holistic approach

Organic farming: Building resilience

Hosted by the Soil Association Certification

Organic Farming is a well-established model of sustainable production, however a transitioning agricultural policy landscape, a changing climate and growing sustainable food and drink markets are presenting new opportunities and challenges for organic farmers. This session outlines emerging trends and explores how farm businesses are adapting to build environmental and financial resilience in a time of change.

Drawing on robust organic market trend data, and featuring speakers from Northern organic farm businesses, and agricultural policy experts, this session offers valuable insight into the performance of, and outlook for, the Northern organic farming sector and will explore how organic offers a valuable production model for building future farm resilience.

The session will include:
– An organic market update: Beth Kelsey – Business Development Manager (Farming), Soil Association Certification
– A chaired panel discussion with James Robinson (Organic dairy farmer, Strickley Farm) & Bob Paton (Organic Market Gardener; Hexhamshire Organics) providing first-hand practical insight into environmental & financial resilience on farm. Chair: Mark Palmer – Northern-based Inspector & Agricultural lead, Soil Association Certification
– Policy/payments update – public good delivery, agricultural transition. Adrian Steele – Organic Sector Development Advisor, Soil Association

Speakers/hosts include:

 Adrian Steele – Adrian is Organic Sector Development Advisor (Soil Association) and has been involved with the organic sector for many years as a farmer, and has been instrumental in creating and developing marketing initiatives in the livestock, seeds and cereals sectors, in addition to supporting organic representation within the agricultural policy transition.

Mark Palmer – Mark is Northern based inspector & Agricultural lead (Soil Association Certification) and has built his lifelong career in the sustainable food and farming sector, with experience managing multiple farms and being an organic farm consultant. With strong expertise in organic farming, Mark is now a senior inspector for Soil Association Certification, supporting organic businesses across the supply chain from farm to fork.

James Robinson – James is an organic dairy farmer at Strickley Farm, Cumbria. He is a 5th generation farmer, managing an organic dairy farm nestled between the lake district and the Yorkshire dales – home to a milking herd of 120 pedigree shorthorns. James is involved with the Nature Friendly Farming Network and believes that nature plays a key role in the decision-making on farm and ensures that everything possible is done to enhance the biodiversity of all habitats.

Bob Paton – Bob is an organic market gardener; Hexhamshire Organics, Northumberland. Bob and his wife Ann run a well-established 6 acre organic market garden, delivering fresh local organic produce to their surrounding community. They produce organic fruit, vegetables, rare breed pork and juice from their orchard. Hexhamshire believe in having a strong relationship with their customers, and update a detailed blog post of the farm’s activity, every single week.

Beth Kelsey – Beth is Business Development Manager (Farming); Soil Association Certification. Beth grew up on her family farm in Devon and has been immersed in the business since a young age. She has worked within organic certification for 6 years, supporting farmers through their certification, and her role focuses on showcasing the benefits of organic farming, strengthening supply chains and encouraging knowledge sharing.

Sophie Kirk – Sophie is Senior Business Development Manager (Agri-food & farming); Soil Association Certification. She has been working in certification for three years now, responsible for the account management and supply-chain development of our agri-food clients, and supporting the growth of the organic farming sector. Prior to this, she spent six years working in local food policy, focusing on the development of short supply chains within Bath & North East Somerset council.

Replacing imported soya – a supply chain or a farmer issue?

Hosted by the Soil Association

Sold as either a ruminant food with an oil by-product, or a by-product of the production of human consumption oil, soya has become a main stay of livestock production in Europe but is also a driver of large scale deforestation in south America. Efforts to reduce its use often fail, often for some very ‘reasonable’ reasons – widespread availability, relative cheapness and seeming lack of interest in alternatives. But is this all the fault of the supply chain or are we as farmers partly to blame? With a climate suited to grass growth, a need for break crops and a need for UK farmers to reduce GHG emissions and move away from N fertilisers, is now the time to produce our own protein?

This session explores the issue from all sides, with a panel comprising a supermarket representative, a livestock feed producer and a farmer.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jerry Alford,  Soil Association Arable and Soils Advisor – Jerry is interested in a systems approach to farming, looking at farms as a whole system rather than a mix of enterprises or a series of crops in rotation. He is also looking at options to reduce cultivations within organic rotations and the adoption of more agroecological and organic type systems in non-organic farms. Jerry coordinated research for the OKNET ECOFEED project, which looked at regional production of proteins for monogastrics.

