With support from WWF-UK’s Land, Food and Farming Fund, the NRFC is creating a series of shorter videos which will show farmers talking about their own experiences and offering practical advice on the profit and pitfalls of changing their land management methods.
The NRFC will have a stall at the Carbon Calling event on Saturday 25 June at Sleastonhow, Kirkby Thore, Penrith, CA10 1XL to meet farmers, tell them about the videos, explore how the NRFC can best support a transition to low input approaches and share ways for them to get involved – there is an active NRFC network of Northern farmers interested in regenerative farming as well as conferences, farm visits and events.
Ellen Pearce from NRFC said: “We have developed an amazing archive of resources and online sessions with themes covering everything from dung beetles to soil health, nutrition to grains and urban farming to cow-with-calf dairying! We now have the capacity to share the best of our archives to further impact farming approaches and associated land-use in the North of England. We hope farmers will join our community, access the resources and knowledge and share their stories.”
Brought to you by the NRFC team in collaboration with Pasture for Life, and very kindly hosted by Debs and Simon Hare from Crosslanes Organic Farm and Trees House Farm, this is a farm visit not to be missed. Please bring a fellow farmer,. neighbour or family member who may be interested in regenerative approaches (register via the link). There will be:
a farm walk to see the certified livestock and hear how they are produced
a delicious PfL certified beef lunch in the Café
a tour of the shop and talk about how they support local producers and weave eco principles and sustainability into product sourcing
we wanted to update you on the Northern Real Farming Conference plans for this year, and highlight some upcoming events and opportunities. As we grapple with the soaring costs of inputs, changing weather patterns and the preparation needed for the change to Environmental Land Management support, NRFC believes regenerative approaches to farming can reduce inputs, increase profitability and future-proof farm businesses. The Northern Real Farming Conference (NRFC) plans for this year include a project funded by WWF to:
creating a resource-bank of farmer-led videos from our previous events in an edited easy-to-watch format along with links, contacts and other information
a series of farm visits and local events across the region
building the active network of Northern farmers and other food system workers
We won’t be running a large-scale conference this Autumn, instead taking some time to plan an event better conference for 2023. We will, however, be out and about at various events around the North in the next few months. In the meantime, here are some opportunities you might be interested in.
This event explored the challenges and opportunities of developing sustainable food production and distribution systems and networks in our northern cities. We heard from four cities in the process of developing urban farming in partnership with the Urban Agriculture Consortium, and from Dr Jill Edmondson from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield.
This virtual workshop used case studies and presentations to:
Explore how urban and peri-urban farms can help build links between people living in cities, and the agricultural landscapes that surround them (and connect them to food, nutrition, seasonality and health) ;
Explain how urban and peri-urban farms can contribute to our food supply and food sovereignty aims, and explore the extent to which urban/peri-urban farms could feed people in cities;
Explore how urban and peri-urban farms could attract people to the real farming movement, as producers, consumers, citizens and advocates
Discuss urban farming’s vital role in the broader movement for a just and fair farming and food system.
Hosted by Suzy Russell, CSA Network UK and NRFC Advisory Group/UAC core group and Andy Goldring, Permaculture Association and NRFC Advisory Group/UAC core group, with a brief introduction from Jeremy Iles, instigator & co-coordinator of the UAC.
The following speakers had input:
Luke Justice, market gardener at Meanwood Valley Farm
Jenny Lawrence, Roger Plumtree, Kirkstall Valley Farm
Sonja Woodcock, Coordinator for FoodWise Leeds
Dr Jill Edmondson, Institute for Sustainable Food, University of Sheffield
Anna Clayton, Coordinator, FoodFutures, Lancaster
Joe Dunne, Projects Manager, Food Partnership & Food Power Alliance Coordinator, Middlesbrough
Fran Halsall, Urban Agriculture Coordinator at ShefFood, Sheffield’s Food Partnership
Key themes emerging from the discussions and presentations included:
the need to train new growers/farmers
the need for everyone to be part of growing – maybe a shorter working week would enable this for more people
the need for councils/policy makers to recognise that urban food growing is essential in our times
the (unproven) worry that much more urban food production would have the same negative effects as intensive agriculture (it wouldn’t!)
issues relating to land use in urban areas
demand for local food and the need for strategies to build that market
The Northern Real Farming Conference team recently hosted an online workshop, chaired by Adrian Shepherd of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, to explore the new Farming in Protected Landscapes programme recently announced by Defra.
The Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) programme is part of Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan. It is a dedicated funding programme for farmers and land managers in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Parks and the Broads. It will fund projects that support nature recovery, mitigate climate change impacts, provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and its cultural heritage, and support nature-friendly sustainable farm businesses. The programme is now open and will run until April 2024.
