Tom Corbett is framed by leylandii trees planted in a curve to accommodate irrigators on his Mayfield farm. Photo by Maureen Bishop
Tom Corbett thinks long and hard about cutting down trees on
his farm - and it still hurts when he fells one.
But he is also a realist and will sacrifice trees for changes
in farming practice and compensate by replanting elsewhere,
or by planting a different variety.
Mr Corbett and wife Sue farm 400ha near Mayfield on what he
describes as a traditional sheep, beef and cropping
operation. Now, however, he is moving into dairy support and
has installed centre pivot irrigation.
As a keen farm forester and chairman of the Ashburton branch
of the National Farm Forestry Association, he has planted
trees on the property since childhood.
''My grandfather took up this land in 1878 and ploughed the
tussock. One of the first memories of my father is of him
planting trees. In his later years I was doing the physical
work but he was still telling me where to plant them.''
An association field day on the farm in November, which
looked at planting for shelter for stock and to protect
irrigators, was so successful, Mr Corbett has been asked to
host a Trees on Farms workshop next month.
The free workshop is one of a nationwide series aimed at
encouraging landowners to better understand the potential for
trees on their property.
''I wouldn't try to farm animals in Canterbury without
shelter,'' Mr Corbett said.
''The two constant things in Canterbury are water and
He looks to the past when his grandfather cut blocks of turf,
stacked them three high, strung four wires and then planted
''When there was little other wood here the children were
sent to get the dead gorse branches from the fences for
There is just one small patch of gorse left on the farm.
Instead there are stands of tall timber of mixed species
throughout the property.
The installation of irrigators has been planned around the
farm and its plantings. This has meant cutting down some
trees but others have been topped to allow irrigators to pass
over them. The two irrigators already installed work into a
curve and trees are planted along the curve.
The wind storms of October and November have created interest
in planting shelter to protect irrigators. Hundreds of
irrigators were damaged and took weeks to fix with
technicians brought in from overseas to help with repairs.
''There's nothing like a fright to sharpen people's
thinking,'' Mr Corbett said.
He does not believe there is one method of planting - either
the placement or the species - which will suit all situations
and appeal to everyone.
But it is the variety and continual trial of species which
makes the property a good venue for a field day.
The day-long workshops feature a combination of
presentations, a short video clip and a field visit.
Morning topics include the economic impacts of integrating
trees and opportunities for high-value specialty and
indigenous species. Several workshops include a focus on the
integration of trees and irrigation systems, including a
presentation by Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew
All participants will receive a resource pack with handouts,
a DVD of the video presentation and other information.Trees
on Farms workshops
- by Maureen Bishop
Trees on Farms workshops
North and Mid Otago, April 29, Dunback. Prebble property at
South Canterbury, April 30, Pleasant Point. Stromness dairy
Ashburton and Central Canterbury, May 1, Mayfield. Corbett
Southern High Country, May 2, Tekapo. Balmoral Station;
North Canterbury, May 6, Sefton. Fleming property, Mt
Marlborough and Nelson, May 7, Rai Valley. Morrison
West Coast, May 9, Hokitika. Afternoon venue to be confirmed.