When people lament not being in their twenties, I think something must be wrong with them. Or perhaps I didn't do very well in mine; I constantly felt unsettled, nervous for the future and like I was getting everything wrong. Thankfully I had great friends that would coax me through this time and commiserate as realistically; we were all in the same boat. One of my greatest friends is Liberty Nimmo, who, in her 20s, gave London a shot. It seemed like the right place to be: trying to have fun, find careers and keep our heads above water. But London life is not for everyone. Many such as Liberty, yearn for something different. But lots of those people don't do anything about it, Liberty, well, she does. In the last few years, she has quit London and turned to farming, staying in spare bedrooms, huts and caravans, learning and working along her way. She is a sponge for knowledge, and her passion for Regenerative Farming is infectious. I have asked her over the next three weeks to give us a little insight into her journey from London life to being a fully fledge farmer.
Finding Farming By Liberty Nimmo
Part One, 16th September 2022
When my dear friend Charlie P asked if I'd write some words about how I arrived in the world of Regenerative Agriculture, a few images appeared. The first was a childhood one of mud pies and the splatting sound that the back of a spade makes as you pat and smooth the mud pie. The next was lifting potatoes with my grandfather, followed by the days spent working on a pig farm in the mornings, growing vegetables in the afternoon and ringing the village church bells in the evening. I was 21, and all the other campanologists were at least four times my age.
Having spent time living in Italy, Delhi and London, I could bear being away from the beloved mud pies no longer and, aged 30, did the reverse of Dick Whittington and packed all of my goods into my red and white handkerchief and returned to the countryside.
I happened upon the world of Regenerative Farming. I immediately realised that it presents a sensible solution to Climate Change which comes at no cost but has enormous financial and environmental benefits. Regenerative Agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystems, supporting carbon sequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. This, I found compelling and the opportunity for a life of learning and working in such a fulfilling field (pardon the pun) was irresistible.
For many years I have had a sneaky suspicion that I was born in the wrong era, so, I went to Romania to spend time with a peasant farmer and his wife. I wanted to understand how 'looking back' could, in fact, be a progressive way to look forward. Village life was made up of a solid and lovely community. Food was grown locally, the land was grazed at the appropriate times of the year, and traditional composting methods were used, meaning any use of chemical inputs was unnecessary. Life was slow, but the culture was guided by the seasons. It was rich and full of songs and dance with music, books and stories all forming important building blocks.
When I returned to the UK, I took a job on a biodynamic farm to calve 100 Aberdeen Angus cows over three months. I hasten to add that I worked (and still do) part-time for an Italian travel company. I'm still not sure how these worlds co-exist, but they do, apart from the one morning when I had breakfast with a client at Claridge's and had to hide my purple iodine-stained hands, which had just delivered a baby calf that morning. On the farm, I learnt a great deal about Steiner's Biodynamics and how and why livestock grazed on pasture alone are a critical part of soil improvement. I also learnt what it meant to be tired to your core after delivering baby calves at night, working long hours in the day and then commuting to London once a week. Most of all, it was the cows who were so compelling. Their intelligence, maternal instincts, group behaviour and kindness towards me more than once reduced me to tears.
COVID struck, and calving finished, so I headed for the hills and went to help clear a woodland in the Scottish borders living in an enchanting gypsy caravan. By now, I was developing a clear idea of what Sustainable and Environmentally friendly farming looked like. This included pasture-fed livestock, whose grazing method and manure are integral to the system, locally grown vegetables, cover crops used for improving the soil, minimal or no ploughing to reduce soil disturbance and abundant biodiversity of grasses, wild flora, rubbly areas, water, hedgerows, trees, grasses, lichens, mosses and everything that can help create a diverse, species-rich environment. While the world was in meltdown, I took to learning about wild flora and grasses and continued to experiment with homegrown, handmade lotions and potions, giving Willy Wonker a run for his money.
You can follow Liberty's adventures at @nimmo.skincare