Jim Phillips is growing an 85 acre forest near Arthur and he is also giving thousands of trees to school children in the spring.
Phillips is the recipient of a 2011 Grand River Conservation Watershed Award which he received for his tree planting efforts. Phillips’ father, George, purchased the farm outside of Arthur in 1974. George Phillips worked as a teacher and later as a principal in Toronto, but took early retirement in 1989. That’s when he started a company, Copernicus Educational Products Inc.
In 1991 George and Jim had 11,000 trees planted with the help of the Grand River Conservation Authority on 11 acres of land. Now those trees stand tall.
Jim has taken over the business and continued tree planting on a grand scale. Since 2007, he has planted another 50,000 trees across 75 acres of land with partial funding from Trees Ontario and the Habitat Stewardship Fund. During the spring, there are trees as far as the eye can see on Jim Phillips property, but by mid-summer, most are pretty hard to spot among the grass because they are newly-planted and small.
“We don’t often have planting sites that are more than 10 acres,” said Nathan Munn, GRCA forestry specialist who has worked with Phillips on tree planting. “The planting of these trees puts this poorly-drained marginal land to better use by creating interior forest habitat, groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration and a future source of timber.”
In the Spring of 2009, Phillips had 150 sq. metres of lawn converted to a naturalization area. This was done to offset some of the company’s carbon footprint and improve wildlife habitat. The area is being expanded each year until the entire lawn of a quarter acre will be converted into a naturalized area. In August 2009, the company received Backyard Habitat Certification from the Canadian Wildlife Federation for this project because it helps wild life by providing habitat.
“It always makes me happy seeing areas being naturalized,” Phillips says.
Just as the forest and naturalized areas are growing, so too is the company. Copernicus now has 60 employees and a large factory on the farm that ships educational products around the world. The company too has undertaken many greening efforts, including diverting 50 per cent of its waste from the landfill site over the past two years. Some of the products are made out of recycled materials.
Since 2009, the company has been giving tree seedlings to local school children every year. This year they gave out 5,000 trees to kids within the Grand River watershed.
“The trees for schools program is something that I want to keep growing each year. I’m excited about it. I love getting trees into kids’ hands and this is a program that committed to growing,” Phillips said.
Janet Baine is a Communications Specialist with the Grand River Conservation Authority.