The days of private forestry companies having to knock on farmhouse doors and plead for land to plant are over, according to national woodland managers, Fountains Forestry.
Fountains’ senior manager in Stirling, Craig Dinwoodie, says Scottish farmers are now actively approaching private firms, looking for ways of integrating forestry into their other enterprises.
Mr Dinwoodie was speaking at Forestry Expo in South Lanarkshire, the industry’s first major demonstration, machinery and trade stand event designed to appeal to farmers as well as foresters.
“Financial pressures on sheep farming means the timber industry is looking more attractive for producers than ever before, and we are no longer being seen as predators,” he said.
“The days of ‘them and us’ are just about over and we are working hand in hand with sheep farmers or tenant farmers, which can sometimes prevent them from having to give up their land altogether.
“You still hear farmers say they won’t see returns from forestry for 40 years, but there are short-term benefits such as better fencing, access and shelter, and some of those can be immediate.”
In response to any accusations that demand for planting land is pricing new entrants out of the market when farms come up for sale, the company’s Dumfries and Galloway manager David Smith said: “It’s a misconception that we are setting an unfair bench price for land.
“If people think forestry has money to spend, our experience is we can be blown out of the water by investors in the wind farm or renewables sectors.”
SRUC’s new head of forestry, Martyn Davies, said farmers were looking for advice on practical planting matters.
He added: “The private forestry management companies are taking care of the finance, but farmers are coming to us asking how many trees they can get on land, the best species to grow and how quickly they can get a return.”