Sam Lee-Gamgee – Sam is Group Ethics and Sustainability Manager, raw food sourcing (food) at John Lewis Partnership

Rob Daykin – Rob is Managing partner at Daykin partnership Ltd

Mike Mallett – Mike is Farm Manager of Maple Farm Kelsale, a 137ha family owned mixed organic farm situated on the Suffolk Coast, where Mike has been manager for the past 6 years. It is mostly arable but is also home to the Maple Farm Kelsale Organic Eggs, which is integrated into the arable rotation. The primary role of the arable cropping is to supply food for the hens whose eggs are sold all over East Anglia and London.

How can agroforestry contribute towards climate change mitigation?

Hosted by the Organic Research Centre

National representatives have gathered for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). We know that more is needed, but how can we achieve it? The land management and farming sectors have a vital contribution to make to meeting global targets on climate change. Farmers and food businesses can be at the forefront of developing and implementing at scale solutions which cost-effectively address sustainability challenges. However, their contribution is often under-supported.

We believe that agroforestry can contribute to the achievement of future climate change mitigation targets, but what policy environment can support it? We will explore this question with a panel representing the latest research, on-farm experience, and policy developments, followed by open discussion with attendees.

In this session we will focus on the climate change benefits of agroforestry. We will explore the carbon benefits of agroforestry systems as well as how trees on farm can help build resilience and support adaptation to extreme weather events. The practicalities of implementation and the current direction of travel for support options via the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will also be discussed.

After presentations by the panel, there will be opportunity to share your experiences and shape the conclusions drawn from the meeting. The presentations, discussion and conclusions will feed into the development a policy brief that will be delivered after the meeting: highlighting the benefits of agroforestry for climate change mitigation alongside recommendations on how these benefits may be realised.

Speakers/hosts include:

Becky Wilson – Becky is Technical Director of the Farm Carbon Toolkit and has been working with farmers for the last 8 years helping assess their current carbon balance, understand the practical mitigation measures available and implement them. She has been leading The Soil Carbon Project; a partnership project aimed at understanding the potential for soil carbon sequestration across farms, and how soil carbon can be assessed and measured in a way which is practical and robust.

Andrew Barbour – Andrew works on a family farming and forestry business in Highland Perthshire. Running both a cattle and sheep enterprise on land that is over 1000ft altitude, the family have long been interested in the role that shelter plays in the farming part of the business. Different generations have all developed shelter woods on the farm and Andrew is interested in the management of pastoral woodlands and how they integrate with grassland management.

Will Simonson – Will is Head of Research at the Organic Research Centre. With research experience in forest ecology at the University of Cambridge he also leads ORC’s agroforestry research programme. He was previously at a Cambridge based NGO working in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation using ecosystem-based approaches, including collaboration with The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Current and recent research at ORC is exploring the benefits of hedgerows, shelter belts and in-field trees for system resilience in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, including through the EU-funded AGROMIX project (https://www.organicresearchcentre.com/our-research/research-project-library/agroforestry-and-mixed-farming-systems-participatory-research-to-drive-the-transition-to-a-resilient-and-efficient-land-use-in-europe-agromix/). ORC also leads the ELM test: Designing an Environmental Land Management system for UK agroforestry (https://www.organicresearchcentre.com/our-research/research-project-library/agroforestry-elm-test-designing-an-environmental-land-management-system-for-uk-agroforestry/)

Urban Agriculture Consortium: progress, prognosis, COP26 feedback, policy influencing with a focus on Sheffield

Hosted by the Urban Agriculture Consortium

The Urban Agriculture Consortium (launched summer 2020) has rapidly established itself as an innovative part of the emerging regenerative agroecology ecosystem, with an initial focus on 5 northern “pathfinder” cities, as well as emerging partnerships & collaborations across the UK.   

We’ll report back on progress with a particular focus on:

  • Building and enhancing the Urban Agriculture Consortium network
  • Progress with the northern pathfinder places and the northern farmstart cluster, UAC’s typology and evaluation. 
  • Feedback and calls to action after COP26.
  • Focus on Sheffield – a dialogue with Cllr Alison Teal and Gareth Roberts on how progress has accelerated through policy interaction, and emerging proposals for a city- region urban agriculture task force.
  • PINGs – Policy Influencing Network Groups – future plans.
  • Outline of plans for 2022

We hope this will inspire further pathfinder clusters in other parts of England and Wales in 2022.

People will gain an insight into the rapidly establishing Urban Agriculture Consortium, growing momentum behind urban farmstarts and collaborations between local, regional and national partners on how to influence policy makers.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jeremy Isles – Jeremy instigated the Urban Agriculture Consortium in response to concerns over rising food insecurity and climate emergency. After extensive consultations during 2017-19, the UAC was launched in summer of 2020.  Arriving in the midst of Covid & Brexit fall-out, the UAC message of re-localisation of regenerative agroecology has struck a chord and the UAC has rapidly established a place in the evolving ecosystem of partners advocating radical & bold food system change.

