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Mushrooms, self-sufficiency and peat

Hosted by the Soil Association

The UK is less than 50% self-sufficient in mushrooms which is strange for a crop mostly grown in non-season dependant conditions. Opportunities for increasing UK mushroom production appears to be a low hanging fruit. We explore the aspirations and pitfalls of running an organic mushroom business selling both edible and medicinal produce and discuss scope for mycoremediation – cleaning up the environment using unproductive mushroom substrate. Upscaling mushroom production has its benefits and challenges but could small scale horticultural enterprises diversifying into mushroom production be a solution? We examine how new entrants could access mushroom growing through relatively cheap converted portable spaces and trial-before-you-buy schemes. Peat has been a contentious input in mushroom production (particularly for the infamous button mushroom). As part of Organic-PLUS research the Soil Association has been looking at some of the challenges facing the industry.

Speakers/hosts include:

Hugh Blogg – Hugh is Soil Association Horticultural Advisor, Farming and Land Use Team and has experience running a small-scale enterprise – Fungusloci – an urban mushroom micro-farm growing gourmet mushrooms on spent coffee. He leads on potato supply chain work focusing on the uptake of blight resistant varieties within retail. Further areas of focus include issues around seed for small scale growers, technical organic gardening queries, supporting the Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, and coordinating grower support for organic vineyards. Hugh has been involved in work on innovative solutions in organic agriculture and better connecting organic farming, carbon sequestration and soil health.

Tom Baxter – Tom is founder of Bristol Fungarium – producer of the UK’s only organic certified medicinal mushroom tinctures, grown and produced in Somerset

James Scriven – James is f
ounder of Mycogeneration – an applied mycology business helping small-scale producers diversify into mushroom production

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: Claverhill Community Farm

Hosted by Claverhill and FoodFutures

Claverhill is a six acre community food project which hosts a range of projects including Spud Club (a community grown agriculture project), Lancaster Seed Library,  a natural dyes project,  tree nursery and a nature trail.

Come and join a tour of the site, including a discussion about natural flood management as you view the newly created holding ponds, water channels and lake on site!

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

Speakers/hosts include:

Anna Clayton – Anna studied Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and, since graduating in 2010, has completed a Permaculture design course, RHS certificate in horticulture and a variety of facilitation and collaborative training. For the past ten years she has worked on a range of community projects with focuses ranging from environmental art, seed saving, heritage fruit tree grafting, wildlife gardening, up-cycling workshops, junk jamming and food growing- both in the UK and abroad. On behalf of LESS, Anna currently coordinates FoodFutures – North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Partnership and network.

Anna also works part time as a Writer and Researcher and Worker Director at Ethical Consumer Magazine in Manchester, under which role she has co-organised the Lush Spring Prize for environmental and social regeneration.

She also sits on the management committee of Claver Hill food growing project in Lancaster, and sits on the advisory group of the Northern Real Farming Conference.

Rod Everett – Rod is an organic farmer in the Forest of Bowland producing unusual apple cider vinegar to stimulate health. An ecologist, researcher for FoodFutures, farm advisor, permaculture teacher and natural flood management consultant. He is also a founder of the Northern Real Farming Conference

Landworkers Alliance meet and greet

Hosted by the Landworkers Alliance

An informal meet and greet session. Come and meet your local reps and find out what’s happening locally.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jenny Hanley – Jenny is a keen allotmenteer and avid environmentalist, she is currently studying an Msc in Sustainable Food and Natural Resources at the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Jessie Scantlebury – Jessie is another keen allotmenteer who runs her own gardening business, designing all manner of things using permaculture practices.

No-till with living mulches – the holy grail for arable?

Hosted by the Soil Association

No-till arable farming has revolutionised the arable farming mindset and is of interest to organic farmers because of its potential to reduce cultivations whilst providing weed control, fertility and soil health. It is also of interest to regenerative farmers who want to reduce inputs of artificial fertilisers and chemicals. But is it possible? Cover crops or green manures have always been part of organic arable systems but are now commonly used conventionally as part of regenerative farming systems.. The 4 pillars of regenerative farming are no-till, continuous ground cover, crop diversity and livestock integration.

In organic systems, cover crops have generally been ploughed in to provide fertility for the rotation but adopting organic no-till will require termination of the cover crop and this is difficult for organic farmers who cannot use chemicals.

One solution? A non-aggressive, low growing permanent cover crop such as small white clover, which shades out weeds and provides fertility.

In this session, we talk to an arable farming expert as well as the researcher who are looking at the potential of no-till with living mulches with a group of organic and conventional farmers running on-farm trials, plus a Scottish farmer trying out the technique.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jerry Alford- Soil Association arable and soils advisor.
Jerry is interested in a systems approach to farming, and looks at farms as a whole system rather than just 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.

