Full speed ahead at the farm this month
It would be a mistake to think that nothing happens in January on the farm – we seem to have hit 2023 at full speed ahead! In this first edition of our monthly blog post, we want to share with you some of the highlights.
Nonington Farms has been continuing its hedge-planting scheme – thus far, we have planted over 1000m of hedges this winter. Having finished the ones along field boundaries, we have started one through the middle of an existing field. The point of this is to break up a 100acre field, make use of the CSS strips alongside it by recreating an old field boundary back in the 1880s. The further benefits are manifold, and it will be interesting to see over time how these manifest themselves.
We’ve now been planting new hedgerows for over 13 years, and this is our third year of laying them too. The point of laying a hedge is to thicken it up, make it stock proof, and ultimately provide a better form of habitat for a plethora of wildlife than a spindly hedgerow with lots of gaps at the bottom of it where inclement weather and/or predators can get in.
Michael White from Rural Courses is our hedge layer, and he is very happy to share his expertise with anyone interested. Here’s a link to a video that we made last year explaining the method of hedge laying. Michael seems to have drawn in the crowds – it was lovely to see some of you at Nonington at the first meeting of the Barham Downs cluster group of the year – and everyone seemed to enjoy watching his demonstration.
The other point of interest from our talks, and which has been preoccupying us in January has been a focus on wintering birds. We’ve teamed up with two experts from the British Trust for Ornithology, who have carried out a winter bird survey. Highlights of that are a plentiful showing of yellowhammers, reed buntings and even a Dartford warbler amongst plenty of other red list species. Furthermore, they have erected owl and kestrel boxes around the farm, and we have been helping them with catching and ringing yellowhammers in order to weigh, condition score and measure them and see how they fare in the coming months.
It has been good to get grazing our cover crops with both cows and sheep. The cows are from Oink and Udder – listen again to their On Your Farm journey on Radio 4, where Emma also outlines our vision for Nonington Farms and sharing the farm with new entrants like them. This was something echoed in the article CHAPS did about us, also published this month.
Finally, last year we entered our milling wheat in to the Yield Enhancement Network’s competition where they assess the yield potential of a field of wheat. Against high input – high output farming methods around the country, we were absolutely delighted to come 3rd in the country for our milling wheat, the only regenerative farm in the competition of hundreds of farms. It just shows that the sustainable agriculture we are championing is still gaining high yields, alongside all the other benefits.
So, a busy month, and now time to start reading up on the new ELM payment rates, which I am delighted to see will encourage farming methods like ours – e.g. a no insecticide payment rate across the farm.