The Dartington Hall Trust is pioneering a new model of agroforestry, aiming to combine five food and farming enterprises to create an agroecological system that is both collaborative and commercially viable.
The five combined enterprises will be Dartington Hall Trust, Luscome Drinks, Huxhams Cross Farm, Salthouse and Peppermongers and farm tenants Jon and Lynn Perkin of Old Parsonage Farm.
The combination of enterprises will bring different types of farming together on one site.
The initiative is inspired by Martin Crawford's ground-breaking Agroforestry Research Trust estate, nearby. It is a mix of trees and crops, showing an alternative to monoculture since 1992.
The Dartington Hall Trust and the Perkins worked together to select suitable local partners that would meet the agroforestry requirements of the farm tenancy.
Luscombe Drinks and Huxhams Cross Farm were selected for their ecological mindsets, and their need for tree crops. The innovative planting of sichuan pepper appealed to Salthouse and Peppermonger, who specialise in seasonings.
Marina O’Connell from Huxhams Cross Farm, says: "We are very excited to be a part of this collaboration, and look forward to watching the transformation of the field as the trees and crops mature, and the biodiversity increases. Not to mention picking delicious apples. It will be a wonderful learning resource for students and other farmers interested in integrating tree crops into their farms."
The farm will be planted with 1600 elder trees, 600 apple trees and 150 sichuan pepper trees across 48 acres site. The interesting aspect is that each enterprise will be managing their own crops around the Perkins usual arable crops. So a three-tiered contract has been drawn up between land-owner, farm tenant and tree licensees.
This agroforestry system is known as silvoarable, and ties in with the permaculture principle of stacking functions. Silvoarable agroforestry systems are recognised for their potential contribution towards improving biodiversity and ensuring that soil nutrients are better used, re-cycled and soil run-off is greatly reduced.
"Agroforestry is a key way for farming to diversify, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve biodiversity. It is great to see The Dartington Hall Trust starting farm-scale agroforestry projects on the estate." Agroforestry expert, Martin Crawford.
The Dartington Hall Trust Estate Manager, John Channon said: "Our new agroforestry field, amounting to 10 per cent of Old Parsonage Farm, will be at the centre of our new approach to land management. We’ve been greatly inspired by the Agroforestry Research Trust and we were keen to explore the potential of scaling up production of some of Martin’s crops as part of our desire to demonstrate that agroforestry can contribute to a wider diversity of local produce. We also believe this is the first time the commercial potential for UK grown Sichuan has been explored. We’ve collected a wide range of baseline data as we hope that the agroforestry field will be seen as a valuable learning resource nationally."
For further information visit: www.dartington.org/trust-test-new-multi-agency-agroforestry-model-48-acres/
Martin Crawford is the founder of the Agroforestry Research Trust and an author. Find his book, Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Pemraculture here:http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/trees-for-gardens-orchards-and-permaculture.html