northern farming

Farm walk: Growing Well and Low Sizergh Farm

Hosted by Growing Well and Low Sizergh Farm

Growing Well Kendal and Low Sizergh Farm are both based from the Sizergh Estate in Kendal.

Growing Well Kendal is a mental health charity, training centre and the biggest producer of organic vegetables in Cumbria. Between Monday and Thursday every week Growing Well open their doors to members of the community who have been referred via their GP due to their mental health to learn how to grow, sew, hoe and much more to provide veg boxes for the local community ‘crop share’ with a friendly team of volunteers at hand. The lead growers at the site will be able to walk you around the 8-year crop rotation on site and talk you through why organic practices are so important to them and the amazing progress they have made in the past few years.

Low Sizergh Farm is a working farm still run by three generations of the family. Alison can be found running the farm shop, gift gallery and café, whilst her brother Richard (who will be leading the tour) runs the farm with his son Matthew.  John jokes that he’s now the farm boy sent to run all the errands and Marjorie spends as much time as possible painting in her shed. More than 50 local people are employed with Paul Seward working on the farm for nearly 30 years. They do everything with the future in mind, looking after the soil, the landscape and wildlife whilst being part of a vibrant rural economy. Their main crop is the grass that the cows eat all year round which helps them produce milk that they sell in the shop vending machine, the organic milk suppliers cooperative OMSCO and a local cheese and ice cream maker.

A point of interest would be how the farm started out as organic, changed to non-organic practices then back to organic for an array of reasons you’ll be able to discover on the tour.

You will need to book places on this walk separately. More information will be sent to all ticket-holders. There is additional information about Low Sizergh Farm below.

Low Sizergh Farm is a working farm still run by three generations of the Park family. They do everything with the future in mind, looking after the soil, the landscape and wildlife whilst being part of a vibrant rural economy.

Milk is sold through a vending machine outside the farm shop, the organic milk suppliers cooperative OMSCO and to a local cheese and ice cream maker.

Cows Youngstock:  168 Holstein x Swedish Red x Montbeliarde 109 Young
stock, cross breeding for 20 years with a strong emphasis on healthy cows and milk from forage.

Autumn block calved over 12 weeks

Grassland management:

All grazing is rotational, dairy cow platform split into 33 paddocks 1.45 HA 12-hour breaks, YS moved daily fields splitusing electric fences, front and back, with mobile water troughs. Sheep moved weekly.

Dry cows are mob grazed over parkland and permanent pasture.

Re seeding cow grazing with simple herbal ley ryegrass white & red clover chicory & plantain. Silage ryegrass red clover chicory and plantain. still experimenting to find the best mix, 4 cuts of silage and round bales from surplus grass on grazing area.

Arable:  Spring barley and peas for whole crop on a 4-year rotation over the silage area

Conservation work:

  • Traditional hedge management
  • Re-planting of orchards with local varieties of apple, damson, plum
  • Creation of pond
  • Fencing off less useful grassland for wildlife habitat farm trail
  • HLS scheme ends Jan 22 considering the options

A point of interest would be how the farm started out as organic, changed to non-organic practices then back to organic after trainings in Holistic management and farm scale permaculture see how these practices have been incorporated in the farms management on the tour.



Farm walk: conservation grazing in harmony with nature

You are invited to a farm walk by Bill and Cath Grayson who run a conservation grazing business in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our animals graze a variety of wildlife-rich habitats on land that is recognised for its nature conservation value. They are managed in ways that help maintain and enhance the biodiversity-value of these special places, where we work in close cooperation with the conservation bodies who care for these sites. At the same time as delivering these important benefits for wildlife, our livestock are also able to provide an important source of healthy food in line with agroecological principles (organic, pasture-fed, high welfare, free-range). They need more time in which to do this but we feel it is reflected in the taste and nutritional quality of the final product. Sign up for our farm walk if you would like to learn more about how agroecological farming works in harmony with nature.

You will need to book places on this walk separately. More information will be sent to all ticket-holders.

NRFC in-person gathering: Opening session

Hosted by NRFC

We are at a crucial point in developing the farming and food systems for the future. As the UK transitions to new post-Brexit frameworks for agriculture and seeks to emerge from the impact of Covid-19 stronger, the wider crises of biodiversity loss, ecological breakdown, inequality and social unrest continue. 

The Northern Real Farming Conference is a space to dream, to re-think and to share practical experiences of regenerative and socially just ways to farm and bring food to markets and kitchen tables. We focus specifically on the North of England and Scotland and the unique landscapes and cultures of these regions.

This opening session will hear from a range of speakers, exploring northern farming and the vision for the future. There will be music from Deep Caberet.

Speakers/hosts include:

Caroline Jackson – Caroline Jackson spent 35 years as an English teacher in the north west finishing her career as headteacher of a small rural secondary school. Since then she has, with a friend, set up the Claver Hill project, a 6 acre site on the edge of Lancaster dedicated to teaching anyone and everyone how to grow food and care for the land in sustainable ways.. She is a local Green Party councillor and currently Leader of Lancaster city council.

Pete Richie, Nourish Scotland – Pete is the Executive Director of Nourish Scotland, a charity focusing on food policy and practice. He also runs Whitmuir Organics with his partner.

