The ground-breaking sustainable farming initiative from Corteva Agriscience and LEAF, Resilient & Ready, has selected the next two farms to embark on the three-year programme.
Through expert consultancy, practical advice, professional training and on-farm trials, Resilient & Ready has already supported four farms on their journey to evolve and incorporate more regenerative farming methods into their businesses, with three launching as LEAF Demonstration Farms in 2022.
Today, two new farms have been announced as the next to experience the pioneering programme.
The Graham family has been at Lodge Farm in Nazeing, Essex, for nearly 100 years. But Bryony Graham and her brother, Archie, say the 300ha site has become increasingly difficult to work with, with recent wet autumns compounding the problems experienced.
“We farm very heavy clay, 100ha of which was ploughed up during the Second World War and was previously marshy wetland,” Bryony explains.
“Working on soil like this has always been a challenge, but the past three wet autumns have made it even harder to establish winter crops.
“I don’t think these weather patterns are an anomaly anymore so although we’d love to keep producing food, we need to explore other options and consider how best to use the land.”
The family has already diversified from its arable operation, setting up a successful wedding and events business and branching out into renewable energy through a recently-installed biomass boiler.
By integrating agroforestry, the boiler will be fed by 7ha of short-term willow coppice.
“We’re really keen on the idea of utilising energy crops but need to understand if there is a market for it, which is where the external advice provided by the Resilient & Ready programme will come in useful,” Bryony says. “We’re also keen to explore the possibility of planting orchards and producing cider.
“We’ve got some big changes to make. Land and food production is diverse and we are finding it difficult to produce the same crops consistently year-on-year, so we need to find alternative uses that bring benefits to the environment and to society.”
Nick and Lucy Tyler of Kingsplay Farming Company in Heddington, Wiltshire, have focused on animal health and welfare in recent years and are now keen to incorporate more sustainable and environmentally positive farming techniques into their business.
Nick is the third generation of his family to run their mixed 850ha farming business, which comprises dairy, beef and arable enterprises. Lucy, who is also a veterinary surgeon, works alongside Nick and their team of staff.
“Our dairy enterprise has been RSPCA assured for a few years now, and we hope our beef enterprise soon will be too,” says Nick. “Since becoming LEAF members, we have been impressed by the ethos of LEAF and the enthusiasm of those working within it, which has inspired us to challenge ourselves to continually improve how we farm sustainably for the future.
“Our boys are 12 and 10 and we hope that they will want to join our farming business one day. However, we’re aware their generation is very eco-conscious and that if we’re going to promote farming as a potential career to them, and their peers, we need to demonstrate that it can be environmentally friendly.
“We are keen to drive down our carbon footprint, by finding ways to reduce our reliance on bought-in feeds and artificial fertiliser, and to preserve soil health and biodiversity, especially as we have the privilege of farming land in a SSSI.”
The pair were delighted to pass their LEAF Marque audit in December last year and look forward to beginning their Resilient & Ready journey.
“We are keen to use the expert advice we will gain from the programme to maximise the benefits of having a mixed farming business, through smart integration of our livestock and arable enterprises,” Lucy says.
“We’re also keen to improve our social media skills to help us to positively promote sustainable farming and to promote our Wagyu beef business. It’s still early days, but our aim is to produce sustainable, high-welfare, quality Wagyu beef.”
Caroline McCartney, Resilient & Ready Programme Lead for Corteva, said: “The two farms are quite different but both share a common desire to develop their businesses to become more resilient. We can’t wait to get going.”
The first Resilient & Ready meetings with the new farms will take place at the end of January. Anyone who would like to follow their exciting journeys can do so online.