Farmers Weekly Finalists, Groundswell and school visits
Between harvest prep, school visits and Groundswell, it’s been busy here at Nonington Farms. Let’s catch up!
ARABLE FARMER OF THE YEAR FINALIST 2023
We are very proud and excited to have been confirmed as a finalist for Arable Farmer of the Year for the Farmers Weekly Awards 2023. It was a pleasure to welcome the team of judges to the farm last week to discuss our regenerative approach to farming.
As well as looking at the numbers and the agronomy, the judges met the whole team and had a good walk around the farm too. They particularly liked seeing the new stoneground mill now up and running. We look forward to finding out how we got on in London in October.
Picking up from last month, we made the most of the heatwave in early June followed by some very much-needed rain to revive the stressed crops. During the dry period, we ensure we leave water out for the birds, as they are rearing their young at the moment. We’ve seen evidence on the farm of this: grey partridge chicks and a juvenile turtle dove, which is very exciting.
We have had lots of schools visit the farm in June to learn all about food production and sustainable farming practices, including two schools who heard about us through The Country Trust as part of the Warburtons wheat contract that we have for our sustainable wheat.
We demonstrate the connectivity of the food production system, showing first-hand how the wheat you see growing in the fields can be milled to produce flour, and turned in to bread. The children have a go at milling themselves, which is always a highlight. They also get to sample vegetables from Jack’s patch, and sit on a tractor!
Also in June, Emma spoke at the Wealden Literary Festival alongside Sarah Langford, author of ‘Rooted: stories of life, land and a farming revolution’, and Philip Lymberry, author of ‘60 harvests left’, to a packed audience where the subject was how regenerative farming can heal the Earth.
A powerful statement and one we firmly stand behind.
The team visited Groundswell, an ever-growing festival of ideas on regenerative farming systems. We attended some brilliant demos such as the dung beetle safari and windrow composting, plus many insightful talks. Here are some of our key takeaways:
• The key is building soil health, which therefore improves crop health and consequently the nutritional value of the food produced within it. You may have heard a lot about gut health and the gut micro biome recently. Interestingly, there are many similar principles with that of soil health, and as mentioned, good soil health in turn impacts the quality of the food that it helps to grow. This shows how everything is intrinsically linked and how important healthy soil is for everyone.
• The introduction of livestock is fundamental to helping improve crop health and reduce the use of pesticides and artificial fertiliser.
• Using compost and compost teas to help build up the soil microbiology.
• Companion cropping, intercropping, and growing blends of winter wheat are extremely useful in reducing the need for fungicides as well as herbicides.
We learnt a lot from Groundswell, and we are all continually learning on this regenerative journey. One thing we have learnt so far is that it may not necessarily be quick nor easy, but we are committed to the journey and eager to see what unfolds.