LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and Corteva Agriscience set out to work with two businesses but, after receiving a substantial number of applications, doubled the size of the initiative.
The four farms – two in Scotland and two in England – will now undergo a tailored programme of training, consultancy and trials, measuring their performance and sharing their experiences with other farmers across the UK.
New entrants Ben and Harriet took over Newseat of Dumbreck Farm on a Farm Business Tenancy from the Aberdeen Endowment Trust in July 2019. Since February 2020, Harriet and Ben have been involved in LEAF and Corteva’s Resilient and Ready project looking at how they can use sustainable and regenerative farming practices going forward. BASIS-qualified Harriet is a farming consultant with Strutt & Parker while Ben is an agronomist with Agrovista. Ben and Harriet took over the tenancy on the eve of Ben’s 30th birthday. In the 2 years since and with the help of the Resilient and Ready Project, the pair have been learning about the farm’s land and buildings while developing new income streams. Nursery pigs and cattle are housed on a bed and breakfast basis with 115ha of arable land farmed in tandem with Harriet’s father’s 180ha, about five miles away. They work closely with a neighbouring farm supplying grass silage from 40ha of land to an anaerobic digester to improve the farm’s rotation and increase biodiversity.
Ben said: “We’re in a great position of being able to start at the beginning. We’re still learning about the land and the Resilient and Ready Programme with LEAF and Corteva will be an action-packed couple of years where we’ll be learning about ourselves and our farm as well as meeting like-minded farmers to share our experiences.”
Harriet said: “We’re just starting our farming journey and this could help shape our business to be resilient and ready for the future. We want to be ahead of the curve and to promote a sustainable farming system.”
Craig returned to farming in 2008 after working as an engineer in the oil industry. He and Claire started farming in their own right in 2010 investing in egg production with a 72,000-bird laying hen business. They bought and rented additional land and farm about 160ha with 150 high health status beef cattle and a joint venture running a 2,000 pig place finishing unit. They also act as contractors for neighbouring farms and run a small building business. Craig was the Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year in 2012.
Craig said: “Our farm is quite mixed with lots going on so we applied for this programme to help us tie all the different elements together. There could be scope for the different businesses to work in tandem, making us more profitable and more sustainable.”
Claire added: “We are also really interested in doing some detailed work on the carbon footprint of our farm and its output. The carbon conversation is happening with our customers now, and at the moment we can’t quantify it properly. We need to be far more clued up about what carbon we’re producing and look at the opportunities to offset it.”
Sparsholt College graduate Andy has been the manager at Newhouse Farm for 10 years. The 800ha estate has 600ha put to arable cropping which has been min-till cultivated for two decades. Andy uses variable rate technology for fertiliser, nitrogen and seed with parts of the farm set aside for trials to test new techniques in crop management. Elsewhere, there is 70ha of woodland, a small sheep flock and a pig herd. Andy is keen on communication as a former AHDB Monitor Farm and LEAF Open Farm Sunday host.
He said: “I really enjoy the interaction with farmers and the public and that’s part of the reason why I applied for the Resilient and Ready Programme – to grow that engagement.
“We host a number of visitors on the farm and the science and technology we use blows them away. I’m really keen to get away from the stereotypes and be proud to show people what we do.
“I also want to know more about the wildlife and biodiversity on the farm. I want to be able to measure it and improve the habitats and environment while understanding what the right thing is to do for the future.
“There is uncertainty around farming but I am an optimistic person and view this as an exciting time. Let’s crack on make the most of the opportunities out there to put our farms in a great place for the next generation.”
Nick has managed the farming enterprise of the 3,200ha Yattendon estate since 2017 on behalf of Velcourt, after management roles in Wiltshire for the past 14 years. The huge site includes 2,000ha of combinable crops which are established in a min-till system. The Estate is also home to 130ha of Christmas trees and 160 let properties plus 40 commercial and light industrial units which have been converted from old farm buildings.
Nick said: “We are large scale but a lot of the land is marginal meaning the best fields effectively subsidise the worst. So if we have to take land out of production to access the greatest benefits from a new era of agricultural policy then I believe the estate is well placed. Because of that I think this programme has come at the right time for our business.
“I want to develop professionally and do as much with technology and knowledge in house, rather than relying on outside experts. This will be equally important in the production of crops as it will in how we manage and monitor our natural capital. Last year I spent a lot of time trying to better understand how we can affect our carbon footprint and I hope this programme will help us to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge.
“I want to continue to use our platform to engage with the public and promote all the good things we are doing as an industry. As our sector evolves in the next few years, we will need to adapt to a new mindset of managing land and I want to be in the best position to offer solutions to the challenges that are coming.”