This work is built on Jeremy’s long-standing work as pioneering environmental activist, “doing something useful” as a cycle campaigner at Friends of the Earth in 1983, as Director of the London Wildlife Trust (1984-90), in Bangladesh and Eritrea with VSO (1991-93),  as Regional Manager for Sustrans (1994-2000), and as CEO at the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (2000-2016).  Many of the projects and partnerships he initiated and worked on during this period have had a significant and long lasting impact including the National Cycle Network, Allotments Regeneration Initiative, Local Food Consortium, Community Land Advisory Service, and Growing Together. 

This long track record has led to his involvement in an innovative oral history of the green movement – funding yet to be confirmed.

Other interests include nurturing an allotment, singing, guitars, cycling, painting and sailing.

Maddy Longhurst – Maddy has always followed her instincts to work on initiatives and ideas that lie in the fertile margins and serve future generations. Recently this has involved the protection of land and soils, community-led thermal imaging of cold homes, Ecosystem Restoration Design, creating regenerative Tiny House Settlements, Sociocracy and Gleaning training for communities. Maddy worked on Phase 1 of the urban agriculture project in 2019 and is currently coordinating the Urban Agriculture Consortium with Jeremy Iles.

Alison Teal – Alison trained as a Clinical Psychologist in Australia and worked as a Consultant Psychologist and Family Therapist for many years. She returned to the UK in 2013 and settled in Sheffield in February 2014 in Nether Edge & Sharrow. With her daughters close to adulthood she decided it was time to get involved in politics and lobby all levels of government to take action on the Climate and Ecological Crisis. She is passionate about nature, social justice, women’s equality, and democracy.
Alison says, “The Green Party is the only party which looks at the challenges we face locally, nationally and globally in a systemic way. We consider how the decisions we make today will affect future generations.”

Alison became a founding core member of Save Nether Edge Trees campaign group in 2015 which led to several years of engaging in non-violent direct action to prevent the felling of healthy mature trees. She was arrested for trying to protect trees and also taken to the High Court by Sheffield City Council who applied for an order to send her to prison. However, the judge dismissed the case.

Duncan Williamson – Duncan is a recognised environment, sustainable consumption and food systems expert. He is the founder and director of Nourishing Food Systems and currently works with Action Against Hunger developing their strategies on climate change and the emerging food crisis. He is working with WWF, Chatham House and is on the steering group for the Fork to Farm COP26 project, overseen by Nourish Scotland. He has been working in the environment and related fields for over 20 years, with the last 13 focused on food systems and has an MSC in Sustainable Environmental Management focusing on land use. He has led teams and projects at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and WWF UK. He is on the advisory body for the DiverIMPACTS project, which focuses on crop diversification through crop rotation and the food systems atlas. Also, setting up a community farm in his village.

Gareth Roberts – Gareth is a founder member and co-director of Regather, and coordinator of ShefFood – Sheffield’s Food Partnership. Gareth is passionate about cooperation, and has worked collaboratively with people from all walks of life for over 20 years. Since 2015 Gareth has led strategic developments around Community Economic Development and Sustainable Food Systems in Sheffield, ensuring Regather and ShefFood lead on innovative economic and social change. His mission is a food system where money is retained in the local economy, land is more productive, food is better quality, health is improved and people have better awareness of and involvement with how the food system, from local to global, can be changed for the better.

Lancashire Woodland Connect

Hosted by the Ribble Rivers Trust

Lancashire Woodland Connect Campaign is a decade-long campaign to double the area of woodland across Lancashire to fight climate change, improve air quality and reduce flooding. We will plant more than half a million trees to reduce flooding, improve air quality and remove 100,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Working with private and public sector supporters together with community-based groups and conservation charities, we are aiming to create 100 kilometres of new or restored woodland alongside the Rivers Ribble, Lune and Wyre and their whole catchments.

Dedicated farm and woodland advisors within the three trusts work with our fabulous farmers to find areas of land to create woodland that would not only have a positive impact on water quality but also farm businesses. The introduction of the EWCO, carbon capture payments for farmers are creating an alternative income to compliment a productive farm business.

This aim of this session is to highlight the opportunities within the campaign, the evidence that is used to identify potential planting locations, developing a scheme alongside farmer priorities and the funding opportunities for farmers and landowners in Lancashire.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jack Spees – Jack started at the Ribble Rivers Trust in 2008 as the Fisheries Scientist before being made Trust Director in 2010. Jack now oversees the work undertaken by the Trust and the team as well as providing a wealth of information on all aspects of the river environment.

Kristina Graves – Kristina began working for the Trust in 2019, joining us to fill the new role of Woodland Creation Officer. Having worked on a range of habitat projects Kristina has an excellent knowledge of woodlands and ecology which is already proving to be a huge asset to the team.

