Corteva Agriscience and LEAF have selected two farms to take part in their three-year sustainable farming initiative – Resilient & Ready.
The programme has supported four farms so far through consultancy, advice, training and trials in order to help them to incorporate regenerative farming methods into their businesses. Three of the four farms became LEAF Demonstration Farms in 2022.
Lodge Farm in Nazeing, Essex is one of the two new farms to take part. The farm has been run by the Graham family for almost 100 years, but Bryony Graham and her brother, Archie, say the 300ha site has become increasingly challenging. Recent wet weather has proved to be a particular difficulty. She said: “We farm very heavy clay, 100ha of which was ploughed up during the Second World War and was previously marshy wetland. 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.”
Having identified the need to explore other options for using the land, the family have diversified from arable farming into wedding and events, as well as installing a biomass boiler to branch out into renewable energy.
Ms Graham said: “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. 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.”
Kingsplay Farming Company
The second of the new additions to the programme is Kingsplay Farming Company in Heddington, WIlshire. Nick and Lucy Tyler have previously focussed on animal health and welfare and are now keen to incorporate more sustainable and environmentally positive techniques into their farm.
Third generation farmer, Mr Tyler, runs the mixed 850ha comprising dairy, beef and arable enterprises. Mrs Tyler, a veterinary surgeon, works alongside Nick and their team of staff.
Mr Tyler said that as a LEAF member, he has been inspired by the ethos and enthusiasm of the team and now wants to consider improving his own farm’s sustainability for the future of his family. He said: “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 family were thrilled to pass their LEAD Marque audit in December 2022, and are keen to start the programme. Mrs Tyler said: “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.
“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.