Newsletter January 2022

Issue 2

Happy New Year to all our members! We hope you enjoyed a lovely break over the festive season and wish you all the very best in the year ahead.

Stock-Free Advisory Team

Over the past year, we have received an increasing number of enquiries from farmers and crofters interested in adopting stock-free farming methods. Our soon-to-be-published Farmers’ Survey has revealed a surprising openness and willingness on the part of farmers and crofters to shift out of livestock farming into fairer, greener livelihoods. Also of note has been the number of requests for support and guidance in making these changes. To that end, we have put together our Stock-Free Advisory Team! If you or anyone you know would like to benefit from the team’s knowledge and experience, please contact rebecca@farmersforstockfreefarming.org.

Prof. Amir Kassam OBE, FRSB, PhD; Transition Advisory Team Lead

Amir Kassam is a Visiting Professor in the School of Agriculture, Policy, and Development at the University of Reading. He is also the Moderator of the FAO-hosted Global Platform for Conservation Agriculture Community of Practice (CA-CoP). Conservation Agriculture is based on the application of three interlinked principles of continuous no-tillage, permanent ground cover, and crop diversification. Amir is a member of several international advisory committees. He is published widely.

Rebecca Knowles, Founding Director, Head of Farm Transitions.

Rebecca has a degree in Agriculture from the University of Aberdeen. Her past farm experience includes hill sheep, beef, and market gardening. Rebecca is based in Aberdeenshire.

Sam Eccles, Assistant Director, Head of Grants and Research.

Sam has a degree in Geography and did his dissertation on the feasibility of veganic farming in Scotland. He volunteers on a market garden whilst expanding his interest in all thing’s food, agriculture and sustainability related. Sam is based in Glasgow.

Laurence Candy, Farmer, Transition Adviser.

Laurence is a former organic beef and dairy farmer who, for ethical and environmental reasons, is currently transitioning to veganic cereal production. Laurence is based in Dorset.

Mark Wakeling, Transition Advisor.

Mark’s father ran several local cattle markets, so Mark grew up immersed in the livestock industry. A former army officer, he currently lives and works on a farm in Buckinghamshire which is he helping to transition from beef to alternative business enterprises whilst permitting the remaining animals to live out their natural lives.

Angus Dixon, BSc, Forester; Forestry and Agroforestry Adviser.

Angus is a highly experienced freelance forester who advises on forestry/agroforestry projects including map preparation and grant application completion. Angus is based in Moray.

Kirsty Heron, Horticulturist, Transition Adviser.

Kirsty has a background in ecology and an MSc in Environment, Management, and Sustainable Development. She has run a market garden and studied vegan organic horticulture.

In Other News

We attended the online Oxford Real Farming Conference and came away thoroughly inspired with lots of great information for our transitioning farmers. All of the sessions are now available on YouTube so have a browse. There were a couple of clear highlights for us. The first of these was by John Letts of the Heritage Grain Trust who spoke on “Restorative Continuous Cropping Using Heritage Cereals: How to produce all the grain we need without destroying the planet”. John crops cereals continuously on his land without agrochemicals or animal inputs. He uses a genetically diverse mix of heritage grains which require low inputs (including low nitrogen), produce tall crops that outcompete weeds, and have deep roots that prevent lodging. John employs a no-till system, cuts up the straw and leaves it on the ground to return organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, and undersows his cereal crops with short white clover. Although his wheat yields are low (3t/ha/year versus 5t/ha on a typical organic farm), John points out that he is producing this every year, versus a mixed organic farm that can only produce wheat one year out of five or six and ‘lose’ two to three years to grass/clover leys. John’s wonderful article in The Land magazine goes into detail on the history and rationale behind his methods.

How often do we hear that we need a new food system? Well, Wakelyns Organic Agroforestry seem to have cracked it! The legacy of Professor Martin Wolfe and his wife Ann, the Wakelyns team presented at ORFC on ‘Short Food Chains and Stacking Enterprises’. The farm is a hive of diverse and environmentally triumphant activity including a CSA veg box scheme, a bakery, and a haberdashery! I won’t be a spoiler by saying anymore but this is a ‘must watch’ especially for Star Wars fans!

Another highlight was a talk by Hempen, a cooperative down in Oxfordshire that grows and sells various hemp products. Their presentation covered the many aspects of hemp production including the politics of growing hemp in the UK. In light of the unnecessarily restrictive licensure surrounding industrial hemp growing, Hempen have launched a campaign called Overgrow The Regime which seeks to build a mass movement of unlicensed hemp growers to show that the hemp licensing system is not fit for purpose. You can read more about their campaign here. They suggest you get involved by growing hemp yourself without a license (at your own risk!) or supporting others to do so.

New NatureScot Grant!

(deadline Feb 18th for email ‘expressions of interest’)

The second round of the Nature Restoration Fund has opened for 2022. This competitive grant ties in with our aims of helping farmers shift away from grazing ruminants and towards the restoration and rewilding of native ecosystems. It could also include system changes that support greater biodiversity such as the shift from monocultures to polycultures, no-till, and keeping constant ground cover. The grant offers £25,000 to £250,000 of capital funding for successful applicants. Below are some of the priority areas for funding (see the link above for a complete list):

  • Sustainable management of grazing pressure to enable landscape scale natural regeneration.
  • Habitat and species restoration – management for enhancement and connectivity – halting the decline of pollinators and increasing habitat for amphibians, mammals, and birds at risk by making more space for native flower-rich habitats and grassland, streams, extended hedges and field margins, native trees and ponds.
  • Supporting changes in management to favour diversity of species and habitat structure at a landscape level; adopting nature-based approaches to managing key ecosystems.

Please note that the grant will not fund projects that are eligible for the Forestry Grant Scheme. If you do have an idea that you feel might fall under the grant’s remit, the first step is to email an ‘expression of interest’ briefly outlining your idea before February 18th. A NatureScot advisor will then get back to you to discuss your application. Let us know if we can help!

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