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Liberty Nimmo Farming
The Organic Regenerative Farming Summit Lunch

The Organic Regenerative Farming Summit

by Liberty Nimmo

Tom Pycraft and his team at Ark Consultancy pulled out all the stops for the Regenerative Farming Summit hosted at Steve Winwood’s Organic family farm in Gloucestershire, a delightful way to mark the summer solstice.

Helen Browning, Sarah Longford, Simon Cutter Jake Corin
Helen Browning, CEO, Soil Association, Sarah Langford, Author, Rooted, Simon Cutter, Founder, Pasture for Life, Jake Corin, Soil Microbiologist & Ecological Designer, Symbiosis Soil Lab

The sun was high and, with the lineup of speakers including Helen Browning, CEO of the Soil Association, Patrick Holden, Founder of the Sustainable Food Trust and Andy Cato, Groove Armada DJ turned pioneering farmer, it was destined to be a bright day, replete with delicious food by Eliza Winwood and lamb from the farm to boot.

This farming stuff is complex, incredibly so, and it’s no mean feat to try and unthread it all. At its core, it strives to produce food in harmony with the environment, leaving the land ecologically in a better place than when we galumphing humans took it on. It is a philosophical, spiritual and scientific movement and is about preserving and securing the future of human health, the environment as well as the livelihoods of farmers. It is of course, dare I say it, political too.

With land prices soaring, matched only by the very old age of the average farmer, food being too cheap and farmers taking a mere 1% of the profit if supplying a supermarket chain, farmers are needing to metamorphose. Many are taking things into their own hands, now selling directly from their farm and adding Sales and Marketing to their already eclectic and far-reaching skill sets (which currently include but are not limited to; Scientist, electrician, chiropodist, plumber, mechanic, vet, midwife, tractor and trailer driver, ecologist, arborist, livestock lavatory assistant, accountant and translator of DEFRA’s increasingly complex Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme which now replaces its former and slightly less complex previous payment scheme). It’s a lot, and I do wonder what other industry requires so many skills in return for so very little financial security. I digress.

The hot topic for the morning session was how can we successfully roadmap a healthier future? Things like data collection, educating farmers, linking food production with the NHS, robotics and Patrick Holden’s Global Farm Metric - if you don’t know about it, it is a sensible future re-imagining - all made an appearance. What separates the wheat from the chaff in this farming world, though, is a mindset shift, something which Pasture for Life, chief promulgators of the restorative power of grazing livestock on pasture alone, have done in abundance.

ARK Consultancy
ARK Consultancy

This mindset takes the view that everything is interconnected, we shift one thing and another is in turn affected. This means that food production is intrinsically linked to human health, which is linked to the impact on the NHS. Health will therefore impact upon the way children learn. The food we eat affects our mental health and so, our relationships too. The cumulative effect is that we do need to reimagine something beyond and better than the limits of petty politics and short-term thinking if we are to continue feeding growing global populations with nutritious food and secure the future of biodiversity. The problem is that we seem to get in the way. Whether it is venture capitalists changing their hats and being ‘for nature’ (that means they are a tech company) or a new version of unregulated large scale supply chains ‘for the farmers’ – we really can’t help our constant need to sit in the driving seat and control the satnav. It must be funny to watch.

Along with a shift in mindset, we also need to find better ways to measure success and to really and truly believe in these, placing value on them. Whilst looking after uphill farmland to take care of downhill flooding is brilliant, necessary and right, the Biodiversity Net Gain argument is, in part, so complicated because how on earth can this be valued? For the houses downhill who will no longer be flooded, there is no price tag - it is so valuable - and for the distant neighbour, up on the hill, it too has no value, at the other end of the horseshoe. For them, it feels irrelevant to spend money on something that brings them no direct benefit. So how does the farmer helping to prevent the flooding in the first instance get compensated for their good work? How is this quantified, measured, remunerated and also linked back to productive food production?

Ark Consultancy
Farming Summit Lunch

Tom Pycraft’s Ark Summit covered all aspects of this very complex and wild beast with kindness, generosity and abundance. The farm walk was inspiring and showcased these fundamental principles in action while Georgie Beach’s Ripe Cider was the shining example of how a ground roots business works in an effective and delicious way. The day marked 100 years of the delivery of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on Biodynamics and it just so happened to be a full moon – the gods smiled on us.

The day before the summit I had been helping to make hay. These moments of driving a tractor in glorious sun, smell of cut grass, dust in the eyes, trees in full leaves, orchids, butterflies and cows chewing the cud whilst shade bathing, give a sense of things being so vibrantly alive. It is in these magical, elemental moments, I think of Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest ; ‘We are such stuff that dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ We are transient, not here to stay. The natural world on the other hand is about 4.5 billion years old. I wonder when we’ll get the message.



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