Harry Henderson – Starting out as a tractor, combine and crop sprayer operator. Harry then worked for Rothamsted Research Station UK, before coming farm manager at Monsanto Cambridge. From there he took a role with John Deere UK ltd as a Crop Systems Specialist involved in technical dealer sales support in combine harvester, crop sprayer and precision technology products. In 2013 Harry joined AHDB as a regional manager for the North of England and is now a Knowledge Exchange Manager with a focus technical knowledge exchange, mechanisation, soil management and arable farming.

Stuart Mitchell – Stuart is an organic beef, deer and arable farmer from Denholm Scotland. He is trialling no-till in the Scottish Borders

Dominic Amos –  Dominic works at the Organic Research Centre, having joined five years ago to pursue research interests in sustainable cropping and soils management. Having previously worked testing agrochemicals, providing data for agrochemical companies he now works with farmers across projects including the Innovative Farmers programme, supporting farmers to conduct on-farm research supporting them to test innovation. He works as researcher on the living mulch field lab exploring with the farmers the use of a clover understory as an approach for improving cropping system sustainability and improving soil health.

Citizen Grain: Engaging communities in a better flour and bread system

Hosted by Scotland the Bread

Scotland The Bread is a collaborative project to grow better grain and bake better bread with the common purposes of nourishment, sustainability and food sovereignty. As well as researching more nutrient dense varieties of grain, growing them organically and milling on farm into fine wholemeal flour, we lead a number of projects aiming to engage Scottish communities in a flour and bread system that is healthy, equitable, locally controlled and sustainable.

In this session we will share the practical approaches we are taking to ensure access to better flour, better bread and an understanding of the grain system for all. We will hear the voices of communities involved in our Soil to Slice and Flour to the People projects and a description of our inclusive ‘People’s Plant Breeding’ approach to seed selection. There will also be the opportunity to learn about research being undertaken into a progressive ‘people nourished per hectare’ standard which – although currently focusing on our grain production – could transform how we value all food we produce.

Scotland The Bread wants to work collaboratively with others involved in creating a better grain system. While demonstrating our approach to this task, we hope that this session will provide the opportunity to connect with others in North England and Scotland interested in joining us to inspire change.

Speakers/hosts include:

Tara Wight – PhD student in crop science, University of Edinburgh
In 2020 Tara carried out a professional internship placement with Nourish Scotland and Scotland The Bread exploring the potential for collaborative and participatory seed selection to improve crop development and community engagement in local grain systems.
Daisy Martinez – Food Systems Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh 
Daisy is part of a team – also including Dr Lindsay Jaacks and Dr Alfy Gathorne-Hardy – from the University of Edinburgh working on a research collaboration with Scotland the Bread that aims to understand how Scottish grain growing, flour milling, and bread baking can provide good quality jobs for the people of Scotland and looking to develop a ‘people, jobs and species nourished per hectare’ model that has the potential to improve how we measure food environments.
Sam Parsons – Estate Manager, Balcaskie Estate
Sam manages the thirteen farms that form Balcaskie Estate in the East Neuk of Fife. In 2015, the estate decided to switch from a conventional to a more regenerative, organic farming system, with the aims of measuring quality over quantity and moving away from producing for commodity markets. Since 2018, the estate has been growing Scotland The Bread’s diverse grains, and now lends its name to the Balcaskie Landrace wheat milled on-farm and sold to professional and home bakers.
Philip Revell – Projects Coordinator, Sustaining Dunbar
A founder member of Sustaining Dunbar with vast experience in environmental and community projects, since 2019 Philip has been leading a team of ‘patchwork farmers’ growing grains in small garden plots across the district as part of Scotland The Bread’s Soil to Slice project. Through this project, the community hope to develop a locally adapted landrace which can be used to re-establish a local supply chain linking growers, millers and bakers in the area.
Lyndsay Cochrane – Project Coordinator, Scotland The Bread
(Facilitator) Lyndsay Cochrane coordinates Scotland The Bread’s community outreach projects, working to engage local people in the movement to create a better flour and bread system.

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.

Giving farmers and growers a fairer share of the price of produce by building short food supply chains

Hosted by the Open Food Network

You will hear from a some of the farmers, growers and food hub managers who are using the Open Food Network to make direct selling links between the people producing the food and the eaters and buyers.

We will then open the discussion for participants to explore how they can join this growing network and in the process not only make their production enterprises more viable but also help to build fairer, more resilient and more environmentally sound food systems.

Speakers/hosts include:

Nick Weir – Nick is a part time grower on a CSA project. He is a founder of Stroudco Food Hub. He now works closely with farmers and growers to support them to make best use of the Open Food Network to build effective local food systems that are financially, environmentally and socially effective.

Nick believes that if we are going to build better food systems then we need to build those systems with tools which are fundamentally different from the tools used to build the current, broken, mainstream food system. This means that we need open source tools like the Open Food Network which are in common ownership and are controlled by the community of farmers, growers and community food enterprises.