The workshop was a chance to:
Hear from James Woodward at Sustain about the latest developments in the Agricultural Transition plan, and how the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme fits with the broader framework
Understand from Kate Corfield and Allen Padua from Defra the Farming in Protected Landscape programme
Hear two examples of how the FiPL scheme is being implemented in different landscapes, from Suzanne Fletcher in the Peak District National Park Authority and Chris Woodley-Steward from the North Pennines AONB Partnership
Explore ideas for funding with other farmers across the North of England with input from Adam Briggs from the NFU, Andrea Meanwell from the Lake District National Park Authority and from Will Rawling a farmer from West Cumbria
Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) is a Defra-funded programme for farmers and land managers in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), National Parks and the Broads. The programme is now open and will run until April 2024. Join us on 21 July to find out more:
Hear the latest on the Agricultural Transition Plan, and how FiPL fits in
Learn about the FiPL mechanism and how it’s being implemented
Explore funding ideas with other farmers across the North of England
Defra says the FiPL will fund projects that support nature recovery, mitigate climate change impacts, encourage people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and its cultural heritage, and support nature-friendly sustainable farm businesses.
We’ll be joined by speakers from Sustain, Peak District National Park Authority, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Lake District National Park Authority, North Pennines AONB Partnership and the NFU. Join online briefing on 21 July
Photo: Hill Top Farm, Malham, North Yorkshire. Courtesy of Stephen Garnett
The Northern Real Farming conference held its inaugural event in October 2020 with over 65 online sessions and 500 participants. A high proportion of participants are actively farming in the North of England and Scotland. You can access last year’s sessions on our website here.
The Northern Real Farming Conference brings farmers together to share challenges and opportunities and to share practical experiences. If you have an interest in meeting global food system challenges in innovative and environmentally regenerative ways, join our network.
We want to ensure that we are connected with as many formal/information farmer networks as possible so that our events meet your needs, and as such are asking you to complete a short survey particularly if you are part of a network in the North of England. Please let us know your priorities and how you would like to be involved in the Northern Real Farming Conference and wider movement building for an agro-ecological farming vision.
We are hosting a networks meeting for farmer networks in the North on 19 May, 11.30-1pm, and planning an online briefing session for Northern farmers in July. Sign up and indicate interest via the survey.
Our aims are to amplify the voices of northern farmers in policy discussions, to connect better the northern networks to share practice and experiences, and to highlight and showcase examples from the North.
The Northern Real Farming Conference 2022 will take place in the second half of November, online and (is the situation allows) in-person.
Rod Everett shares his opening talk at the Northern Real Farming Conference this year. You can also listen watch the recording of the opening session here.
Northern farmers are very hard working, trying to do their best for their livestock and the land to leave for the next generation. It’s important to take a minute to remember special moments that you would like your grandchildren to experience.
We face huge challenges. If climate change leads to a 7.4 degree warming, we’ll have both warmer summers and 59% more rainfall by 2050. We will see more floods and fires around the world. 1
On my farm we’ve had six times more bank full floods since 2014. Some streams now dry up which never have before. Ten mature oak trees and some apple trees collapsed due to the very dry spring and wet late summer. The collapse of biodiversity and species loss on farm is significant and includes bull head, brown trout and eels lost from the River Roeburn. 2
What is behind this? NPK (Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) chemicals and fertilizers are having a big impact, which leads to stream eutrophication, damage to micro organisms, and, latest research from Rothamstead suggests a loss of soil structure also due to NPK. 3 Nitrogen causes thin cell walls in plants which makes them more vulnerable to insect attack, which in turn leads to needing more chemicals. When consumed, nitrogen mixes in the mouth with proteins and converts to carcinogenic nitroso-amines. 4, 5
Agrochemicals are also to blame. The average UK potato is sprayed a huge 32 times. In an Austrian study of apple microbiomes it showed organic apples had a greater diversity of microbiome. Chemical treated apples had lower diversity and more potentially pathogenic chemicals.6
Pharmaceuticals are another issue. Synthetic pyrethroids are very damaging to water and they effect the soil microbiome. 25 There are natural alternatives. For example, dung beetles take parasitic worm eggs into soil and destroy them. Ivermectin, an anthelminthic and in the dung if given to animals is attractive to dung beetles but it damages their reproductive success destroying the natural processes. 7 There is work in Scotland looking at heather and a fungi as potential anthelminthics as an alternative! 8
Animal feed includes around 85% genetically modified content and uses half of all cereals grown. 9 JBS provides 30% of the UK pig and poultry feed which is largely sourced from Amazon and is destroying habitat. 10
Glyphosate, a key component of Round up is sprayed on the equivalent of 30% of UK agricultural land. 11 Glyphosate is N (nitrogen) attached to glycine (an essential amino acid). It is mistaken for glycine and gets incorporated into cells. Glycine helps make other amino acids that produce serotonin and dopamine. A lack of these disrupts the gut brain link. 12 For example we don’t know when we have eaten enough so it leads to obesity.
