Agroforestry at Dartington

What is agroforestry?

The Agroforestry Research Trust, based on our estate, defines agroforestry as ‘…the growing of both trees and agricultural/ horticultural crops on the same piece of land. It is designed to provide tree and other crop products and at the same time protect, conserve, diversify and sustain vital economic, environmental, human and natural resources.

‘It differs from traditional forestry and agriculture by its focus on the interactions amoungst components rather than just on the individual components themselves.’

Why do we do it?

Agroforestry increases the overall resilience of our estate. It can provide us with fruit, nuts, timber, biomass and animal fodder in the same space as other crops, increasing the overall yield from the land, and fosters biodiversity through the creation of habitats and food sources. It also builds the economic resilience of farms, as they’re able to farm their land vertically as well as horizontally.

More trees on the landscape also help improve the soil health of the estate, reducing erosion rates, building up soil organic matter and sequestering carbon, as well as helping manage water more effectively as it moves through the landscape.

Agroforestry in practice

At Dartington, our pioneering Broadlears Field project – see below – brings together several food producers in one field, and is establishing a compelling new model for how agroforestry might work in practice in the UK.

Our estate has played host to The Agroforestry Research Trust for some years, and encouraging a wider uptake of agroforestry on the estate became one of our priorities as part of our Land Use Review. In addition to our Broadlears project partners, there are now two further organisations joining us in practicing agroforestry on the estate: our own Schumacher College and Huxhams Cross Farm.

The Broadlears Field project

While agroforestry has a big role to play in several farming initiatives on our estate (see above), what makes this project unusual – and exciting – is that by enabling several different businesses to work together in farming this field, we’ve created an approach to agroforestry that overcomes some of the traditional barriers which have prevented a wider uptake of agroforestry in the UK.

It’s a multi-tiered arrangement of a land owner (The Dartington Hall Trust), farm tenant (Jon and Lynne Perkin, Dartington Dairy at Old Parsonage Farm) and agroforestry tree license holders. Of the latter, Luscombe Drinks are growing 1,600 elderflower trees to help meet the increasing demand for their Elderflower Bubbly, Apricot Centre at Huxhams Cross Farm will tend to 600 edible and juicing apple trees, and Salthouse & Peppermongers are growing the UK’s first ever commercial table crop of sichuan pepper, starting with 150 trees.

If you want to find out more about this project, our food and farming manager, Harriet Bell (contact: harriet.bell@dartington.org), has been documenting progress through her blogs – see below. We recommend starting with this one.

Latest blog from Broadlears

Technical drawing

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Further reading

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