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Over a thousand delegates unite at UK’s first Agroforestry Show

More than a thousand farmers and foresters agreed farming with trees is a “win-win” for climate and business resilience at the first-ever UK Agroforestry Show held last week to promote the uptake of agroforestry among producers across the country.

Event organiser Helen Browning from the Soil Association talking to the audience on a farm walk. Image credit: Pete Williams

Held on the organic farm of Helen Browning from the Soil Association amid unseasonably high temperatures, the inaugural Agroforestry Show saw “the beginning of change” with consensus across 1,200 delegates that trees are key to ensuring food production while tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.

The show, organised by the Soil Association and Woodland Trust charities, saw farmers, foresters, researchers, environmentalists, and policymakers sharing insights and advice on how to help farm businesses benefit from trees.

The two days of workshops and talks took place on Eastbrook Farm in Wiltshire and covered how agroforestry – combining trees with livestock or crops – can help both arable and pastoral farms to protect livestock, crops, soils, rivers, biodiversity, and climate.

Organic livestock farmer George Young from Essex, who started planting trees in an agroforestry system 2.5 years ago, said of the event: “The show has been fantastic. The big thing for me was just how many practical opportunities there were for planting trees and so many different ideas.

“I think we’re going to see a big upsurge of different planting styles in the next few years when people see what agroforestry can mean and realise that it can fit into their style of farming. It genuinely feels like the beginning of proper change,” he added.

After a recap on current, limited funding options in a session with policymakers, many attendants also called for the investment and policy changes needed to help farmers make this long-term commitment. There were particular concerns for tenant farmers.

Although none were able to give details of any new schemes to boost uptake, representatives from all four UK governments were positive about supporting agroforestry to help deliver benefits for both food production and the environment.

Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning, who has been running an agroforestry project on her farm for seven years, said: “The extraordinary number of people here have shown there’s a real thirst for knowledge on agroforestry from both the traditional forestry and farming sectors.

“If our farms are going to be resilient to face the future with happy and healthy animals and crops that grow well then trees are going to be a big part of that, as well as being very useful for reaching our environmental goals. It’s a win-win.”

Closing the show, Woodland Trust chief executive Darren Moorcroft said he hoped all attendants leave “inspired and energised” by the fact that agroforestry is the future and that “the UK now needs to reach the tipping point to take us from a really powerful set of early adopters into a mainstream conversation”.

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