Kathryn Oddie – Kathryn joined the team in 2019. Kathryn works as a farm advisor for the trust on the Ribble Life Together project and runs the River Loud farm group. As well as being a local farmers daughter, she has a background in agri- environment and environmental monitoring.

Heather Whalley – Heather is a farmer from the Hodder Valley, with a passion for the environment and combining sustainable farming and conservation. With a great knowledge of the local area, her work as a farm advisor will be to engage, visit and support farmers to make positive changes for the catchment

In it together – positive ways of farming with nature under leasing and business agreements in Scotland

Hosted by the Nature Friendly Farming Network

The tenanted sector currently makes up 25% of Scottish farmland and currently many smaller-scale urban and rural growers work under a lease or business agreement across Scotland. We know that transitioning to regenerative nature friendly practices requires a commitment to long-term land-use change and that in turn, requires those who own the land to work in collaboration with those who manage the land. NFFN will be joined in this session by three successful landowner/ manager collaborations from across Fife, demonstrating what this is achieving for their individual businesses, their communities and ultimately, the climate and nature. James MacKessack- Leitch from the Scottish land Commission will also outline current opportunities supporting more of these types of partnerships and joint ventures across Scotland.

Speakers/hosts include:

Kirsty Tait – Kirsty is the Sustainable Farming Lead- Scotland for the Nature Friendly Farming Network. With a background in tenant farming, land reform and rural & urban community development, she specialises in practice and project delivery and bottom-up policy development & influence.

Claire Pollock – Claire is from Ardross Farm which is family run. Ardross Farm sits across 1,300 acres on two estates in the East Neuk, is farmed regeneratively and produces wheat, barley, oilseed rape and beans, as well as raising PFLA certified grass-fed breeding cows and sheep and free-range poultry. There are more than 40 different kinds of vegetables grown here, and these along with the award-winning beef, lamb, mutton and chicken and now honey are all produced exclusively for their award winning farm shop.

Bryde Marshall – Bryde is from Falkland Kitchen Farm. Falkland Kitchen Farmbegan in 2014 when a young couple, Bryde and Nat, moved onto a small field on the Falkland Estate with nothing more than a polytunnel, a couple of spades and a big vision. They aimed to explore ways of growing and cooking exceptional food that would connect them to the natural environment and food heritage.  Driven by a deep passion to create a vibrant food system, they are now a thriving young farm delivering our veg across Fife, Perth, and Dundee and cooking their amazing seed to plate menus at events across Scotland. 

James MacKessack-Leitch – James comes from an arable family farming background in Moray and has a range of experience in the private and public sectors as well as with voluntary organisations, not least as a former director and vice-chair of the Forres Area Community Trust. As a Policy and Practice Lead, James contributes to the Scottish Land Commission’s work on land governance, land and human rights, land access for agriculture, and Common Good land and assets.

Natural flood management walk

Hosted by the Lune Rivers Trust and FoodFutures

This natural flood management walk will show a range of techniques that can be used to slow the flow. On Backsbottom farm we have set up a trail showing restoring blanket bog, contour swales, check dams, in river training, attenuation ponds, contour grassland aeration and the use of liquid biofertilizer to encourage good soil structure. This will be a good opportunity to discuss flood management.


Speakers/hosts include:

Rod Everett – Rod has lived next to the river Roeburn for over 60 years observing it through the extreme flood in 1967 when the farmhouse was washed away along with other houses in Wray village. He is working with the Lune Rivers Trust on projects with local farmers and flood management in Lancaster in more urban settings.

Northern seed networks – where we are now?

Hosted by the Gaia Foundation

Last year we held a networking session for northern seed savers at the Northern Real Farming Conference. This session is a follow on from last year to share where we’re at, what’s going well and what our next steps might be. Everyone welcome – come and find out more!

Speakers/hosts include:

Charlie Gray – Charlie is the Gaia Foundation’s Seed Sovereignty Campaign’s Coordinator for Northern England. She has worked in community growing in Yorkshire working with community and growers for more than 10 years, studying food systems prior to that.

Catherine Howell – Catherine is part of Barefoot Community Kitchen and she’s on our cohort of intermediate seed savers in Northern England. Catherine has 15 years experience in environmental projects that include food growing and horticulture, community development, sustainable materials, recycling and ‘zero waste.’ She has worked both within the community and with organisations of variable sizes, including in the private and voluntary sector and with local authorities. She is a passionate advocate of community activism, keen walker and loves sharing what she knows with others so that they too may have a ‘Tread Lightly’ impact on the planet. She also loves creating beautiful spaces for people to enjoy!