Planting begins this weekend for our wheat project. Planting trees, that is!
It is hardly a new idea; farmers have incorporated agriculture into native forests for millennia. But modern agriculture has stripped that away in favour of vast monocultures, and our landscapes are all but bare of trees.
Agroforestry, combining trees on farmland with agricultural crops and livestock to try to reverse that trend is becoming more and more popular, as we recognise how much trees offer. They are good for the soil, taking in carbon and returning it to the soil through leaf litter. Trees also prevent soil erosion by binding soil to their deep root systems, which also take up nutrients to the surface; with this, and their water storage capacity, they are excellent flood defences. Trees are good for wildlife, presenting habitats to insects and birds, as well as microorganisms in the soil.
And all of this means they are good for economically productive farming systems, which thrive on diversity and healthy soil, not least by offering another crop - fruit, nuts, or timber - and protecting annual crops from the elements. Farming in 3D, as the Soil Association puts it.
With this in mind, we are planting a mix of apple trees, plums, quinces, saskatoons, hazels, and willow for coppicing, as well as some oaks (whose timber may be the Blackhaugh Farm pension fund...) We will plant in four long rows and between them sow three ‘alleys’ of spring wheat - on which more in the next blog post!
That’s well over 200 trees to get in the ground this Sunday 10th March, so the more hands the better! Join us from 10am at the farm - families welcome, lunch provided, fine weather guaranteed...