A National Network of Agroforestry Farms
25 March 2021
One of the solutions proposed by the Government to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 is to plant at least 30,000 hectares of trees per year. 50% of these are designated for farming land, yet the UK’s domestic food production has rapidly declined over the last 40 years, threatening food security and sovereignty. The amount of land available to feed each person on the planet has dropped from 2 acres per person to less than half an acre in just 50 years. Large-scale tree planting has the potential to reduce production even further and could contribute to the climate and ecological crisis it aims to avert. Recent research has highlighted the importance of appropriate approaches to woodland planting to avoid negative unintended consequences to biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
As a result of previous agricultural policy putting tree-planting in conflict with subsidies, the UK has one of lowest levels of woodland in Europe. New agricultural policy has the potential to meet multiple objectives for food production and environmental protection. We need to think very differently about how we ‘farm’ our land in order to integrate multiple objectives better - whilst mixed cropping systems are more complex to manage, they can produce a wider range of food and fuel, greater resilience to climate and market challenges, and rural employment.
This project (a 'Farming the Future' A Team Foundation - funded project), aims to promote agroforestry as a way of farmers and landowners simultaneously and sustainably growing food, transitioning into the new ELM Scheme and contributing to ‘public goods.’ It will showcase farms and initiatives across the UK successfully balancing these objectives to share knowledge and evidence of the value of agroforestry. GWCT Allerton are leading on the project; a collaboration between them, the Organic Research Centre, Woodland Trust, National Trust, Woodmeadow Trust, Farm Woodland Forum and Agricology.
AIMS & APPROACH
The ultimate aim is to become the 'go-to' resource for farmers and landowners who will be juggling demands of food production, a new Environmental Land Management Scheme and national targets for carbon sequestration. The collaborative partnership will bring together a range of different approaches that integrate tree planting on farms with the delivery of a wide range of environmental services and community involvement whilst still producing affordable food.
The project will seek to:
- Conduct a register of existing multi-crop initiatives, their locations and specialties - bringing together and cataloguing a range of farm types and enterprises from different geographic locations to form a network of farms balancing the objectives of sustainable food production, thriving wildlife, sequestering carbon, improving habitats, increasing employment and business resilience whilst providing additional public goods.
- Create a knowledge sharing network of farmers already involved in combining food production and trees.
- Identify existing gaps in the knowledge and plug them with bolt-ons where possible to existing projects or establish new sites.
- Examine the economics including productive outputs and potential for added value and employment opportunities.
- Provide information and training through a dedicated portal on the Agricology website to inspire more farmers to adopt these systems.
- Seek to involve communities in the management, harvesting, added value, consumption and conservation value of the agroforestry sites.
This hub page will pull together videos and podcasts, together with existing technical guides, blogs and profiles of farmers innovating with agroforestry. Videos will be uploaded to the agroforestry playlist on the Agricology YouTube channel, podcasts to the Agricology Podcast platform, profiles to the Agricology farmer profile library. All will share practical experiences of implementing agroforestry, lessons learned and practical tips.
Where to start?
What networks & resource hubs currently exist in the UK?
This list is a work in progress, any suggestions, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org