Dean Martin Young Farm Forester

July 2009

A young farmer wins an award for tree planting and environmental work

Dean Martin, 36, won the Michael Hay Memorial Award for a young farm forester at the 2009 Farm Forestry Conference in Gisborne recently. He embodies the true meaning of sustainable farm forestry because he is carrying out a wide range of plantings for many purposes, and caring for them well. He has a plan in front of him and a commitment to the future of the farm.

Dean has planted hundreds of trees each year since 1997 and also silvicultured the trees where necessary. The plantings include woodlots, native bush restoration plantings and extensive wetland plantings.

He has built wetlands for bird food and soil and water protection, and fenced off and planted three kanuka gullies and four ponds.

Dean spent seven years at Springston just out of Lincoln. “It was like a green desert and makes you realise what we have got with all the bellbirds, pigeons and tuis. It makes you appreciate them, and actively encourage them.”

After completing a B.Com.Ag at Lincoln University, Dean came home in 1997. He started working on the farm and for other farmers in the district.

“I started growing my own natives and planting them in gullies. I planted up small areas around the farm, controlling possums where I could; it was a tough battle until the Regional Council and Animal Health Board got involved.”

To collect seed and seedlings, he walked the local landscapes, including in the Mangaone River, bringing back seed and seedlings.

Dean works on the 242ha (200ha effective) family farm for his parents Gerald and Sue. The farm, Glenlands, on the Napier-Taupo Road at head of the Esk Valley, has been in the family since 1970.

Glenlands, which is dry medium hill country, is dissected by steep gorges and the Mangakopikopiko stream which runs into the Esk.

With the influence of local farm forester Alec Olsen, Gerald started planting pine trees in 1983, and then planting increased after Cyclone Bola. Bola caused severe gully erosion, and the farm suffered from a fall of 900mm of rain.

Dean helped with planting during this time, including planting eucalypts, redwoods, blackwoods and three blocks of Cupressus lusitanica.

He’s been working on the farm ever since, apart from 18 months in Canada.

Dean’s work has transformed Glenlands, and helped the family win the Hawke’s Bay Farm Forester of the Year Award in 1999.

For example he planted a block of 1200 native trees on a hill face over three years to 2001, and 400 native trees in another block from 1998 to 1999.

Almost all the native trees he has grown himself, collecting locally sourced seed or digging up seedlings. He’s kept all the planting lists and species from each year of planting on computer. And he’s managed all the plantings.

He watered his planted trees by hand – with water carried up the steep hills – until an irrigation system was rigged up.

For example a wetland planting has 1269 trees including walnuts, Holm oaks, pin oaks, cork oaks, plums, figs, tree lucerne, karamu, hebe, mahoe and feijoas. This area also has three nesting ponds for ducks built into it.

Gerald and Dean also do most of the pruning and silviculture themselves, including much of the pines.

Looking to the future, he wants to see more areas fenced off and planted in the poorer pastoral areas around the farm, leaving the best land for grazing.

He wants to also try other species such as alders, and to plant more soil conservation trees. The willows they have were severely hammered for fodder for stock during last year’s long drought. For six weeks each morning Dean cut willows for fodder with his chainsaw.

He’s planting natives in the hope someone will get to mill the trees at some stage. He’s actively encouraging a wide range of bird species; and is planting for shade and shelter also.

He also uses the products of his plantings. He makes bows from Osage orange and robinia, and has made them out of elm and yew. “Hopefully in 10 years time I will have a bow made out of something I have grown. They are pretty fast growing.” He uses dogwoods for arrows, and successfully hunts goats with them.

He’s changed his wetland designs over time and now has the dams – as much as possible – less than 60cm deep. This enables more feeding edges around the dams for ducks, and enables them to work more as wetlands, with edge vegetation breaking down. An example is his plantings of lake clubrush.

The new ponds mainly have oaks, coprosma, cabbage tree, flax, and poroporo planted. They also have nesting boxes for teal, and this has helped increase teal numbers.

At the moment Dean is fencing a pond every year to two years. He lets the stock have access to the deeper end, and fences off three-quarters of the pond, planting it with a range of species including oaks, cabbage trees, flax and coprosma. He digs up square plugs of rushes and plants them on the pond edges.

Dean is a very keen duck-shooter, and he and his brother rake up two to three tonnes of acorns a year from town oak trees before duck-shooting, which he then feeds out gradually into the ponds.

He also has a range of unusual trees such as the Chinese coffin tree Cunninghamii lanceolatum, which is showing excellent growth since planting in 1999.