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Make tree planting your next investment

Forget farm/ranch personal property insurance.  A new type of farm coverage is available: Trees.

OK, so don’t completely nix your insurance, but planting trees is great supplemental coverage against harsh weather conditions and the byproducts of owning livestock.  Trees create a natural barrier against wind and snow, provide shade, visual screening, energy savings and odor mitigation.  It is an environmentally mindful approach to farm efficiency and protection that lasts for decades.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) assists Iowa livestock farmers in learning how to plant vegetative buffers through the Green Farmstead Partner program.  Since 2009, the program has helped 40 Iowa livestock farms connect with nursery experts to select trees based on unique farm needs.

The program aided Matthew and Nancy Bormann on their Lu Verne, Iowa grain and livestock farm to provide shade for their hogs and cattle, as well as guard their neighbors from the odors of livestock.  Together they selected a hybrid willow and red cedar that were planted in May 2010, alternating the species in two rows to create a 700-foot vegetative buffer.  In another area, they planted lilacs, flame willows and redosier dogwoods.

“Lilacs provide a pleasant scent.  The willows and dogwoods help to cut down on dust from the gravel road and cut down on any farm odors,” Nancy Bormann said.

Pleased with their results, the couple added a row of 15 flowering pear trees and a dozen deciduous trees to their yard this spring.

CSIF helps offset the steep costs that come along with planting trees by connecting farmers with grant information. The National Resources Conservation Service provides grants to farmers practicing land conservation through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.  Executive Director of CSIF, Brian Waddingham, said it can cost $1,000 to $20,000 depending on how many trees and the type of trees planted.  The average Green Farmstead Partner program member spent about $5,000, Waddingham estimated.

But the trees are so versatile in what they provide a farm that it is proving a successful long-term investment.

“I think in the long run it will pay off.  Currently our feedlot is very exposed and we spend a lot of time managing the snow during the winter, so hopefully the trees will help with some protection,” said Brian Grossman on a forum.  “As for the trees around our yard, I know those have paid off.  It slows down the wind before it hits our house to reduce on heating costs as well as reducing the amount of snow that settles in our yard.”

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