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Agroforestry; together we can make it happen

We must plant trees to tackle the climate crisis – but we must also grow food.

Replacing food crops with trees on UK land would only export the environmental impact of feeding ourselves, often to countries with looser legislation. There is a solution: combining tree-planting with crops or livestock between the rows, i.e. agroforestry, can deliver the greatest ecological benefit for the least loss of food production.

Nuts grown via agroforestry actually increase total food output per acre, while sequestering CO2 and enhancing biodiversity. It’s win, win, win. So why isn’t it happening? The simple answer is that the profits are too distant and uncertain. Protecting our planet’s future doesn’t pay a cash-strapped farmer today.

Urgent action is needed. Trees need time to grow; we cannot wait any longer for support (and subsidies) to emerge from Defra. So, we have stopped waiting and started doing. We have already planted 30 acres of nut trees, with more on the way – and with your help, we can go even further.

The money we spend on online ads to reach new customers, we would much rather give to you for recommending us, and to farmers for planting trees. When you refer a friend to Riverford, and they order a box, we will plant a walnut tree (and give £15 to you both).

The trees will be planted on farms across Devon with our local co-op. With Riverford paying for planting, fencing, weeding, and maintenance for the first five years, I am confident we can plant 10,000 trees a year, and cover 250 acres. It will also go a considerable way towards offsetting the carbon generated getting veg from the farm to your doorstep.

Together we can: 1) Take a big step towards making your food and our business carbon neutral. 2) Bring biodiversity back to our countryside. 3) Spread the word about Riverford, and help your friends eat really well. 4) Protect the soil, as trees don’t need ploughing and re-planting every year. 5) Help farmers move away from annual crops and methane-emitting livestock. 6) Contribute to the move towards UK-grown, plant-based diets, advocated by both nutritionists and environmentalists. It’s actually win, win, win, win, win, win.

You can refer as many friends as you like – and if all goes well, there will be Devon-grown hazelnuts in your boxes by 2026, and walnuts by 2028.

To find out more, go to


    Rob Milne

    1 Month 2 Weeks

    Guy, I'm surprised and dismayed to see that you planted your walnut trees in rows up and down the slope. When the trees are mature and livestock want to go from A to B in the field, they will follow a fairly narrow path midway between the trees. The grass will get worn away, leaving a narrow line of bare soil. Then, when there's heavy rain - we're going to get more extremes of all weather events - you'll have a rivulet of mud, turning into a gully, with several tonnes of soil (per gully) slamming up against he hedge at the bottom of the field.

    I've always been fascinated by terraces, in S E Asia and ancient ones in the Andes. Now, I'm not suggesting you should terrace the fields, but I do think it would look so much more interesting if trees were planted along the contours. It would be aesthetically pleasing as well as better for soil conservation

    Great you're planting walnuts, though. I love them! I always put broken walnuts in bread, and I love the oil on vegetables.

    Rob Milne

    0 Reply


    1 Month 1 Week

    How on earth do you stop the squirrels from eating all the nuts? I have a walnut tree and hazelnut trees in my garden. The only way I can save anything is to pick the walnuts for pickling in June. If I leave them till they have hardened they just disappear. I have no way of saving the hazelnuts. Help!!!!

    1 Reply

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    1 Month 1 Week

    I had been going to ask more or less the same thing. We have loads of hazel around us but grey squirrels get the lot!

    0 Reply

    Guy Singh-Watson

    Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.

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    Here at Wicked Leeks, our mission is to help inform and inspire positive change. Our journalism is free to all because of this, but we want to reach as many people as possible who share our desire for a better world. We know our readers are some of the biggest advocates of sustainable living, and you can help us grow this movement by sharing this article widely, with your friends and on social media. Now is the time to act.