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A dairy farmer couple's planting obsession

Dairy farmers Mark and Jennifer McDonald.

A farming couple help the environment by planting native trees.

Dairy farmers Mark and Jennifer McDonald began planting native trees on their Methven property in 2009, and now bird life is returning and water quality has improved, Mark says.

“It was the first piece of land of any reasonable size that we’d owned and it was just the first chance that I had to start doing some of the planting that I’d always wanted to do.”

The property had areas planted with willow and a stream that was covered in gorse, when the McDonalds moved in.

“So we got in there and cleaned it all up, worked out a plan to fence it off and away we went.”

Mark’s father was keen on planting trees, and having come from Taranaki where there is native planting on farms, Canterbury seemed to be rather empty.

“I guess part of it was harping back to what Taranaki looked like and I’ve always liked trees, and i just wanted a more pleasant environment.”

After getting started, Mark says he learnt from making a lot of mistakes.

“You learn along the way, you learn what plants will grow in the area, what’s a bit too frost tender or what might not survive the snow.”

The farm 7 years ago.

The farm now.

The McDonald farm in Methven.

Now that the plantings are well-established, Mark says they are starting to see a lot of seedlings coming through.

“We’re really starting to see the benefits now.”

He says he would advise others to just start with the basics; flax, cabbage trees and grasses. They cover a lot of ground and help you to keep on top of the weeds.

Macro alias: ModuleRenderer

He now has about 60 different species in the wetlands area of his farm such as beech trees and tōtara.

“The more I planted, the more passionate I got about it and the more obsessed I got with it. I just put my foot down and said more of my time is going to be put towards that.”

He says of course there is a cost financially, but there are plenty of benefits such as increased bird life, increased property value and better water quality. 

“Dairying and the environment can work hand-in-hand,” says Mark, “I hope it’s a showcase farm where people can come in say this stuff works.”

Article from Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, Radio NZ.farm