On Tuesday 12th June, the APPG on Agroecology co-hosted a panel in Parliament on ‘Agroforestry: Improving Productivity and Delivering Public Goods’, with the Soil Association and the Woodland Trust. The panel, Chaired by Baroness Young of Old Scone (Chair of the Woodland Trust), consisted of 4 farmers and foresters who have had practical, hands-on experience with agroforestry:
- Harriet Bell (Darlington Estate)
- Stephen Briggs (Whitehall Farm and Abacus Agriculture)
- Ben Raskin (Eastbrook Farm and Soil Association)
- Richard Bower (Lower Drayton Farm and NFU)
The panel shared their experiences of the challenges and opportunities of agroforestry, and Frances Winder (Woodland Trust) presented the Soil Association’s new briefing of Agroforestry (which is attached below), before a Q&A and discussion was opened up to the floor.
The event was very well attended, and there was strong agreement that the discussion was both productive and well informed. Particular focus was given to the ability of agroforestry to create ‘3-dimensional’ farming and multi-functional farmland, which would be able to boost productivity and diversity in the farm’s outputs by allowing, for example, an orchard to be planted alongside rotating crop planting and animal grazing.
It was also noted that agroforestry – because of the nature of the potential benefits it could bring – are now even more crucial for farmers to explore in the wake of Brexit, tighter profit margins, the potential withdrawal of per-acre subsidies and a greater frequency of extreme weather events. One such example was that agroforestry could potentially allow for increased food sovereignty and domestic food production after the UK leaves the EU, as currently only 20% of the fruit and veg the UK consumes is produced here.
However, it was also emphasised that the majority of farmers can be slow to adapt, and will only do so when there is clearly much larger perceived benefits than risks to switching. There is also a need for much better sharing of knowledge and best practice, which would help farmers to move away from the idea that there must be an ‘all or nothing’ to planting trees on farmland.
If you have any questions about the event or briefing, please feel free to contact the APPG at firstname.lastname@example.org.