A LOCAL crofter is busting the myth that establishing trees in Shetland is notoriously difficult due to the climate and poor soil.
Andrew Hall, who crofts at Burravoe near Brae, has successfully planted thousands of trees over the last 15 years, thereby diversifying his agricultural business and improving its financial standing.
He has successfully received forestry grants on four occasions in the past years, including a recent approval to help him plant another 2,500 trees.
Scottish Forestry said it recognises the challenges of establishing trees in places similar to Shetland and introduced their highest grant rate specifically for the Northern and Western Isles.
Hall said: “Diversification is vital for the financial viability of our croft. It has taken a good number of years of very hard work to get where we are today, but it has been worth it.
“In our planning, we factored tree planting from the start, along with introducing kye and sheep to the croft. The trees have provided shelterbelts for the livestock, transformed boggy areas for the better, and allowed us to create a scenic area for ‘glamping’ pods.
“The application process for forestry grants has become so much easier and more user friendly. The less time a crofter has to sit down doing paperwork the better – that is how it should be.”
He said planting willow and poplar has worked very well, but rowan and hazel struggle with the conditions.
The forestry grants covered many aspects of getting trees planted on the croft, including livestock fencing, gates and annual management grants over a number of years to help get the woodlands established.
Scottish Forestry’s woodland officer for the Highlands and Islands Jonathan Hawick said: “If we are to meet our Scottish Government target for woodland expansion, we need everyone to participate.
“Small woods are just as important as the larger woodland creation schemes that we help to fund.
“Crofters in the Northern and Western Isles have many challenges and we have a specific funding option available to help them which is the highest available.”
Hall added: “All the tree planting and bushes is great for the environment, as well as our business. It’s a win-win situation. We now have an amazing variety of birds visiting the croft which is brilliant to see.
“The reality is that all this tree planting would only be possible due to the financial help through Scottish Forestry. I carry out the hard work of the planting myself, so at the end of the day, the effort I’ve put in should result in a hard earned surplus in our croft bank account.”
Scottish Forestry has recently published a new easy to understand ‘walk-through’ guide to planting trees, which can be found here.
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