National recognition for farmer whose business employs 11 and has annual turnover of £400,000
- Credit: CAMBS COUNCIL
A Fenland farmer whose business now employs 11 people and generates an annual turnover of £400,000 has won a national award for his research into agroforestry systems.
Stephen Briggs built a farm shop, café and education centre at his farm in Farcet three years ago thanks to a £250,000 investment from Cambridgeshire County Council.
A tenant of the Cambridgeshire County Farms Estate, Mr Briggs' work investigated how farmers in other countries operated agroforestry systems.
This is where trees and conventional crops are grown side-by-side. He returned convinced that it could be applied successfully here.
Stephen was a beneficiary of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, which provides funding to research farming, food, horticulture or rural industries.
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This work won him the Stephen and Gill Bullock Award and £1,000 - it was established in memory of Stephen Bullock, Farmers Weekly’s farms manager from 1963 to 1988.
Stephen – who co-authored The Agroforestry Handbook – set up the UK’s biggest agroforestry system on his 105-hectare farm at Farcet, planting 4,500 fruit trees alongside wheat, barley and oats.
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He said this has made his farm much more resilient to erosion and crop damage, and found that after a bad storm, the fields without trees suffered double the losses of those with trees.
The trees have helped boost conventional crop performance, creating better drainage in winter and helping to retain moisture in the summer, and have also increased biodiversity.
Stephen lectures on agroforestry at the University of Warwick and advises and trains farmers across the country.
He also set up the European Agroforestry Federation.
Stephen has also presented to government ministers, working as a group member for Defra’s Environmental Land Management programme.
He's also a member of the Sustainable Soil Alliance, and advises Natural England, the Forestry Commission and the Committee on Climate Change.
Since 2014, Stephen has worked part-time as head of soils at Innovation for Agriculture, part of the Royal Agricultural Society of England.