Farms with agroforestry to open their gates in May

Organisers of the fourth annual Agroforestry Open Weekend are expecting a surge of interest from farmers, with agroforestry set to receive targeted payments in England under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) in 2024.

The open weekend takes place from 17-20 May and more than 40 farms in the UK and Ireland are expected to open their gates, to share knowledge and best practice to those who may be new to agroforestry.

See also: Can agroforestry work for farming as well as the environment?

“It’s a farmer-led initiative, not in any sense a commercial event,” said David Wolfe, who runs Wakelyns in Suffolk, one of the oldest and most diverse agroforestry sites in the UK.

“There is no corporate sponsorship or similar. This is simply about farmers with agroforestry providing others with a chance to have a look.”

Mr Wolfe says that, 30 years ago, planting trees in lines into a wheat field (as his parents did) was regarded as eccentric and even foolish.

But with targeted payments soon to become available under SFI, he believes agroforestry is about to become mainstream.

“Defra is promising payments of up to £849/ha for farmers who maintain agroforestry,” he said. “That’s much better than the old Basic Payment Scheme way of paying us farmers a flat rate of about £250/ha, pretty much regardless of what we chose to grow.”

Mr Wolfe also notes that, as part of its Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, the UK government has committed to 10% of UK arable land being under agroforestry by 2050, which should underpin payments going forward.

“Lots of farmers are now looking at agroforestry as an option, but don’t know much about it and have not seen it implemented,” he said.

“About half the visitors to our open farms over the weekend last year were farmers coming to have a look and see for themselves what it is all about. We expect lots more this year.”

For more information and to find a farm near you, visit the Agroforestry Open Weekend website.

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