Planting trees in the right place at the right time can bring significant benefits to your farm including generating additional income through activities such as harvesting trees for timber, producing wood for fuel and other wood products, selling carbon units, and designing woodland for recreation and leisure use.
Andy Gray, who farms at Elston Farm, Devon, began planting trees in March 2021 to see how they might benefit his soil and livestock. A commercial beef farmer with 67ha, he supplies meat for the catering industry, and has adopted regenerative farming practices to try and improve soil health and productivity.
He has planted a mixture of trees in rows, so that he can easily access the land with machinery and grazes the livestock around them. In this way they provide shelter and natural forage, while boosting farm diversity and soil health through living roots and carbon sequestration.
“Grazed grassland and selected trees can work together in harmony,” he says. “The trees will become the backbone of the farm and at the same time capture carbon, enhance biodiversity and enrich soil health.”
In total, Andy has planted 8,500 trees – and firmly believes it will bring a multitude of productivity benefits while aligning with his regenerative farming practices. It also fits in with his business model – as chairman of M C Kelly, he supplies meat to hotels and restaurants across the South West and to the public via The Farm Wilder and The Meat Box Company. And consumers are increasingly interested in natural, environmentally-friendly farming practices that can help the industry to reach net zero.
The England Woodland Creation Offer is a national flagship grant scheme administered by the Forestry Commission. With expert support from Woodland Creation Officers, it encourages the creation and long-term management of woodland on areas as small as one hectare. It covers standard capital costs up to £10,200/ha, with stackable payments of up to £8,000/ha for projects that support wider benefits to society, nature recovery, and the environment.
There are also regional grants available through Woodland Creation Partners, located across England they offer a range of highly competitive grants and funding.
Michael Flesher at Ghyll House Farm had wanted to plant trees more than 20 years ago, but the process and paperwork at the time made it feel far too challenging. But thanks to the wonderful support from The White Rose Forest team, Michael and his neighbour Jill have successfully planted trees in an area of less productive land.
The woodland creation team can support on all aspects of planning, the application process, design and support with the approvals process.
“The White Rose Forest have been tremendous in leading us forward and giving us a vision,” says Michael “the key to the progress of all of this is them taking the weight of my back”.
Both the England Woodland Creation Offer and Defra’s Woodland Creation Partners provide expert support and advice. Armed with local knowledge and expertise, they can advise on application processes, woodland design, tree selection, planting and maintenance.
To find out more about Defra’s woodland creation grants and the support available visit www.gov.uk/woodland-creation.