Learn more about our agricultural systems by meeting the farmers trying to make them more sustainable
There’ve been plenty of documentaries and books which expose some of the more damaging aspects of mass food production, one of the most recent being Seaspiracy, which tackles overfishing and pollution. These documentaries, and the interest in them, are symptomatic of a widespread desire: to become a more ethical consumer. The good news is that an increasing number of food producers are becoming passionate about regenerative agriculture and sustainable food systems.
LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) is a charity with a vision to help create a global farming and food system that delivers Climate Positive action and thriving, resilient agro-ecology at an increasingly global level. Working with farmers, the food industry, scientists and environmentalists, it is looking at new ways to help farmers, while enriching the environment and engaging society in a meaningful way.
Every year, since 2006, it has managed the LEAF Open Farm Sunday, which takes place this year on June the 27th. Around 100 farms located around the country have signed up to provide an open day, when visitors have the opportunity to learn more about food production and farming. Here are three of our favourites from across the country.
FarmEd: Meet the Organisation Devoted to Inspiring Sustainable Farming
FarmED is a not-for-profit organisation based at Honeydale Farm, which is a diverse 107-acre mixed farm in the Cotswolds. The farm is dedicated to providing learning spaces and events that inspire, educate and connect people to build sustainable farming and food systems that nourish people and regenerate the planet. It has three beautiful eco-buildings including a multifunctional educational, meeting and conference space, and a farm-to-fork kitchen and demonstration area. It also has a micro dairy. It is hosting farm walks and picnics on 14th July and 27th August, as well as an olive oil tasting day on 9th July.
FarmED is passionate about regenerative agriculture and sustainable food systems. This includes a diverse mix of low input arable and temporary grass, and organic permanent pasture. It has multiple trial plots including herbal ley, heritage wheat, wild bird seed and various cover crops, and the grassland is managed by mob grazed sheep. Other features include a natural flood management scheme, heritage orchard, tree planting, wildflower margins and an apiary. Its kitchen garden is run as a Community Supported Agriculture scheme.
On LEAF Open Farm Sunday, FarmED will be taking visitors on a farm walk to hear about regenerative agriculture and sustainable food systems.
Ridgeway Farm: Meet the Seventh-Generation Dairy Farmers
Ridgeway Farm is a traditional family-run dairy farm with around 100 cows that sells fresh, local seasonal produce and hosts various events throughout the year, where the public can meet both the animals and the farmer. As a seventh-generation farm it is steeped in historical flora and fauna, including a traditional orchard.
The team are incredibly passionate about food and produce their own milk. They run various events for adults and children including a mini farmers club, toddler groups and a ‘Farmer for the Day’ experience, which allows people to try their hand at milking, whilst learning all about how a farm works.
During LEAF Open Farm Sunday, Ridgeway Farm will be opening its gates to the public and offering goat milking demonstrations, as well as talks around feeding animals and breeding. Visitors will also be able to see how barley and wheat is milled and ground to make animal feed.
A.J & C.I Snell: Meet the Fruit Growers with ‘Net Zero’ Emissions
A. J and C. I Snell is one of the UK’s leading fresh and frozen fruit growers. Based near Ross on Wye in South Herefordshire, the 450 + acre farm produces nearly 1,000 tonnes of strawberries every year plus 700 tonnes of blackcurrants and other soft fruits.
It has achieved ‘net zero’ status for greenhouse gas emissions on the farm by improving productive efficiency – growing more food with reduced inputs – while locking up carbon in the grassland that covers the farm. The fruit is grown on soil-free coir substrate and the ‘tabletops’ for fruit growing are installed on uncultivated grassland.
The farm is also working to drive down its demand for water, and has installed storage lakes to catch the rain that falls on its land. This is then used for trickle irrigation of crops during dry seasons, and means it doesn’t place stress on water resources during summer. The lakes also have wildlife value - for the first time otters have appeared on the farm!
Finally, the packhouse and freezer have recently had PV panels installed, and generated around 20% of the electricity required to run (around 150,000 KWhs).
This open day, the farm will be running short tours of its soft fruits, irrigation lakes and wildflower areas.
Spaces are limited and pre-booking is essential. Please contact the farms directly, or for more information on the other participating farms, visit www.farmsunday.org
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