As stewards of the land we feel it is part of our responsibility to share knowledge and ideas, engage in discussion and contribute to future farming policy.
We collaborate with farmers and organisations who share our values and are working towards a more sustainable future. We believe in the importance of using the farm as an educational place which demonstrates sustainable farming practice.
In collaboration with the Sustainable Food Trust we have initiated and maintain our own benchmarking system which measures a range of sustainability metrics including soil, water and biodiversity.
At present, most farmers and land managers participate in multiple and overlapping sustainability assessment schemes, required to satisfy several different stakeholders including government, certification bodies and food companies. It has been estimated that worldwide there are more than 100 different on-farm sustainability assessment tools in existence, and consequently, food producers are subjected to unnecessary expenses and time-consuming bureaucracy in meeting these compliance requirements.
Since the group started in 2016, we have contributed to research, including a gap analysis and pilot studies. We will soon be testing this framework on farm as part of the tests and trials of the Environmental Land Management Scheme.
The Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, MP, former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs attended a conference at Fir Farm in April 2018 where he said the group’s work had, “been invaluable in setting out how to develop metrics which can be used to reward farmers, not just for improving soil health and increasing biodiversity, but also building human and social capital and strike an important balance. These kinds of high quality contributions to our consultation will help our policy to evolve.”
Click here to read more about the metrics project.
Meetings & Events
2016: The Role of Livestock in Future Farming Systems
In November 2016 we co-organised a conference with the Sustainable Food Trust exploring the role livestock can play in sustainable farming systems. This event featured Joel Salatin, an inspirational rancher from Virginia, USA, and was attended by HRH the Prince of Wales. The conference brought together a wide range of farmers from across the UK interested in learning how to implement sustainable practices on their farms.
Click here for more on the session about taking theory to practice.
Click here for more on the session about on-farm processing.
Click here to read a write up of the event.
2018: The Future of UK Farming
In 2018, the Future of UK Farming Conference was attended by over 300 people and featured keynote speeches from the The Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and NFU President Minette Batters, along with expert panels exploring issues including soil health, relocalising food systems, measuring sustainability and the importance of local slaughter. We had some fantastic speakers, including Professor Dieter Helm from the Natural Capital Committee, Andrew Sells from Natural England, Darina Allen from Ballymaloe Cookery School, soil expert Joel Williams, mob grazing experts Rob Havard and Joel Salatin, and many more.
2019: Farming and Climate Change: Towards Net Zero Carbon Emissions
Our 2019 conference, organised jointly between the Sustainable Food Trust and the National Farmers’ Union, brought together 300 people with an aim to discuss how we might meet the challenge set by NFU President Minette Batters of achieving net zero carbon emissions from UK agriculture by 2040.
Keynote speakers included the regenerative farmer Charles Massy, NFU President Minette Batters, Sustainable Food Trust CEO Patrick Holden, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Gail Bradbrook and Martijn Wilder.
The first panel explored the science of climate change and how emissions are measured with Professor Michael Lee, Professor Myles Allen and Professor Dieter Helm.
We looked at on-farm practice with rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman, Henry Edmunds of Cholderton Estate, Richard Williamson of Beeswax Dyson farming and Simon Fairlie.
The issue of how to make sustainable farming pay was discussed with Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper, Chair of the Natural Capital Committee Dieter Helm and Robert Appleby.
And finally, Jonathan Dimbleby hosted an Any Questions panel featuring Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson, Minette Batters, Patrick Holden, Michael Lee and Richard Benyon MP.
Click here for films and write ups of the conference.
Images courtesy of Chloe Edwards Photography