Tuesday, 24 April 2018
Forests and farming, side by side in the Mornington Peninsula
This rural farm on the border of Red Hill and Main Ridge, Victoria, showcases a holistic approach to agriculture, lifestyle, and FSC-certified forestry.
Red Hill and tiny neighbouring town, Main Ridge, make up a small rural community, located on the Mornington Peninsula. Among the Peninsula's quirky breweries and boutique wineries you will find an FSC smallholder, leading an innovative project that demonstrates how agricultural land can be used for production and conservation.
The project, a first in the area, sits in the Peninsula’s green wedge zone and hosts a series of small-scale plantations that integrate forestry with farming. Scattered among the tree plots of spotted gum, blackwood, and the native forest corridor, you will find livestock grazing; dexter cattle, and alpacas.
High environmental performance for smallholders
The plantations are certified to FSC smallholder standards under a group scheme managed by Gary Featherston, of Forest Strategy. Susan and Michael have always been passionate about sustainability, but it was not until they were introduced to FSC and Forest Strategy that they found an approach that matched their passion as well as their needs.
Through FSC, Susan, Michael, and Gary have put in place environmental protections and best practice land management approaches. Approaches of the kind highly valued by new entrants to the industry, but normally inaccessible to small growers. To protect the creek that runs through the property and the biodiversity that relies on it, Gary follows a conservation management plan.
Being environmentally conscious, Susan and Michael had stringent environmental precautions already in place. FSC certification supported their efforts and provided them with a framework to ensure the ecology of their land stays protected.
What is a group scheme?
Group FSC chain of custody and forest management schemes have been developed to help smaller enterprises achieve FSC certification by reducing the costs of certification.
What are smallholders?FSC defines smallholders as small forest producers, and local and traditional communities and Indigenous Peoples engaged in FSC-certified value chains. This definition includes forests held by local communities, small woodlots and plantations less than 100 hectares, and forests managed for low-intensity wood and non-wood harvesting.
Helping smallholders increase their access to markets
FSC certification will help Susan and Michael's harvests access new markets down the track. These include niche markets for certified, high quality, craft timber.
Access to the these markets makes it possible to have an FSC certified plantation on the property. Susan and Michael say that the property’s value has increased through the FSC documentation process, as the management requirements and financial planning maintain professionalism and high standards.
On top of being good business, the owners reflected “We feel happy about what we do,full stop. We are very pleased with what we have here. The principles underpinning it are so strong.”
The site is a great example of the way FSC smallholder certification can protect the unique ecology of a site, while providing financial security for owners and workers.
A shorter version of this article appears in the FSC Australia 2017 Annual Report.
About Forest Manager: Forest Strategy
Forest Strategy provides consultancy services to forestry industries and strategic resource advice for hardwood timber industries. Forest Strategy also provides sales and marketing advice to forest growers and commercial forestry businesses. However, Forest Strategy’s key purpose is to provide certification services across the industry.