Beacons of Excellence

The Beacons of Excellence programme looks to develop peer-to-peer learning and explore the benefits of regenerative agriculture and agroecology. Building on LEAF’s legacy, it will take our work to another level of knowledge generation and exchange. The first year of this programme was kindly funded by the Ashden Trust.

Running from 2021-22, the previous Beacons of Excellence programme was focused on regenerative agriculture and agroecology. Twenty two different farms and farming organisations were involved, which included LEAF Demonstration Farms, LEAF Innovation Centres and key players in the sphere of regenerative agriculture.

Through workshops, meetings, farmer support, benchmarking and production of resources (such as the table and video below) the programme looked to shine a spotlight on best practice and provide the opportunity for knowledge exchange within the area of regenerative agriculture.

Case Studies

Jake Freestone,

Overbury Enterprises

Overbury Farms is an arable and sheep farm set within the Cotswold AONB on the historic slopes of Bredon Hill on the Worcestershire/​Gloucestershire border. Jake Freestone manages the farm and has been awarded the 2021 Farmers Weekly Environment Champion, and Soil Farmer of the year 2020.

In April 2022, Jake hosted the Beacons of Excellence group for a day of discussions centred around the benefits and challenges of regenerative agriculture.

Key regenerative practices at Overbury:

  • Every field with more than a 5-week gap in cropping is cover cropped
  • Direct drilling and min-till
  • No insecticides used since 2017
  • Artificial nitrogen use has decreased by 25% on wheat as a result of building soil organic matter, data from N deep core sampling and precision application
  • Clover understories direct drilled into wheat to reduce N requirements, suppress weeds, and provide soil cover
  • Sheep graze cover crops

Craig Livingstone,

Lockerley Estate

Lockerley Estate is a 1,000 hectare arable and sheep farm with a working forestry enterprise situated in East Tytherley, Hampshire. Craig Livingstone manages the farm and was awarded the Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year and Overall Farmer of the Year in 2018.

Craig hosted the first Beacons of Excellence meeting in November 2021, which explored regenerative practices and outcomes.

Key regenerative practices at Lockerley:

  • Since Craig began managing farm, pesticide use has decreased by 41%, inorganic fertiliser use had reduced by 32% and soil organic matter has increased by an average of 1.1%
  • In-field flower strips boost biodiversity
  • Sheep graze cover crops
  • Direct drilling and reduced tillage
  • Extended rotations and improved crop diversity

Water Management Case Studies

Beacons of Excellence Resources

Key Prac­tices of regen­er­a­tive agriculture

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Bea­cons of Excel­lence summary

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Inte­grat­ed Farm Man­age­ment sup­ports regen­er­a­tive agriculture

Watch Here

For more information on Beacons of Excellence, please contact Megan Whatty, LEAF IFM Network Coordinator, at [email protected]