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Agroforestry in Action

Agroforestry in Action

Exploring the practicalities of integrating trees on farms

Soil Association Scotland started 2022 with a new programme, aiming to support more farmers, crofters and land managers to integrate trees into their systems. Agroforestry, put simply, is farming with trees. It can be anything from shelter belts, hedgerows and timber plantations, to a fully integrated farming system where livestock and/or arable crops and trees are interdependent (outlined in our latest video, Agroforestry in the Uplands).

Agroforestry in Action 2 linked to Soil Association’s wider work on agroforestry, built on the success and feedback of the first Agroforestry in Action programme, which ran January–March 2021, and delivered a series of interactive webinars (see our Events Page), built peer learning networks, and continued to produce and consolidate Scotland-specific resources on our Agroforestry Web Hub. The programme also explored the economics, practicalities, benefits and challenges of integrating trees into farming and crofting systems, and  connected participants with sources of practical, financial and peer support.

We had recently surveyed farmers interested in agroforestry, and found the most common motivations were increased biodiversity, landscape resilience, and farm resilience. However, despite strong interest, the survey found significant barriers to development, including a lack of technical knowledge and uncertainty around support payments.

Around 40% of respondents did not know where to go for further guidance on agroforestry, with many others finding that the information they need is not currently available. The survey revealed a need for: more financial modelling and case studies; more information on UK/Scottish specific benefits; greater knowledge-exchange on systems design; species choice and management; market development for the broad range of outputs from agroforestry systems; and greater targeted policy support and funding. Agroforestry In Action 2 addressed some of these gaps, and worked with industry partners and Scottish Government to inform future policy and support.

A recent poll by Survation also suggests that over three quarters of Scotland’s citizens support farmers, but want farming to deliver more for the environment, wildlife, animal welfare and climate – reflected in growing consumer demand for sustainably produced food. Producing climate and nature friendly food – using systems such as agroforestry – can open up new opportunities for Scotland’s farmers, coupled with the right policies and support, to access growing markets. Outputs and learning from the project will be used to inform Scottish Government policy.

We were delighted to deliver this project in partnership with Scottish Forestry (you may also be interested in the Integrating Trees Network) and SAC Consulting. The funding was made available through the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF)  which is funded by the Scottish Government and co-funding from Scottish Forestry.