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Agroforestry: an opportunity for sustainable UK food systems?

AFN Network+

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This seminar is hosted by the AFN Network+

Speaker: Stephen Briggs

Host: Prof Neil Ward, co-convenor, AFN Network+

Tree-planting is a key part of the UK government’s plan to reach net zero by 2050, with a commitment to plant 30,000ha of new woodland every year. But where will all these trees go, and how can we ensure food production is maintained?

Agroforestry – through silvopasture and silvoarable systems, as well as better integrated hedges – may hold some answers. Cambridgeshire farmer, soil scientist, and UK agroforestry pioneer, Stephen Briggs, has successfully integrated fruit trees and arable crops: The result has been improved resilience to economic and weather shocks, healthier soils, better water retention, and increased productivity.

In this webinar, Stephen will share his insights from his farm and working with agroforesters around the world. Stephen will cover;

  • Why he went into agroforestry (the business and environmental case)
  • What his system comprises of & his routes to market
  • How agroforestry has benefited his farm
  • More widely, benefits and opportunities from agroforestry
  • Practical considerations – system design, machinery, labour, added value, challenges
  • ELMS and what we could expect
  • What we can learn from other countries

About Stephen:

Stephen has been farming organically for over two decades. He grows organic cereals (wheat, barley, oats) on 576 acres in Cambridgeshire, and in 2009 began integrating apple trees into his arable crops after looking for a money-making solution to reduce soil erosion. He now has 4,500 such trees across half his farm, making it the largest commercial agro-forestry system in the UK.

Before farming, Stephen worked for DfID and FAO as a soil scientist in Africa and India, and then did a Nuffield Scholarship on agroforestry systems, which took him all over the world. He is Head of Technical Development at Innovation for Agriculture, a non-executive director of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and a member of Defra’s expert steering group, advising on agroforestry for the new Environment Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

Stephen works with European partners, and helped establish the Europe Agroforestry Federation, and is now working on a Horizon project Climate Farm Demo, that aims to set up 1500 demo farms across 27 countries. He’s also an ambassador for the Woodland Trust and runs an independent organic farm business consultancy, Abacus Agriculture.

The seminar will be chaired by Prof Neil Ward, a co-convenor of AFN Network+, professor at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and author of Net Zero, Food and Farming: Climate Change and the UK Agri-Food System (Routledge 2023

Feature photo by Skylar Zilka on Unsplash

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