and challenging,” she says. “There’s no hard sell involved.

“What I can do is suggest to people what the options are: if you're talking to them about their livestock, health plan or how to increase productivity and reduce costs, you can ask how they can involve tree planting to augment that.”

There are, she says, multiple benefits for those who create new woodland on their farms. The trees, often native broadleaf species, can provide shelter for livestock, a future income from timber sales, and redefine or renew farm boundaries. In addition, woodland can help in the management of stock, create habitats, improve biodiversity, and help reduce the carbon footprint of the business.

Ms White had spent the weeks before lockdown speaking at farming meetings across Scotland about integrating trees on farms and discussing funding while pointing out that this might be a useful option for farmers in uncertain times – and that Scottish Forestry is there to help.

“A forestry adviser can look at a piece of land (or in current circumstances a picture of a field) and let the farmer tell them that the cows are here, the sheep are here, it’s near a river, it’s in a bit of a dip … then explain how trees can be introduced in a way that benefits the whole business. 

HeraldScotland: The Herald's annual review of Scotland's Forestry Sector can be viewed online by clicking the above imageThe Herald's annual review of Scotland's Forestry Sector can be viewed online by clicking the above image

“Every situation and everyone’s farm is different – as is everyone’s perspective on what they want from it. For many people forestry is an investment for the future and while many embrace change for one reason, they then see how well it works and decide they want to take it on to another level which may involve more woodland,” she says. “Planting trees provides areas of 
shelter with some people now able to do their lambing outside because of that – or to introduce a different breed of sheep which is just as productive but also reduces feed costs because of the new shelter.” 

She adds that can guide farmers on availability of grants and advice. “This is important because farmers are used to applying for grants at certain times of the year whereas application for funding through the Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) is open all year round, with the land planted under the scheme remaining eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).”

“Covid has made interacting with people challenging and we are following the safe working practices for the forestry sector. People should expect that visits may take a little longer to organise and to be patient as our woodland officers have limited capacity at this time. Forestry is just another crop and while it’s one that takes a longer term to achieve results you still have to think about what you’re going to grow and how you’re going to manage it – as you would do with grass or grain. It’s not just a case of planting trees and shutting the gate.”

Visit forestry.gov.scot/support-regulations/woodlandcreation  or email Scottish Forestry office: forestry.gov.scot/about/local-offices