A pioneering on-farm conference focusing on soil health is gearing up for its launch on a Cumbrian farm this summer.
Carbon Calling is a knowledge exchange initiative created by farmers to promote discussion among livestock and food producers, and help them address climate, biodiversity, societal and food security issues.
Founded by beef and sheep consultant Liz Genever, regenerative farmers Nic and Paul Renison, and host farmer Tim Nicholson the two-day (25-26 June) conference is Carbon Calling’s flagship event.
It follows two years of live chats featuring some of the leading food producers, consultants and researchers in the regenerative farming movement. It was originally planned for 2020.
The event includes practical demonstrations, seminars and discussion panels.
Carbon Calling’s list of speakers includes:
Mixed farmer and ecologist Tim Nicholson of Sleastonhow Farm in the Eden Valley will host the pioneering meeting. He has first-hand experience of water quality, soil health, biodiversity and profitability challenges on his own 300 acre farm.
Mr Nicholson saw profit margins and biodiversity come under pressure when he took charge of the home farm in 2005, but over the five years he has seen wildlife return as he’s adapted his conventional farming system with regenerative methods.
But he stresses the farm is still learning about lowering inputs like synthetic fertiliser, weed killers and bought-in feed and producing healthy soils, livestock and crops.
As a farmer you can’t look at the label or read the instructions for this type of farming, you have to learn from others, and we hope Carbon Calling acts as a catalyst for farmers to learn from each other,” says Tim.
Co-organiser Nic Renison said:
‘Carbon Calling is a grass roots conference packed with inspirational farmer speakers, we can promise a weekend briming with innovation and positive vibes, which will enable us to farm profitability working along side nature."
Carbon Calling Conference:
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Carbon dating is a service that connects livestock farmers who want land with arable farmers who want stock.
Carbon dating is a service that connects livestock farmers who want land with arable farmers who want stock. It was set up by sheep and beef consultant Liz Genever with the aim of helping build carbon levels in arable soils. We speak a livestock grazier and an arable farmer who were paired up by the service to find out how it works.
William and Sarah Haire run a small beef and sheep farm near Sandringham, Norfolk. They had been looking for a local farm where they could graze their livestock when they heard about Carbon Dating.
With full-time jobs outside the farm – Mr Haire is head of estate at Easton College and his wife is head of agriculture at Dawn Meats/Dunbia – their time was limited.
They needed a farmer who would be willing to check the sheep for them each day. More than that, they wanted a fruitful working relationship, rather than simply a place to graze their sheep.
Farm facts: Hillview Farm, Hillington, Norfolk
“The idea is we help them achieve their objectives and they help us achieve ours.”The key for us is to find likeminded people,” says Mr Haire. It’s about coming at this with a fresh set of eyes and thinking about what’s in it for us as opposed to what’s in it for me".
Having identified Nathan Nelson, 25 minutes away in Burnham Deepdale, as a potential grazing partner, it took at least a year of planning and discussion to reach the point of moving the ewes to his farm.
“Our ‘first date’ was at our place and then we went and looked at what they were doing and got an understanding of that,” says Mr Haire.
The Haires hope this is the start of an ongoing partnership. They have talked to Mr Nelson about the possibility of buying some organic ewes to lamb and graze permanently at Deepdale Farm. First, they need to see how the relationship works out, how the soil and the crops respond and how the ewes perform. The ewes will return to Hillview Farm to lamb in March.
The arable farmer
Following years of intensive arable production on light, stony soils, Deepdale Farm has converted to organic production and adopted a range of regenerative practices. The introduction of sheep to the farm completes the improvement measures.
Farm facts: Deepdale Farm, Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk
“This rehabilitation approach – and the reason we’re in organic conversion – is because our soils are exhausted from intensive production of winter wheat, carrots, potatoes and maize,” says estate manager Nathan Nelson.
“Soil tests revealed organic matter levels of just 2.5% and a lack of soil aggregates,” he explains. “We saw this playing out in 2020, with soil washed off the fields [during winter flooding].”
The whole farmed area – 265ha – is now in Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship. This includes 20 5ha cropped plots managed under a five-year rotation of cereals, a break crop and a two-year clover ley.
Source: Written by Judith Tooth 28 January 2022 for Farming Weekly. Read the full article here: How carbon ‘dating’ service connects graziers with grazing land
Another Successful and Sunny Day On-farm at Kaiapoi Farm
Agri-EPI celebrated another successful and sunny day on-farm at Kaiapoi farm on Thursday, 19th May. Farmers Rob and Jo Hodgkins led a group of our Agri-EPI community including tech developers, farmers and industry representatives on a farm tour leading discussions around transitioning to regenerative practices, inter-row hoeing, novel sheep breeding techniques and more. Marcus Travers from Soil Essentials also led a fascinating talk on soil carbon and nitrogen retention.
‘Kaiapoi’ is Maori meaning ‘food over water’. Rob and Jo Hodgkins set up Kaiapoi in 2013 with 200 ewes on 60 rented acres of grass, and have imported Romney Rams from New Zealand to create the ultimate outdoor lambing ewe for the UK climate. They have driven the business forward hard and now run 2250 ewes across 1000ac semi improved grassland and solar panels and farm 1600ac of arable crops around North Hertfordshire.
Getting people together on farm is incredibly important to showcase first-hand the opportunities in tech development that will deliver big impact on farms.