Meet the women transforming farmland into a tiny forest - National Tree Day Blog

Meet the women transforming farmland into a tiny forest

Creating the Forest of Dreams with Tree Rites.

It started with breakfast at a cafe in Sydney – a journalist and a landscape architect met through a mutual friend and bonded over their love of trees. The Forest of Dreams was born and now the pair are turning an old cattle and dairy farm into a small forest.  

Tree Rites is a not-for-profit that facilitates the planting of tiny forests to celebrate rites of passage such as births, deaths, marriages and birthdays. Founded by landscape architect Barbara Schaffer, who has dedicated her career to green infrastructure, she describes the organisation as "an attempt to reweave ritual into relationships between humans and nature”.  

Janne Ryan is a storyteller, farmer and producer, who had a vision to reconnect people with the food and resources that come from the land. Janne founded the ARROW Collective, an organisation that funds new concepts and new ways of doing things. This experience helped her form the Forest of Dreams; turning an everyday farm into a dynamic piece of environmental art.  

The pair collaborated with environmental artist Jenny Turpin, who designed a sign with ‘Tree Rites’ on the tractor shed in a lemon yellow colour. This has now shifted the project to a new market, using art to engage audiences in different ways.  

The Forest of Dreams is an entry point to encourage people to think differently about the world, “it’s meant to interrupt someone’s day without being loud and demanding,” Janne says. 

This Sunday, Tree Rites are holding their first community planting day in Dungog and will celebrate the sixtieth birthdays of two women in the community. The team and over 80 volunteers will be planting a tiny forest inspired by the Miyawaki method, where local indigenous species will be planted densely in the space about the size of a tennis court. This method offers a solution to address biodiversity loss and restore soil. Seedlings have been sourced from local nurseries with a large mix of canopy, midstorey and lowerstorey species. 

Find out more about the Tree Rites event. This project is funded by Planet Ark’s Seedling Bank. The next round of grants open Monday 28 November. To find out more visit: The Seedling Bank.

Jennifer McMillan

Jen worked as a vet nurse while studying environmental science and completing her master's degree in Journalism. She loves bushwalking, storytelling, caring for baby animals, Australian birds and river red gums. Jen works on the National Tree Day campaign and Planet Ark's Seedling Bank.