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What leads some farmers to dramatically increase the number of trees on their land? What role do social and cultural values play? And how do values and behaviour interact?

Increasing tree cover across England is a key priority for the UK government, driven by the benefits that trees and woodlands offer, such as climate change mitigation and nature recovery. The England Trees Action Plan 2021-2024 has set ambitious targets to accelerate woodland creation, aiming to increase tree planting to meet the UK target of 30,000 ha per year by 2025. As part of a project funded by Defra under the Nature for Climate Fund, Forest Research has been investigating farmers’ values in relation to tree cover expansion. This Research Note specifically examines the potential for increasing tree cover on farms across England through understanding the social and cultural values of farmers and how these values influence their decisions around tree cover on their land. This research draws on earlier research which identified 30 social and cultural values that have the potential to influence farmers’ attitudes and behaviour regarding trees. These values were grouped into seven areas: farm business, social influence, food production, farm health, environmental values, landscape relationship and farming identity. Building on this work, this research note explores how values might change over time; how values might drive behaviour change; and when and how farmers are able to farm in line with their values. We outline four insights that cut across the experiences of the four farmers we spoke to. These were: core values may change relatively little over time; a single incident may shift farmers’ understanding of the impact of their work; interaction with others supports farmers seeking to farm differently; and it is not always easy to farm in ways that align with values. Rather than conclude with our own interpretations, this Research Note seeks to challenge readers’ thinking and provoke discussion.

Publication type
Research note


Social Scientist
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