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UK's first agroforestry conference champions trees as the future of farming

The UK recently hosted its first-ever Agroforestry Conference, a collaborative effort between the Soil Association and the Woodland Trust. The event drew a crowd of over a thousand and aimed to illuminate the manifold advantages of weaving trees into farming practices.

The conveners of the conference underscored that agroforestry presents a twofold benefit: it bolsters crop vigour whilst also aiding in the attainment of eco-friendly objectives. Held during an atypically warm spell in September, the conference featured a variety of sessions that delved into the pivotal role of trees in safeguarding food security, mitigating climate change, and conserving biodiversity.

A Confluence of Expertise

The conference acted as a nexus for farmers, forestry specialists, researchers, eco-activists, and policymakers. They exchanged views and tactics on how the integration of trees could be advantageous for agricultural endeavours. Helen Browning, the Chief Executive of the Soil Association, presided over the event at Eastbrook Farm, an organic livestock farm situated in Wiltshire. The farm has been a proving ground for agroforestry methods for the past seven years.

Surge in Agroforestry Interest

Browning observed that the high turnout signalled a burgeoning interest in agroforestry from both the conventional forestry and farming communities. She emphasised that trees are set to play a crucial role in fortifying farms, especially in light of climatic challenges. She also stressed that agroforestry is not merely an eco-friendly choice but a pragmatic approach for hitting various environmental milestones.

Imperative for Policy Reforms

The conference also touched upon the pressing need for legislative changes to bolster agroforestry, particularly for tenant farmers who often encounter obstacles in making land-use alterations. Whilst government representatives were scant on specifics, they conveyed a general willingness to back agroforestry initiatives.

Darren Moorcroft, the Chief Executive of the Woodland Trust, wrapped up the event by stating that the UK is at a critical juncture. He advocated for the shift from early adoption to mainstream embracement of agroforestry practices and called for collective action to formulate policy frameworks that would underpin a diverse array of agroforestry systems.


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