Michael Cashmore is a regenerative agriculture coach with Integrity Soils and enjoys helping farmers create a strategy for achieving their goals for their property.  Michael reflects on his personal journey of landscape regeneration where a long term farm forestry enterprise has improved his property, regenerated ecosystem function and restored biodiversity.

In 1995 Wendy and Michael Cashmore came across their dream property. It was North facing , limestone hills, set stocked for 75 years , large paddocks and an occasional gate. Three trees on 2 kms of hill face, sheep taking shelter from the blazing sun in the shade of a fence baton. With less than 50mm of topsoil on the high points and 150mm in the gullies.

“There’s more money in real estate than farming” he said, “Sell”

Perfect we said, a blank canvas “Sold”

When it rained you could watch the soil fines slowly moving downhill, when it blew you could lean on the wind and when it baked in the sun a visitor thought she was home in Zimbabwe. Bird life consisted of a few skylarks, there was literally nothing here.

Our goals became to provide an anchor for the soil (it was later I discovered the role of fungi in soil stability) shelter and shade for stock, an environment for birds, bees and other insects and a peaceful place to live that included a diversity of textures and shapes – Trees. And not just anything is going to grow in these conditions.

We joined the Hawkes Bay Farm Forestry Associations and tapped into its valuable resource. An array of thinkers and doers who are only too happy to share their successes, failures, schemes and dreams. Also we acquired a ‘bible’ Trees for the New Zealand Countryside – John and Bunny Mortimer.  I absolutely recommend these 2 resources. They saved time and money on unsuitable choices.

We designated the steepest areas for forestry and selected four species to suit our climate – Pinus Radiata, Luscitanica cypress, Acacia dealbata and hardwood Eucalyptus. These have all been pruned and thinned to maximise value and eliminate the handling of trees with little value at harvest. Up to 600 trees/ha are thinned out over the first 15 years of the forest life adding about 100 tonnes per hectare of mulch to the soil. Over time we added areas of Oaks, Cedar and bee and bird friendly plantings. Tagasate (Tree Lucerne) and natives were used as shelter. Bird life flourished : bellbirds, tui, rifleman, piwakawaka, Ruru plus an array of non-natives and there is enough pollen now to support beehives.  Cattle have always been included in the process.

Creating is the most satisfying way to spend time and it is totally satisfying to have achieved our initial goals successfully. To have shade from any angle, to be sheltered from all wind directions, to eat our own honey, always have beef in the freezer and vegetables in the garden. Dragonflies, frogs, huhu beetles, quail, butterflies, pheasant, bumble bees and of course rabbits, hares, wild cats, rats and mice are all part of the mix.

Our next goal is an efficient harvest program starting with the pines in 2025. Cypress will follow in 2030 at the earliest. Replanting will be Redwoods and hardwood Eucalyptus with harvest starting in 2055! No one lives forever but creating something long term sure adds to my reason to live a long, fit and healthy life.

What are you creating?

Michael Cashmore is available for coaching to help you achieve your landscape regeneration goals and can be contacted by phoning +64 0272751112 or emailing cashmore@integritysoils.co.nz