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Jim Phillips growing a forest on his land in Wellington North

by Janet Baine

CAMBRIDGE - 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 was the recipient of a 2011 Grand River Conservation Watershed award that he received for his tree planting. .

Phillips’ father George purchased the farm outside of Arthur in 1974. George 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 Phillips 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 his 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 square metres of lawn converted to a naturalization area. That 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 the project because it helps wildlife by providing habitat.

“It always makes me happy seeing areas being naturalized,” Phillips said.

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 it 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.

He was one of five recipients of a 2011 Grand River Watershed award and one of three from Wellington County. He was honoured at an awards presentation on Sept. 15 in Cambridge.

Janet Baine is a GRCA communications specialist


September 30, 2011


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