Last week I attended an event organised by the Woodland Trust and hosted by Stephen Briggs at his farm in Cambridgeshire. The aim of the afternoon was partly to introduce farmers to the potential for using agroforestry on their farms, partly to discuss the Defra ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation document and partly to encourage delegates to respond to that consultation. We were blessed with a glorious spring day (thank goodness for a week of good weather as it allowed the ground to dry up a bit following what has seemed like weeks on end of damp) and delegates came from a range of backgrounds, which always makes for good discussion opportunities. It was a pleasure to finally see Stephen’s farm. I have heard a lot about it and written about it on several occasions (Stephen is usually the go to example for any article mentioning agroforestry!) so it was great to finally get there. Before the event I sat down with Stephen to record a podcast episode for Meet the Farmers which will be out very soon. Watch this space.
Stephen’s farm is an example of utilising agroforestry in the form of alley cropping. Soon after taking on the tenancy of Whitehall Farm, a county council farm in Cambridgeshire, in 2007 he and his wife Lynn decided to plant 4500 apple trees (15 varieties) to tackle the soil issues they face on their Fenland farm. The trees act as a windbreak as well as aiding biodiversity and bringing in an income through selling the apples and making apple juice which is sold through their new farm shop. The tree system is designed so there is a 27 metre row spacing between the trees, with a 3 metre pollen and nectar strip under each tree. There are 24 metre alleys for the cereals, suitable for Stephen’s machinery.
While we walked back to the farm shop after Stephen’s tour I spoke to the Woodland Trust’s Senior Farming Advisor, Helen Chesshire.
If you’d like more detail on what happened during the event tune in to the Stephen Briggs episode of the Meet the Farmers podcast which will be out on the blog and iTunes very soon. It will contain sections of the debate at the Woodland Trust event.
In the mean time though please take a look at the Defra command paper and send your response. Every response will make a difference and at this critical time in food, farming and the countryside this is the time to make a stand. The deadline for responses is 11:45pm on 8th May 2018.