Roz Corbett – Roz is a market gardener and beekeeper based in Glasgow in Scotland and works for the LWA on coordination of our work around COP26 and supporting a La Via Campesina delegation to COP.  She previously worked at Taybank Growers Cooperative in Perthshire and is also a founder member of the Scottish Farm Land Trust. Roz is also studying part-time for a PhD with Aberdeen University and the James Hutton Institute, looking at the community land ownership and new entrants in Scotland.

Michelle Parry – Founder and community builder at The ReWilding, based on a local dairy farm in Cockerham, Lancashire

Paul Cambre – Paul joined Growing Well near Kendal in 2020 in a new role to maximise sustainable income from our organic growing enterprise. Paul is from New Orleans and has worked and studied in the US,  Canada and China. He has a Masters in sustainable agriculture and was previously Head Grower for a local two Michelin-starred restaurant.

​Steve Lewis – Steve from Deep Caberet has been a vocalist, guitarist, percussionist, improviser, songwriter, community musician and bandleader for 30 + years. His ‘Deep Cabaret’ projects, from solo torch songs to African dance band to 15-piece improvised opera have in common a desire to explore the musics that most fascinate him. This most recent manifestation is the culmination of that work curating jazz, improv, African, folk and leftfield pop to set fragments of text taken from novels, journalism, spiritual and other texts that have important things to say about being human.

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 ( ORC also leads the ELM test: Designing an Environmental Land Management system for UK agroforestry (

What makes a farm advisor?

Hosted by the Ribble Rivers Trust

This session will focus on what is a farm advisor, and aim to discuss the following:
– What is a farm advisor?
– How farm advisors work with farmers to implement environmental methods which will have a positive impact on both the environment and farm business?
– What evidence is used to target certain features or areas?
– The challenges involved
– What do farm advisors need to be aware of in the future?

The aim is to have an open discussion about farm advice and the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Speakers/hosts include:

Kathryn Oddie- Senior Farm Advisor, Ribble Rivers Trust
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 Facilitation Fund group. As well as being a local farmers daughter, she has a background in agri- environment and environmental monitoring.

Jack Spees – CEO Ribble Rivers Trust
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 – Woodland Creation Officer
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.

Ellie Brown- GIS Data And Evidence Officer
Ellie joined the team in 2015 as part of the Ribble Life Together project. She combines her love of wildlife and the environment with her knowledge of GIS (mapping software) to support many aspects of the Trust’s work. Catchment-scale analyses to aid the Trust’s strategic planning of projects, to target locations where they will have the greatest benefit; collating and mapping evidence to support funding bids; creating interactive maps for the Trust’s website to educate and inform the public; managing the Trust’s GIS datasets; and helping other members of the team with various mapping tasks are all in a week’s work for a GIS Officer. Ellie also manages or assists with other non-GIS-based data and evidence aspects of the Trust’s work.

Heather Whalley – Farm advisor
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 she will be to engage, visit and support farmers to make positive changes for the catchment

Developing permaculture farm enterprises

Hosted by the Permaculture Association

In this session Hannah Thorogood will share the story of her successful mixed farm enterprise – the Inkpot – as a case study of how permaculture design can transform land and create a vibrant business. We invite other farmers and growers to come and share their own experiences and together we will explore questions such as how a design approach can support the process of making a farm more diverse, and how to manage, market and sell the diverse farm products and services that come from polycultural farm systems.

Permaculture offers a pathway towards farms that are regenerative, biodiverse, soil enhancing, resilient and profitable. Through this session participants will learn how they can incorporate these approaches into their own enterprises, and how to connect with other farmers and growers that are also exploring and applying permaculture principles.

Open to all. Please do come along and share your story!

Speakers/hosts include:

Hannah Thorogood – Hannah is a successful one-woman farmer who is not only mob-grazing her cattle and sheep, but also her turkeys! She has been practising regenerative techniques for 10 years and permaculture techniques for nearly 20. Hannah is a permaculture farmer, designer and teacher. She has taken the farm from an 18 acre depleted, compacted, toxic arable field into the diverse, abundant 100+ acre farm it is today demonstrating permaculture, regenerative agriculture and producing nationally award winning food.

Andy Goldring – Andy is the CEO of the Permaculture Association and has been working over the last 20+ years to support the development of projects, local and national farming initiatives, demonstration sites and case studies that show how permaculture is being applied within farms, smallholdings and micro-enterprises.

‘It’s Always Been’ – A short film exploring who has access to land

Hosted by Joanne Coates

‘It’s always been’, is a film made by New Creatives north which will be shown on the BBC. This evening session will include a showcase of the film, followed by a question and answer session exploring issues related to access to farming.

Film Synopsis: In the Scottish Borders a farming couple, Kirstie and Kevin, struggle to make ends meet. This film provides a look at the realities of rural living in 2021. Farming can be an impossible road to start on. After an opportunity to have their own farm falls through will they manage to carry on with the hard work it takes to survive in the industry or give up on all their traditions, hopes and dreams?

Speakers/hosts include:

Joanne Coates – Joanne Coates is a working class documentary storyteller who uses the medium of photography. Based in the North of England, she is interested in modes of production, rurality, working life and class inequality. Born in the rural North of England, educated first in working class communities, then at The Sir John Cass School of Fine art (Fda Fine Art) and The London College of Communication (Ba Hons Photography), her practice is as much about process, participation and working with communities. Coates’ key themes are Northern culture in rural places and working class life.

Kirsty and Kevin Duncan – Kirstie and Kevin are the farmers and farm workers. They have worked in farming from young ages, now they are trying to make a go of it and get access to their own land in the Scottish Borders.