Pioneering Farcet farmer wins top award

Stephen Briggs, a tenant of Cambridgeshire County Farms Estate, investigated how farmers in other countries operated...

Stephen Briggs, a tenant of Cambridgeshire County Farms Estate, investigated how farmers in other countries operated agroforestry systems and was convinced that it could be applied successfully in the UK. - Credit: Archant

A farmer who developed the UK’s biggest agroforestry system on his land at Farcet has won a top national award for his research into the system which involves growing trees and conventional crops side by side.

Stephen Briggs, a tenant of Cambridgeshire County Farms Estate, investigated how farmers in other countries operated agroforestry systems and was convinced that it could be applied successfully in the UK.

He found that trees helped boost conventional crop performance, creating better drainage in winter and helping to retain moisture in the summer, and also increased biodiversity.

Mr Briggs had been a beneficiary of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, which provides funding to research topics of interest in either farming, food, horticulture or rural industries.

Now his work has won him the Gill Bullock Award and £1000 which was presented to the Nuffield scholar judged to have done the most with their opportunity 10 years after completing their report.


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The award was established in memory of Stephen Bullock, Farmers Weekly’s farms manager from 1963 to 1988.

Cllr Mark Goldsack, farms champion for Cambridgeshire County Council and chairman of the authority’s Commercial and Investment Committee, said: “The council is delighted that Mr Briggs has won this award – it is richly deserved. There have been hundreds of Nuffield scholars over the years and it is notable recognition for Stephen to be seen as one of the best.

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“I am also proud that the council had the confidence to invest with him in a farm shop a few years ago - this has been a great success, even throughout the COVID pandemic.”

Nuffield scholars are able to travel anywhere in the world for more than eight weeks to further their knowledge and understanding of a topic they have chosen to study.

Mr Briggs co-authored The Agroforestry Handbook – subsequently set up the UK’s biggest agroforestry system on his 260-acre county farm at Farcet, planting 4,500 fruit trees alongside wheat, barley and oats.

He said this 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.

Stephen now lectures on agroforestry at the University of Warwick and advises and trains farmers across the country. He also set up the European Agroforestry Federation.

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