Tree Planting is a Labour of Love


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Tree planting is a labour of love for Manawatu farmer Mike Bourke and he never expected to win an award for it.

There’s a bit of irony in this because his grandparents, who settled the farm, spent much of their time cutting trees down. But Mike, a self-confessed “hillbilly”, inherited his father’s passion for trees and plods away planting what he can each year.

While some species are planted for erosion control and stock shelter, most of the plantings are for aesthetic reasons. These plantings include oak trees, conifers and one of his favourite flowering trees, the magnolia.

“I don’t make any money out of it, but I wouldn’t be sheep and beef farming if I wanted to make money,” he jokes.

The trees have also provided a good habitat for birdlife. Acorns have attracted ducks to dams on the farm and this year Mike released trout into some of these dams. He also released about 20 pheasants which now live among the trees.

Mike’s efforts in tree planting earned him a PGG Wrightson Habitat Improvement Award in the 2006 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

He was pleasantly surprised to win the award and enjoyed his experiences as a judge in the competition the following year. “I found it really interesting to see what other farmers are doing.”

He sources most of his trees from a friend’s nursery and takes a ‘plant them and leave them’ approach. He admits his enthusiasm for tree planting took a dent this year after storms in late June damaged or destroyed close to 1000 trees on the farm.

But he will eventually get over this. “It’s nice to think that (storms-permitting) a lot of the trees that I’ve planted will still be here in 100 years time.”

Entries for the 2009 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1, 2008.

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