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Trees Ontario’s Newest Green Leader Makes “Nowhere Farms” the Place to Plant

TORONTO, April 26, 2012– Philip Holst has been named a Trees Ontario Green Leader for his dedication to forest restoration.

Trees Ontario’s Green Leader Program recognizes landowners who have worked with our partners to take part in the Ontario government’s 50 Million Tree Program, which aims to plant 50 million trees in southern Ontario.

David Depuydt, Stewardship Coordinator, Stewardship Oxford, nominated Holst after working with him over the last few years to plant his property. “Phil is a family man and community-oriented fellow. He wanted to enhance the landscape for the next generation. He respects the value of agricultural land, but has restored several acres of marginal land into wetland and wildlife habitat on his farm,” explained Dave.

Trees Ontario recently visited Holst’s Woodstock, Ontario, property. The previous owner had planted wind breaks before Holst bought the property in 1997. “I view myself as a steward as opposed to an owner. I’ve always loved this property and I see our family as the next in a long line of stewards of this land. I just continue on where the previous family left off,” explains Holst.

Since 2010, Holst has planted approximately 8,000 trees. The trees are a diverse mix of spruce, white pine, red oak, white oak, sugar maple, hemlock and fruit trees. When he purchased the property, it was comprised of 6 acres of lawn and 40 acres of top quality Guelph loam farmland. Four acres were bush, yard and orchard. Now, it boasts 36 acres of workable land and the rest is made up of trees, tree seed orchard, ponds, walking trails, and wetlands.

Holst has been restoring the land and wetlands, always adding to the property. He cropshares 36 acres of farmland with nearby farmers, planting corn, soybean and wheat on a rotational basis.

“As an involved and invested landowner, I’ve recommended this program to a lot of other landowners in the area. When I heard about the 50 Million Tree Program, I contacted Dave Depuydt, who shared information on the subsidies and support available for tree planting,” explains Holst.

“If farmers have land sitting idle, let’s do something to make it really useful – let’s plan for the next 40-50 years,” says Holst. “Partnering with a few other conservation organizations, it’s really worth it for the landowner to make the most of these subsidies. Everyone benefits.”

Holst will again participate in the 50 Million Tree Program in spring 2012, and credits the Stewardship’s help in making the process easy. Four acres of his Woodstock property have been employed as a pilot research project and will potentially shape assisted migration tree planting in future years.

“I have a tree seed orchard. We’ve planted native trees, but we’ve mixed in some red and white oaks from Tennessee and Pennsylvania to assist in adapting to climate change. It’s really a pilot project with Trees Ontario, Stewardship Oxford and Forest Gene Conservation Association to determine which trees will be best suited for this area in 40-50 years. In four or five decades, we’ll have a seed source for better-adapted oak trees,” adds Holst. “Planting trees is beneficial to everyone. I want someone in the future to say “the folks who planted this must have had some vision.”

Holst has advice for other landowners who are interested in planting trees: “For marginal land or areas you want to plant, it is a good program and covers most of the costs.”

“Planting trees helps us create a healthier environment. Trees clean the air, mitigate the effects of climate change, increase wildlife habitat, provide shade and help prevent flooding,” said Michael Gravelle, Minister of Natural Resources. “I applaud Mr. Holst for the work he is doing. His trees are making a difference. I encourage others to take part in the 50 Million Tree Program to help protect Ontario’s natural beauty.”

“All of our 50 Million Tree Program landowners are making a positive change for all Ontarians. But it is worth recognizing these Green Leaders for their local stewardship and commitment in restoring the environment for future generations,” said Rob Keen, Trees Ontario CEO.

“With forest restoration, you’ll have something permanent and greater in value than you had before,” says Holst.  “This place is highly productive. We grow our own food, can our meat and accentuate the positive in every area of our farm. We have so much wildlife, yet we still produce from our farmland,” Holst said. “You can make such a contribution in such a short time.”

Trees Ontario is the lead agency for the Ontario government’s 50 Million Tree program, which provides financial incentives to landowners looking to plant trees. It also provides eligible landowners with hands-on professional help and advice on tree planting, including determining site eligibility, allocating funding and coordinating planting.