Written by Ellen Pearce
UK farming is facing a perfect storm. Costs of inputs (for example fertiliser, pesticide and fuel) are soaring, weather patterns (and the climate) are changing and the government is bringing in a new, non-EU funding system for farmers to get used to.
The Northern Real Farming Conference (NRFC) focuses on regenerative approaches to reduce inputs (and bring down costs), increase profitability and future-proof farm businesses. At the same time, the approach teaches us to see food production as integrated with nature, help sustain it and help to build up local food systems. With support from WWF-UK’s Land, Food and Farming Fund, we have created an innovative series of videos aimed at farmers who are exploring whether regenerative farming is for them. We also run an active network of Northern farmers.
The videos show farmers talking about their own experiences and offering concentrated practical advice on the profit and pitfalls of changing their land management methods. In ‘Three Regenerative Farming Projects’, Cumbrian farmers talk about how they have changed to ‘rotational grazing’ of sheep and cows – moving stock in big groups every day or two and letting the grass regrow – and growing grass at the end of the summer for winter
feed. Nic Renison, the farmer in the picture, says they now don’t buy in feed or fertiliser. All three farms are profitable and working on improving soil health. All three farmers find their networks and peer groups very valuable for hearing about new ideas; these videos can help farmers and growers without those networks.
In ‘Local Wool and Textile Production’, you can hear about the stories behind Maria Benjamin’s 13 new tweeds for 13 Lake District valleys, Zoe Fletcher’s research into the qualities of the wool from the more than 70 breeds of British sheep and Kate Makin’s work to make yarn from local sheep for her shop, Lancaster’s Northern Yarn. You will also hear, again, how collaboration and information-sharing have been important to their projects.
The videos are available at: http://www.northernrealfarming.org/video-resources/ and they are really worth a watch, even if you don’t farm yourself.
We hope these videos will have a positive impact on farming and land use in the North of England. We hope farmers will join our community, access the resources and knowledge we have available and share their stories.