With the landscape covered in snow for as far as our eyes can see, it may seem a bit odd to discuss tree planting.
Yet, as surely as spring weather will return, Forests Ontario, a non-profit organization, is encouraging landowners to consider the benefits of large-scale tree planting.
Trent Massey, an Echo Bay farmer, was recognized as a Green Leader by Forests Ontario in 2018 for planting 5,500 trees on his 30 acres of property.
“I encourage anyone who wants to plant to get in there and help out and do what you can,” Trent said, speaking to SooToday.
Forests Ontario’s honouring of Trent came from “being involved with planting, and not just sitting back and saying ‘I’ve got a piece of land.’”
“I was active in getting the soil, getting the land prepped, picking the types of trees I wanted, being active in the process and recommending to other people to plant trees on their properties,” Trent said.
“There are a lot of people who buy an old farm, but they’re not farming. Why not plant some trees, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for wildlife, it’s good for everybody.”
Trent benefitted from the Ontario government’s 50 Million Tree Program (50MTP), which provides landowners with subsidies and practical assistance when planting on more than 2.5 acres of land.
Landowners may have up to 90 per cent of planting costs covered through this program.
Under the program, one must intend to plant at least two acres of trees, the land inspected for its suitability, handle the paperwork and submit it to Trees Ontario, which in turn assists in getting the property ready and pays a nursery to plant trees.
At Trent’s farm, Regen Forestry planted cedar, pine and spruce trees, Trent planting a few trees himself but primarily sticking to tilling the land on his tractor to prepare it for tree planting (he still clears the land surrounding the trees three times a year, enabling them to keep growing).
For Trent, planting 5,500 trees on his property brought more than just the benefit of knowing he has helped the environment.
It gave him a chance to stay active in the outdoors despite being limited to a wheelchair due to injuries he suffered in a 1999 motorcycle accident.
“Wildlife, forestry, hunting and fishing has always been a part of me I’ve really enjoyed. The more I can get outside the better. Even though I’m in a wheelchair I still get out on the snowmachine, the four-wheeler, I still hunt and fish, I do that as much as I can. The outdoors is a passion for me,” Trent said.
“I’ve got the will to want to do it (despite his disability).”
“It’s hard. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure. I do what I can. I’ve always done things to keep myself active outside. After my accident I said to myself ‘I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, I’m going to get out there and get back to the things I love doing,’ with the help of my friends and my wife.”
Trent, 45, was born in Etobicoke, then lived in Kingston until he moved to the Sault at age 12 in 1987.
He attended Bawating Collegiate and graduated from Sault College’s Forestry program.
Returning to southwestern Ontario to work, the motorcycle accident left Trent in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the chest down.
He returned to the north in 2003, purchasing his farm in Echo Bay.
“I had never lived on a farm before but I had been around farming my whole life. My aunts and uncles on my mom’s side had farms...when I moved back up north I didn’t want to live in the city, I wanted to be out in the country.”
Trent bought a tractor to cut his own hay, produced pork and beef, owned hens and tended the farm with friends and family.
He eventually sold off his livestock but still cuts his own hay, determined not to be limited by disability.
Trent married his wife Chantal in 2011 .
“My wife has been a Godsend, helping me do a lot, but I don’t sit around and just not do things. That’s just not me.”
Forests Ontario is currently hosting seven free admission tree planting workshops across the province, in partnership with local planting delivery agencies, during February and March.
Its next workshop will be at the Echo Bay Town Hall at 208 Church St. from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, March 2.
Among topics to be discussed are the 50 Million Tree Program (50MTP) and the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP), through which properties with more than 10 acres of forest may be eligible to pay as little as 25 per cent of the municipal tax rate for residential properties.
Workshops will provide information about the MFTIP process and developing a plan for approval by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The benefits of windbreaks and Invasive Species awareness will also be discussed at the Echo Bay workshop.