Abi Morden – Abi is a founder member of Propagate and a seasoned food activist. She has been working across community and local food projects for over 20 years, and is passionate about food sovereignty and resilience. An experienced grower, facilitator, practitioner and researcher – Abi’s inclusive and collaborative attitude encourages everyone to be involved in thinking about and creating sustainable food systems. Abi is co-founder of Glasgow Food Policy Partnership, and the Dumfries and Galloway Sustainable Food Partnership (after moving to D&G last year) and holds an MSc in Food Security.

Rachel Gambro – Rachel is based in Aberdeenshire and is one of the 25 Food Tourism Ambassadors, recently appointed by Scotland Food and Drink, tasked to inspire food tourism growth in the area. In addition, she is leading the Rural Food Tourism Places project in Shetland, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which focuses on collaboration and diversification opportunities within the crofting industry.

Rachel also runs a local community group called the Mixing Bowl Aberdeen whose objective, prior to the pandemic, was to bring people together to share their passion for good food. This was done through talks, tastings, demonstrations and very popular cooking workshops where local residents were encouraged to share favourite recipes

In addition to the regular monthly events, the Mixing Bowl organised and ran the annual Deeside Local Food Festival which attracted over 3500 visitors, showcased over 70 Aberdeen City and Shire food and drink businesses and facilitated over £55K of local produce and street food sales.

During lockdown, as a Covid resilient solution to the festival, the Deeside Food Hub was born and continues to offer a fortnightly local produce market featuring over 150 products from more than 20 producers using the Open Food Network platform.

The role of local wool and textile production in regenerative farming

Hosted by Rebecca Whittle

This event will bring you a panel of inspirational women; all of whom work with British wool or other fibres. Kate Makin (owner & founder of Northern Yarn), Maria Benjamin (Dodgson Wood farm), Zoe Fletcher (the Woolist), Andrea Meanwell (Low Borrowbridge Farm, author & Guardian columnist) and Rachel Atkinson (Daughter of a Shepherd) will join us to discuss how the wool industry has changed and how localised textile production can form an important part of regenerative farming landscapes, particularly in upland regions.

Speakers/hosts include:

Rebecca Whittle – Rebecca is a passionate advocate of local and sustainable food, farming and textiles. She is senior lecturer at Lancaster Environment Centre, community food skills chair for North Lancashire FoodFutures and a member of the Lancaster Textile Care Collective

Kate Makin – Kate is the owner and founder of Northern Yarn, an independent yarn shop in Lancaster which sources a wide variety of local and sustainable yarns including her own range which has been developed in collaboration with local farmers.

Maria Benjamin – Maria is the co-founder of Dodgson Wood, a farm diversification business based at Nibthwaite Grange Farm near Ulverston. Maria gives talks about building a business from scratch, particularly to the agricultural sector. She recently co-founded The Flock, which aims to provide British yarn from regenerative farms to fashion brands.

Zoe Fletcher: Passionate about British fleece and wool, Zoe’s work revolves around building honest, sustainable relationships with designers and producers, bridging the gap between raw materials, production and the end consumer. Pushing the boundaries using British wool and new technologies, exploring breed specific characteristics and celebrating their variety and versatility. Founder of the Woolist and co-founder of The Flock.

Cinderwood Market Garden: A review of year one

Hosted by Cinderwood Market Garden

Cinderwood is a one acre market garden in Cheshire built upon a relationship between a grower and a chef who believe in farming food for flavour. Produce is grown all year round in polytunnels and in the field using regenerative farming methods and supplies over fifteen restaurants, bakeries and delis in the Manchester area with produce harvested less than 24hrs before delivery. The panel session will re-live the successes and challenges faced within the first year of operation and sharing our learning with those who attend.


Speakers/hosts include:

Michael Fitzsimmons – Michael is a Liverpool-born market gardener who trained at The Organic Farm Shop in the Cotswolds. Since completing his growing apprenticeship in 2017 he has interned at Relæ’s Farm of Ideas in Copenhagen and worked as the Assistant Grower at two-Michelin starred restaurant Moor Hall in Lancashire. He is passionate about growing with care for the land and closing the gap between farm and table. Michael started Cinderwood Market Garden in October 2020.

Joseph Otway – Joseph is a chef based in Manchester who operates Higher Ground, Flawd Wine and Cinderwood Market Garden. He has previously cooked at agriculturally focused restaurants Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Relæ and Where The Light Gets In in Stockport.

Daniel Craig Martin – Daniel is the co-owner of Higher Ground and Flawd Wine in Manchester and Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire. He has previously worked at Noma in Copenhagen and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.

Richard Cossins – Richard is the co-owner of Higher Ground and Flawd Wine in Manchester and Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire. He has previously worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and for Simon Rogan in the UK.