Farmers in Suffolk who have adopted agroforestry methods in some of their fields are helping to inspire more people to take up the practice.

They took part in an agroforestry weekend on May 18/19 - with their farms attracting interest from around the country.

Agroforestry is a method of farming with its roots in traditional agriculture. It involves growing crops or keeping livestock among trees.

The practice has been hugely boosted a recent government announcement that 10% of arable land should be converted to agroforestry by 2050 as part of the 2023 Carbon Budget Delivery Plan.

Wakelyns at Fressingfield near Stradbroke - which pioneered the practice many years ago - has been the inspiration for many recent adopters.

Wakelyns’ first agroforestry tree lines were planted 30 years ago by the celebrated late agricultural scientist Martin Wolfe who created a test farm in Suffolk.

Agroforestry pioneer Martin Wolfe on his Suffolk farm (Image: Simon Parker)

It now has 23 hectares of land devoted to demonstrating the benefits of the method and to promoting shorter food chains.

Among the micro-businesses on the farm are Wakelyns Bakery, which bakes bread with ‘population’ wheat grown and milled on site, the Contemporary Hempery, which is growing hemp to make clothing, and a natural beekeeping project, Be More Bee.

Martin's son, David Wolfe, said the farm’s agroforestry was considered eccentric when his parents started out 30 years ago but it is now becoming mainstream.

“Over 30 years lots of land managers have visited and have gone away to do their own agroforestry systems across the UK and beyond," he said.

Many of the sites around the country which took part in the agroforestry weekend were inspired by visits to Wakelyns.

Jeannie Buckingham - who has created a 1.6ha agroforestry area at Two Fields, Framsden, near Debenham with farmer husband Glenn - said their interest in the practice came about from a meeting with Martin Wolfe.

Glenn Buckingham when his agroforestry scheme was being planted (Image: Warren Page) “We met Martin Wolfe some years ago and he was such an inspiration. That sparked our interest and we developed from there. It’s about earth care, people care and fair share – we want to connect people with growing food,” she said.

The Buckinghams' community-supported farm uses permaculture principles and has fruit, nuts, vegetables and a ‘pig club’ as well as a flock of Shetland sheep.

The couple - who took part in the weekend - said although the area of the farm devoted to it was currently 1.6ha they wanted to expand it if Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) payments become available for new projects.

They would like to plant more nut trees along with new areas for growing beans, vegetables and currants.

They learnt a "great deal" from meeting people over the two days, she said, and talking about different approaches.

"It was a really good experience meeting such a diverse group of people," said Jeannie.

"Some were local farmers who were particularly interested in community participation and growing food.

"Some were interested in the fruit trees and others in the forest garden. One lady arrived late from Jersey. She came home with us for dinner to talk over our methods and took an interest in the smaller machinery and our 12m alley cropping.

"Another small grower of different varieties of walnuts left us with a bag of his produce and offered us seed for the tree nursery to grow next year."

The Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has promised payments under the Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI) of up to £849 per hectare to maintain existing agroforestry.

The 2,500-hectare Denton Reserve – formerly Denton Park Estate - in Yorkshire has also taken inspiration from Wakelyns.

It is planning a new 45-hectare agroforestry scheme – which would be one of the country’s biggest - as part of a wider move to regenerative farming practice.

The Denton Reserve Land Manager, Bernie Davies, said the estate’s plans for different areas incorporating fruit, nuts, vegetables were well developed but would depend on the availability of funding. Previously it was mainly devoted to rearing sheep along with shooting and a small amount of arable land.

“We talked to Wakelyns and that was really important,” he says. “We’re hoping to produce equivalent levels of food for human consumption to what we did before, but with more biodiversity and with a wider range of food produced, rather than just meat.”