The Northcore interviews: Fergal Smith and the HomeTree initiative

Hometree are the real deal. They’re a team of individuals committed to making a difference, building a positive legacy by carbon offsetting and woodland creation through their tree planting project. Which is why we were excited to work with them. In the early days of the Northcore brand we donated into a scheme of re-forestation in Malaysia, but the idea of more local tree planting with indigenous trees was more appealing especially with the strong affinity we feel with the wild Irish coastline which is where the Hometree project is based. We spoke with one of the founders, surfer and environmentalist Fergal Smith:

Mr Fergal Smith

Mr Fergal Smith: Image Mats Kahlstrom

Could you tell us a little bit about the Hometree planting initiative:

Well for me it’s about planting more trees! I grew up planting lots of vegetables but never any trees, veg is great but it is only annual and won’t be around for too long but tree will live on long after we are gone hopefully. I felt I had not planted enough trees in my life and wanted to so I did. Anyone who has space I would go and buy some trees and then plant them. It’s that easy and what a great feeling! I am all about planting our native trees which is where the name Hometree originated. I have got such a buzz off planting tree I want to involve as many people as I can in it as anyone can do it. So we have started a little tree nursery in the community garden in Moy, we went out and collected native tree seeds from our local trees and have planted them in little pots. We now have hundreds of trees growing 18 different types. It’s all about education because I didn’t know anything about trees and still am only learning. Most people don’t know that even native trees you buy in tree nurseries are not grown in your area they often come from other countries. You ask whats the problem with that? well firstly it is how the Ash die back got brought into our countries and how all diseases get brought in. They’re also not grown in your area so are not familiar with you soil and weather. We need to grow on our native trees from our own area if we are to have healthy forests in the future.




That is our little tree nursery idea to show and teach people about trees, but we want to plant lots of native trees now so we have teamed up with a local nursery in Clare that grows his own trees and are planting lots of trees on our farm and anyone who wants them. We have started an idea that we are sure will grow, a company plants a tree every time it sells a product or a certain price. This way people supporting that company get to plant a tree. I think it’s really simple and I can’t think why any company would not want to do it. We have only just started the idea and have three companies onboard* (thanks Northcore) we want to get the format right with them and then spread the word. Hopefully every company will have to do it soon as we need more trees! (*Editors note: Hometree now have 10 companies/sponsors onboard!)


Whats the goal for Hometree? Is it a surfing related initiative only?

The goal is that we teach more people about the importance of native trees and how to go about saving seeds and growing trees. We also want to plant lots of trees now so we think linking in with surf companies to start with on the concept of “buy a wetsuit for a tree” or whatever they sell. I think surf companies and the surfers need to get more environmentally conscious as a group. We care about the environment but we buy a lot of non- friendly things for the environment so we need to be giving back somewhere. The dream is that all surf companies start doing this and that puts the pressure for all other companies to do that same. It’s got to be the way of sustainable business in the future, this is just a small idea but if we can get this happening I’m sure the door opens up for many others.

Fergal at Rileys

Fergal at Rileys. Image Maura Tilbury

Where is the planting site and what types of trees will you be planting?

Firstly we are using our land which we have just bought to run a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. It is 17 acres and we will be growing vegetables but there is lots of space for planting trees. I guess we will be able to plant around 10,000 trees. When we have planted our land the idea is we will plant anyones land that is in keeping with the HomeTree philosophy. The Hometree charity will buy (and grow the trees in the future) we will plant them with a host of volunteers so all people have to do is sign up if they want there land planted in native trees and not for profit for the good of mother earth.
The types of trees we are planting on our piece of land which is very wet and windy. Lots of Alder and Birch to get things going. Scots pine, Willow, Aspen, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Sessile Oak, Holly, Hassle, crab apple and I am sure different ones will get planted but that’s what we have planted so far.

Holly trees

Holly trees

How will you be managing the scheme?
The team of 6 that is starting the CSA “MoyHillFarm” and with the help of few other keen tree people involved in the Moy Hill Community garden are going to manage the Hometree project. We all understand the importance of trees and will put our lives on hold if it means planting a few more trees. It literately is the best thing you could be doing with your time if you want to make a change for the better for our future. So we are all very passionate about this project and we all look forward to managing the trees into the future.



What plans do you have for the future of Hometree?

Plant all of Ireland in trees again! No I think trees need to become apart of all our lives and mix them into our landscape. We don’t have to just plant trees everywhere but I think we just need to bring them into our landscape and get away from massive industrial style fields which are good for nothing except machinery. I hope Hometree will start the ball rolling for people and companies in learning the importance of trees in our lives and if they can’t plant a tree themselves they will support people who will happily do it for them. A staggering fact at the moment is there is only 400 trees left in the world per person. We need to start changing that number quickly. I would love to see people supporting Hometree and other projects that plant trees not as a novelty but as something that is important and get away from tree plantations of non-native trees. This is one solution that I hope takes off and shows the powers that be people care about our planet and the need to too.

Here’s a word from the Hometree team:

For us, the inspiration to engage the wider commercial community into helping us plant trees came from being part of a surfing and environmental community. When floating the idea with some of the brands that support us, their positive reaction made us aware there was really a place for this to grow into a forest. The idea that we can create forests through commerce is wonderful.

For some of the projects we have worked on, the companies have committed to paying for one tree to be planted for each product they sell, it’s a big commitment when often the bottom line is the #1 priority. We believe this is real positive change and the more of us that stand behind these movements, the greater influence we have to create a greener, healthier world. Hometree is a pretty basic idea, plant more trees. We are on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, it’s wet, windy and cold and it’s where we first started a community garden, in a unused plot of ground about 100m elevation and about 600m from the coast. When we planted the first apple trees we were told we were mad, that trees found it difficult to grow here, but they didn’t, they grew tall and strong and produce delicious fruits. This was our reconnection to trees, we saw the birds come back and the soil in the garden improve, biodiversity, more life on the hill and the seeds of change blew in all directions.

One direction was here to hometree, a group of people inspired by the flat, treeless county of Clare in West Ireland and the thought that we could do our part in reforesting this beautiful mythical part of Mother Earth. 


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