Rod Everett, a farmer from Roeburndale in North Lancashire, talks about the importance of ‘real farming’ in the North of England and Scotland.

In the North we have hard working and dedicated farmers who care for their animals, look after the countryside and aim to leave a productive and economically viable farm to their children. They take pleasure at hearing the lapwings and curlews calling, heralding in the spring. They work long and hard hours in all weathers for little return. Most are born and bred farmers and will be till the day they die. We need to give gratitude for their efforts in supplying our food system.

And yet our farming system has been largely designed by the agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

At the Oxford Real Farming Conference Henry Dimbleby stated that 18 of the largest food and drink companies rely on portfolios of food and drink of which 85% are so unhealthy as to be regarded unsuitable for marketing to children under World Health Organisation guidelines.

Our soils are losing their rich soil biology and no longer provide the rich nutrient soup on which are crops used to grow.

Our winter feeding for livestock relies on high protein GM soya, (around 85% of all EU animal feeds containing GM derived products), often imported from damaged rainforest areas. This has implications for global climate change.

Our fields no longer absorb our increasingly heavy rainfall. The fast run off leads to flooding downstream and two thirds of our rivers showed samples of over 10 pesticides.

We have also seen a 46% decline in butterflies between 1976 and 2017.

Some fields are so overloaded with slurry and the soil underneath is now devoid of earthworms and other beneficial microbiology.

In response to all of this, in the North of England and Scotland there’s an increasing number of farmers saying enough is enough. They have said to themselves that things must change on their farms if they are to produce healthy food and look after the soil.

The Northern Real Farming Conference will bring together these pioneering farmers who are successfully altering their farming systems to create ecologically and economically viable farms which bring joy to their families and local community. They are creating a legacy of regenerative farms for our children and future generations.

This conference will be held online between 28th Sept – October 10th and will offer an opportunity to connect with other farmers, discuss ideas, explore innovative research, tell stories and be part of an important movement for change.

We expect a wide range of topics.

Sessions may include: how to invigorate the soil biology with bio-fertilizers, compost teas and effective microbes; how to grow vegetables and cereals with minimum tillage techniques; developing procurement systems that support local and resilient food.

Other farmers may share stories of small micro-farms that provide local employment and help build local community; succession planning and community ownership; rewilding projects and natural flood management techniques; agroforestry and its multiple benefits to farms; and how we will need to adjust to the extremes expected with climate change. 

This event is inspired and supported by the Oxford Real Farming Conference which now attracts over 1000 people each January. For many farmers it is the highlight of their year where they can refresh their enthusiasm and courage to create a new path for farming.

For more information about the Northern Real Farming Conference see www.northernrealfarming.org

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