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Why farm forestry?

photo courtesy of ABC Landline

Establishing trees on Australian farms has never before had the support it has today. Overclearing threatens farm productivity, water quality, and Australia’s unique biodiversity. This threat has generated extraordinary government funding and community support for revegetation. At the same time, concerns about harvesting timber from Australia's publicly owned native forests, and importing tropical timbers, has fuelled public support for more timber plantations. The emotion and resolve generated by such issues highlights the importance many Australians place on the environmental, economic and social benefits of forests.

However, the conversion of farmland to industrial monoculture timber plantations on a large scale has met with opposition from some rural communities and conservation groups. Notwithstanding the environmental and economic inadequacies of some farming practices, the conversion of farmland to industrial plantations is seen by many as leading to greater social and environmental degradation.

Although some farmers see plantations as a threat to agricultural development there are many others who argue that forests are an essential component of an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable agricultural landscape. Rather than replace farms with forests they favour the integration of multipurpose plantations into their existing farming landscapes in a way that enhances farm productivity, protects the natural environment, and revitalises farming communities. Across Australia, from Western Australia’s wheat belt to the North Queensland tropics, farmers’ groups supported by governments, industry professionals and conservationists have been established that support commercial agroforestry and farm forestry.

The prospect of selling tree products and environmental services is seen as an opportunity to stimulate farmers’ participation in the establishment and management of forests. These forests may also provide many non-commercial benefits for landowners and their communities. But can agroforestry and farm forestry deliver? Do they really represent a new and more widely acceptable approach to the establishment and management of commercial and non-commercial forests? What's a farm forest anyway, and what has it got to do with farmers?

What is Farm Forestry and how is it different?

Mulitpurpose farm forestry makes common sense



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