Farcet farm tenant helps parliament grow interest in agrforestry

Parliament will be hearing from Stephen Briggs, UK agroforestry pioneer and Cambridgeshire County Council’s Farms Estate tenant, at a special ‘Meet the Farmers’ event.

Just twelve farmers from around the country have been selected to talk about their farms at this prestigious event, chosen because of their innovative and sustainable farming methods.

The April 16 event will provide farmers with the opportunity to discuss issues affecting the farming industry with Members of Parliament at the House of Lords.

Stephen will be discussing the importance of agroforestry on his farm in Farcet, as well as the opportunity provided by the tenancy on Cambridgeshire County Council’s Farms Estate.

The County Farms Estate comprises 13,500ha and has 250 tenant farmers, providing unique opportunities for rural businesses and those wishing to get onto the farming ladder. The Estate generates over £3 million each year in rents, providing vital support for County Council services.

Stephen started his tenancy on the Estate in 2007 and farms cereal, vegetable and fruit crops. He is pioneering agroforestry in the UK by growing 52ha of apple trees and field crops together at his farm. Combining trees with crops or animals on the same plot is a perfect example of ecological intensification.

Stephen said: “Agroforestry has many benefits including increasing productivity, carbon capture and storage, biodiversity protection, water purification and soil protection. The clever bit is that the trees and crops in-between use resources (sunlight, water, nutrients) at different times of the year; crops use resources from spring to summer while trees use resources from summer to late autumn. This improves resource utilisation and productivity. Agroforestry is becoming recognised as an important ‘climate smart’ farming approach which will be increasingly important with ever more unpredictable weather patterns.”

The ‘Meet the Farmers’ event will enable politicians to learn more about sustainable farming practise. Stephen is keen to emphasise the value of agroforestry and the continued importance of County Farm Estates in providing a platform for innovation in farming and opportunities for new farmers.

If you would like to keep up to date with events, news and any farms available to let, visit the County Farms webpage at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/countyfarms or join the Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/224694140952659