British Farmers challenging the notion that we need intensive farming with Regenerative Agriculture.
Regenerative Agriculture is farming with biology rather than chemistry, restoring soil health and increasing biodiversity. This can be done by planting a variety of crops that store carbon and add nitrogen. More carbon is the basis of soil fertility, enabling the release of nutrients for plants to grow. More carbon in the earth also means less carbon in the atmosphere, which is better for climate change. Nitrogen is also vital because it helps plants to photosynthesis and is important for plant growth and structure. When you prioritise soil health it forces you to farm more in tune with nature and this leads to more biodiversity, and more nutritionally rich food. The best way to do this is to use pasture-fed animals as part of arable farming systems, growing grass and cover crops to feed to livestock that then fertilise the soils with their dung and help to regrow soil structure.
Oli Baker is one of a new generation of famers who are switching from commercial farming to Regenerative Agriculture. On his Ollo Fruit Farm in Cornwall he is planning to introduce chickens to their fields of rhubarb, strawberries and gooseberries grown for chef-favourite wholesaler Natoora and Simon Rogan’s two-Michelin star restaurant, L’Enclume. Before he took over the 10-acre farm, it had been used to grow crops conventionally. “It was poor and hungry land, we took a longer term view to increase organic matter,” Oli says. He believes chickens will help to maintain the grass and be good for pest control as they have a penchant for the sawflies that feast on their prized gooseberries.
Oli has also used the greenest possible water system for his irrigation. He uses a Papa Pump which he calls the beating heart of the farm and “absolutely loves”. It delivers water from a river in valley bottom up to his hilltop crops.Because the pump works by using only the power of the naturally flowing water there are no fuel or electricity costs. But the real bonus is that the pump has minimal environment impact and is 100% carbon free!