In this blog post, learnings from Groundswell 2023 are shared by Blair Wallace, Vice Chair of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire and Managing Director of The Land Management Partnership.
Last month, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend Groundswell 2023, a festival which provides a forum for farmers, growers, or anyone interested in food production and the environment to learn about the theory and practical applications of regenerative farming systems.
Many thanks to the bursary awarded by the Future Farmers of Yorkshire that meant I could attend.
It was refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded people who shared my inquisitiveness for regenerative agriculture.
One of the highlights was the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere that surrounded the event.
I felt that being in the company of such passionate and driven people was both inspiring and reassuring, and as a land agent, I am excited to bring back a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to share with my clients.
What struck me most was the opportunity to connect with experts and leaders in the field, it was especially encouraging to listen to farmers who are actively practicing regenerative farming methods on their holding rather than being lectured to by professionals or academics.
Conversations with these knowledgeable individuals not only broadened my horizons but also opened my eyes to the latest advancements in agricultural technology.
Beyond the knowledge gained, it has emphasized the importance of collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the farming community.
The willingness of attendees to openly share their experiences and lessons learned was inspiring.
I firmly believe that by fostering a spirit of collaboration, we can build a more sustainable and resilient agricultural sector, where farmers continually learn from one another and adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Reasons for engaging
As I made the journey south to Hertfordshire from my office in Boroughbridge to attend the festival, I found myself questioning – why should a Yorkshire farmer switch to regenerative farming practices?
There’s no certification, no premiums on offer from supermarkets and, so far, little government support to encourage farmers to make the transition.
As a land agent, I get to see a lot of farming businesses and it became apparent that most of them are already practicing a level of regenerative farming without knowing it.
I was therefore especially interested to attend a talk about whether now is the right time to certify regenerative agriculture to potentially attract a premium from the consumer.
It was stimulating to be reminded that regenerative farming is an evolving field, with new research and insights emerging constantly.
It would be unwise to fossilise it too soon, limiting its potential and opening the door to criticism.
It’s crucial to avoid prematurely imposing rigid standards that may not accurately capture the essence of regenerative farming.
By remaining flexible and receptive to new insights and research, we can adapt our practices to optimize the benefits for farmers, consumers, and the environment.
Whilst certification can provide credibility and assurance to consumers, it is essential to strike a balance between accountability and allowing room for innovation and growth.
Taking the time to gather a comprehensive understanding of regenerative farming practices may, in the future, enable us to create meaningful and effective certifications that truly capture the essence of sustainability.
I noted several key decision makers from large supermarkets attended the event and I am interested to know where they believe regenerative farming has a place on the shelf.
Attending Groundswell 2023 provided invaluable knowledge, inspiration, and a network of industry experts that will empower me to guide my clients towards whether regenerative farming practices, on whatever scale, is right for their business.
Watch content from Groundswell 2023 via the festival’s YouTube channel, here.