Idle land makes no contribution to rural prosperity.

A ‘collective’ was set up in West Bolton to get idle agricultural and forested land back into ecologically sustainable production.

West Bolton has an area of about 10,000 hectares. Much of it is steep, rocky land with poor soils. The landowners who have initiated the collective are concentrated in the northern parts of West Bolton. The collective is still growing and may expand to other areas of the municipality. At present there are 22 active members with 150 hectares of hay fields and 690 hectares of forest land under management. Five more landowners have expressed interest in joining the collective with an additional 300 hectares of land.

At present the collective is active in organic hay production and ecologically-sustainable forest management.

Hay Production: 20 landowners are involved in management and production on 150 hectares of hayfields. The first step was to test the soil to determine what fertilization might be required and to develop an organic soil and field productivity improvement plan with the assistance of an agronomist. Hay harvesting is carried out by local farmers. Production of other crops is being considered on the more productive fields. Honey production is also in the plan.

Forest Management: 18 landowners have asked the collective to manage 690 hectares of woodlands. Step one is to develop a woodlot management plan for each woodlot and then to combine the plans to co-ordinate management operations on all woodlots to obtain economies of scale. Plans for active management include; sustainable forest management certification, an emphasis on biodiversity, wildlife habitat, non-timber forest products including maple syrup from areas of forest with concentrations of Sugar Maple, production and sale of forest carbon offsets as well as harvesting of traditional saw timber, pulpwood and firewood.