|On the 1st and 2nd of May six farms are throwing open their gates for the first East Anglian Agroforestry Open Weekend. There's a groundswell of interest in agroforestry and over the next few years an increasing number of farmers will be planting trees in their fields; this is a great chance to get out and see what it's all about.|
We know there are no quick fixes, no simple solutions, no one-size-fits all answers to the complex, existential challenges facing us.
But agroforestry, a system of farming that combines agriculture with trees, is as close to a perfect answer as we've seen.
Agroforestry systems are incredibly productive, much more so than monocultures, principally because they use space vertically as well as horizontally (both above and below the ground) and because they harness the power of the edge effect (by mimicking the ecologically rich places where habitats meet).
Because they take an ecosystems approach, farms that use agroforestry techniques are also diverse; rich in both farmed and wild species, all of which contribute to the productivity of the whole, ensuring that agroforestry requires few if any inputs. That diversity lends them resilience, and agroforestry systems are better able to cope with variations in the weather and climate or to resist pest and diseases than less complex systems.
Diversity and productivity make for multifunctional fields producing food, fibre, fuel, building materials and potentially medicines all at the same time. As well as these harvestable yields, agroforestry systems capture carbon, offer watershed and soil protection and are a haven and corridor for wildlife.
And they’re beautiful. Let’s never underestimate the importance of beauty.
We’re convinced that because they’re so productive, beautiful, resilient and diverse agroforestry systems offer the potential to reinvigorate rural communities, create multiple meaningful livelihoods and become a focus for learning, wellbeing and reconnection.
But don’t just take our word for it, come and see for yourself.
On the 1st and 2nd of May six farms are throwing open their gates for the first East Anglian Agroforestry Open Weekend. Some are new to agroforestry, others have been pioneering the approach for decades, all offer an insight into how bringing trees into fields changes farming and creates opportunities for us and for other species. You can download a poster with all the details and a map, but the farms and contact details are all listed below.
The weekend will work a bit like Open Studios or Open Gardens and visits will be self-managed with information supplied. In many cases the farmers will be on hand to answer questions and explain what’s going on. It’s a great chance to really get a feel for agroforestry in action.
What better way to spend a May weekend than in among the trees?
ESSENTIAL SMALL PRINT: There will be no group tours (for obvious reasons) and booking will be essential – you won’t be able to just turn up, so please use the email links to contact the farms you’d like to visit (and all this assumes things continue to go well with lockdown being lifted - we'll post an update if anything changes, and if you book the farms will get in touch).
Wakelyns is fifty acres of timber, biomass and fruit trees planted from 1994 by the Wolfe family. We were first introduced to European agroforestry here by Prof. Martin Wolfe in the early 2000s, it’s an inspirational place and has been the catalyst for the five other farms that’ll be opening over the weekend (as well as many more in other parts of the UK and the world). Organic annual crops include YQ wheat, our lentils and horticulture (a no-dig community supported agriculture scheme). Wakelyns is among the oldest, most diverse agroforestry in western Europe.
Open 1st and 2nd May. Location: IP21 5SD Pre-book by email: email@example.com Book ahead for refreshments from Henrietta Inman at the Wakelyns Bakery. David Wolfe has organised the open weekend, he'll be able to answer any more general questions too.
Farmed by Lyn and Stephen Briggs Whitehall has been certified organic since 2008 and grows cereals, vegetables, fruit and areas managed for wildlife and biodiversity. The silvoarable agroforestry system covers 125 acres and is made up of fruit tree rows with cereals between, the largest commercial agroforestry in the UK. Also enjoy the Harvest Barn farm shop and café with farm animals, great food and apple juice made from the agroforestry trees.
Part of London bakery e5 Bakehouse and farmed by Ben and Femke, Fellows is small organic farm in south Suffolk with 17 acres of agroforestry. The trees are a wide mix of top fruit (apples, pears, plums and more), nut and native broad leaf. We helped with some of the planting in late winter 2020 and though it rained a lot that day, the trees ended up having to come through a drought year, despite that (and the deer) they made it through and should be growing away by May. Heritage wheat, that will be milled for the bakery, grows between the trees.
Maple Farm Kelsale started with 14 acres of agroforestry in 2014, and is now up to 100 acres in 7 fields in a two-row system with 24 metre wide alleys used as silvoarable (arable crops between the trees) and silvopastoral purposes (cover and range diversity for laying hens). The farm is organic, grows cereals and vegetables between the trees, mills it’s own grain for flour and has an excellent farm shop.
George Young and his family began establishing their agroforestry system at Fobbing in 2020, it’s incredibly diverse and includes fruit, nut and even syrup producing trees as well a shrubs. Designed for easy working with modern machinery and for biodiversity, the system will very quickly become something quite extraordinary, visit now and return over the years to see it develop and mature. Farm walks will include George’s Red Poll cattle, he’ll also be on hand to show you some of the more unusual crops he grows (often for us).
John and Alice Pawsey planted 50 acres of agroforestry at Shimpling in December 2020 with species that were sympathetic to the adjacent SSSI woodland. Their aim is to produce quality timber, boiler wood-chips and to create a vital wildlife corridor to and from their ancient woodland. Between the trees the Pawsey’s will grow organic arable crops (cereals and pulses) as well as grazing their sheep.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
A few years ago we were looking for a sweetner for some granola recipes, something UK produced and minimally processed. When our apple syrup order from Liberty Fields arrived we knew we were onto something special - we quickly added them to our short list of brilliant Guest Producers
We've launched ten pulses and grains from British farms as part of Holland & Barrett's transformation of their food range, available in their stores across the UK. It's a fantastic opportunity to make British-grown fava beans, carlin peas and quinoa, along with other pulses and cereals, available more widely and to support more diverse farming.
Down a warren of country lanes, not far from the Tamar Valley in Cornwall, is Julie Bailey's orchard Lower Trelabe, where she grows historic local varieties of apple and makes her delicious Apple Natural apple shreds, traditional fruit leathers that contain only the natural plant sugars.