A top award for farm forestry has been scooped this year by a young Lisronagh man who is just two years into his forestry degree.
Patrick Murphy, from Carrigwilliam, Lisronagh, was presented with the award by the RDS and the Forestry Service for the quality of his broad leaf forest, which is growing on his family farm.
It was Patrick’s first time to enter the competition and it came as a huge surprise to him, and his family, that he was named as the overall winner - but judges described his plants as some of the best they had seen in 40 years of judging!
“I always had an interest in forestry,” Patrick told The Nationalist this week. “I was fortunate that my father had a few acres here at home and we planted it.” The fledgling forest is made up of oak, sycamore, larch and some pine. It was first planted in 2006.
“This is brilliant ground but it wasn’t suited to any other type of farming because of its location,” Patrick explained. “The trees are jumping out of the ground here!”
Forestry was once something that farmers considered for their more mountainous ground, but Patrick says it’s now “coming down from the hills” because of grants that are there for farmers, especially to plant broad leaf trees, which he says are suited to most farms, especially dairy. The Murphy family farm was dairy based but they got out of milking in 2005 and now keep some dry stock.
On his plantation Patrick says they are also looking for ways to promote biodiversity and have installed breeding boxes and bat boxes.
A well kept, and award winning, plantation needs constant care. “You can’t just put in trees and close the gate. You have to put a bit of work into them. I do a lot of work every week.” He says it’s nothing any farmer couldn’t learn about from a Teagasc demonstration. Michael Summers of Teagasc was a great help to him, Patrick adds, explaining what tree species suit what kind of soil, as were his WIT lecturers.
“I would encourage farmers to get into forestry if they can, we never looked back,” Patrick said. He does, however, stress safety and says it’s important farmers know what to do, especially dealing with equipment like chainsaws.
Patrick is currently in his second year of a degree at WIT. He studied at Ballyhayes college in Co Cavan for a year before that.
“We planted for firewood in the future and to have something for future generations,” Patrick said. The long-term nature of forestry can, however, make a lot of farmers reluctant to get into that area, also land might be scarce if they have livestock, but, Patrick says, more livestock increases the need for forestry, to counteract methane gas. Forestry also increases wildlife and provides employment.
The Lisronagh trees are now six years old. Judges in the competition were especially impressed with the oak and sycamore plants.