New farming entrants recognised as sustainable farming champions

Harriet Ross and Ben Lowe, new entrants at HB Farms near Udny, Ellon in Aberdeenshire have been recognised for their pioneering approaches to more sustainable farming by leading farming organisation LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming).

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They join a UK wide network of LEAF Demonstration Farms, set up to demonstrate and communicate the principles and practices of more regenerative, climate positive farming to other farmers and the wider industry.

Harriet and Ben took on the three-year tenancy on the 395-acre farm in July 2019 and were one of four farm businesses that took part in the Resilient & Ready programme, run by LEAF and crop protection and seed giant Corteva Agriscience, aimed at helping farmers make their enterprises fitter for the future by introducing new sustainable farming approaches to their farms.

Harriet, who is also Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year, said:

“Three years ago, we were just starting out on our farming journey so being part of the Resilient & Ready programme at that point was incredibly important as we began to shape our business for the future. We definitely had a clear vision of where we wanted to take the farm and our key focus was a more integrated approach. Having access to mentoring, training and support from industry experts and sharing our ideas with other farmers with similar goals has been invaluable. Becoming a LEAF Demonstration Farm will mean we can go out there and inspire other farmers who are at the beginning of their farming careers.”

The couple have a 450 breeding sow unit and grow 338 hectares of combinable crops, with the grain used as feed for the pigs whilst manure is recycled back onto the fields as part of their ‘closing the loop’ ethos.

“Our priority is building the overall resilience of the business” added Ben. “We’re increasing soil health and biodiversity through cover crops, diverse crop rotations, trialling winter grazing, greening measures and spreading digestate on to grass leys after mowing. Other projects include drilling a new oilseed rape variety and biostimulant trials to look at weather stress. We’re also looking at how we can enhance manure during storage using biologicals and incorporating additional nutrients to reduce our reliance on spray applications. Farming is changing and being part of Resilient & Ready has really helped build our confidence to embrace change, to innovate and take risks.”

LEAF Chairman, Philip Wynn added:

“Harriet and Ben represent the future of farming. The industry is facing era-defining changes with new support structures and climate change priorities. To fully prepare for these external drivers, the sector will need the skills, ideas, innovations, and leaders to take it forward. It will rely on farmers like Harriet and Ben – practical, collaborative and business minded with the vision and determination to succeed. As our youngest ever LEAF Demonstration Farmers, they will play a crucial role in driving change. We are delighted to welcome them to the LEAF Network.”

Giles Field-Rayner, UK Business Development Manager for Corteva Agriscience, concluded:

“Harriet and Ben are fantastic examples of what farmers can get out of the Resilient & Ready programme. We’ve been able to tap into their enthusiasm and desire to improve and we cannot wait to see what they will go on to achieve. Their future looks really bright.”

HB Farms joins 40 other Demonstration Farms which, together with 14 Innovation Centres, make up the LEAF Network of leading farmers and world class research centres, developing and promoting more sustainable farming through Integrated Farm Management. The launch event was held on Wednesday 6th 2022.

More information about HB Farms can be found here.

The Resilient & Ready team is looking for the next cohort of farmers. Farmers wishing to know when applications open are asked to visit my.corteva.com/ResilientAndReady2022 or email [email protected]. More about the programme can be found at www.corteva.co.uk/resilient-and-ready.

With thanks to Corteva Agriscience, Agrovista, Frontier and Harbro for their support.