Glyphosate chelates minerals out and causes a sulphate deficiency. This leads to production of hydrogen sulphite gas in the gut that contributes to leaky gut. 13 EU glyphosate safety levels are around 0.1ppm for veg and they are considering reducing this to 0.01ppm. Yet cereals that are heavily sprayed are allowed 20ppm and they want to increase this to 30ppm. 14 WHO safety levels for animal feed is 400ppm. 15 What could possibly be safe about that? The Bayer lobbyist likely paid more than Boris Johnson. The NFU is pushing half truths about gylphosate and picking out a very small section of research results! 16 In the USA there are 125000 lawsuits over glyphosate damage including cancer. 17 Glyphosate is linked to many modern diseases- such as attention deficit disorder, obesity, autism, dysbiosis. 18
The damaged human biome from glyphosate and other agrochemicals is passed on through the generations. 30% of our gut biome is inherited from our mother in the 1st year of life. 19 If people are eating trash food during pregnancy the effects are inherited! To get a healthy biome we need healthy soil with is full of compliment of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms etc. These work together to help protect from disease.20
We have a choice – to destroy and abolish life on earth or to nurture life on earth. The permaculture ethics are Care for the earth, Care for people, and fair shares. 21
In UK 75 million Ha treated with pesticides, 36 million Ha treated with fungicides, and 5 million Ha treated with insecticides. 22 Is this the legacy we want to leave our children?
For me, the NRFC is an important opportunity to learn how to build healthy soil. I am interested in things like mob grazing, biofertilizers (made from fresh cow manure) and compost teas. How can we build the fungal structure in the soil to get a good crumb structure aiming for up to 78% air in soil? 23 This helps with flood management, plant and animal health. We must look after nature and the soil biome.
I am part of Food Futures for North Lancashire. I came across Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and got excited because there are 100 organic farms feeding into a CSA, hospitals, local government and school. 24 Unfortunately it is in Pennsylvania! But hopefully this model is coming to Lancaster UK soon.
I hope you enjoyed the conference and made the most of farmer to farmer links, as well as farmer to vets, national parks and agencies and help to develop a future with a future.
We can do it! This conference was a thought a year ago, now it has taken place with an amazing line up of speakers and many hundreds of participants.
1. National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England 2020
4 The truth about the nitrates in your food BBC Angela Dowden 13th March 2019 +University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesG1784(Revised December 2013)Drinking Water: Nitrate-Nitrogen Sharon O. Skipton
Inequity of land ownership is a common theme across the British Isles, but no more stark is the situation than in Scotland. This is perhaps why the movement towards land reform in Scotland has much more momentum than in other parts of the UK, but in this session we wanted to make clear that Scotland need not be an exceptional case in Britain – land ownership and management can be reformed in England and Wales, too!
We first heard from two members of Scottish Land Commission, an agency set up by the Holyrood government in an act of law that passed in 2016, to describe the overarching narrative of land reform in Scotland: where it’s come from, where it’s already been and where it’s going next. They summarised what they do on a daily basis, as well as some of their recent work – such as the world’s first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. Following on, we heard from two representatives from the Falkland Estate in Fife, where land reform has been a very alive and kicking process underway for many years now. Ninian, the hereditary owner of the estate, shone a light on his perspective of ancestral land ownership and his willingness to transition the whole estate into community ownership, whilst Adele, a collaborator and resident of the village, described her involvement and her vision for a regeneratively-designed culture shift in Falkland.
The central theme that seemed to arise was “What can I do?”. The SLC affirmed that whilst their work directly applies specifically to Scotland and that is the limit of their remit, they have come up with some principles, protocols and frameworks which could be directly applicable to any part of the UK, perhaps any Land Commission in the world. It was also highlighted that the Labour party under its previous leadership with Jeremy Corbyn seemed to have a keen interest in Land Reform, whilst it seems a new Land Commission has recently emerged in Liverpool. We also discussed the degree to which Ninian’s story could be seen as exceptional to the mainstream narrative and, whilst that may currently be true, it is undoubtedly part of the SLC’s agenda to make the story of reforming the Falkland Estate closer to the new normal than any story of land ownership that has gone before. Many folks left feeling very inspired, and some even wanted to make a film about it!
You will be able to watch the recording of the session here.