Farm Walks, a new podcast from the Soil Association
Our brand new podcast will give you a personal glimpse into farming in the UK.
Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association, has enjoyed a 20 year career working in farming. During this time, he's had the pleasure of visiting hundreds of farms.
I’ve witnessed first-hand their skill, experience and passion and I thought, why should I be the only lucky one? So, I wanted to share their stories with youBen Raskin
Hear from farmers across the country about life on the farm - how it’s changed, the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve used innovation and diversification to adapt their business models in a changing world.
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Ep1: Diversification with NFU Chair John Pawsey
Shimpling Park Farm
Mixed organic - arable and livestock
Pictured above: John Pawsey, Shimpling Park Farm
John is a fourth-generation farmer from Suffolk. He is the Chair of the NFU’s Organic Forum and a former member of the Soil Association Farmer and Grower Board.
John’s family came down from Ayrshire in the 1880s and have been farming ever since. When he returned from college, he farmed with his grandfather for two years, and when he died, John was left to do it alone.
“It had its advantages because I didn’t learn, really, a huge amount about what happened here, so I had a bit of a blank sheet as far as what I thought the farm should be doing. I think that helped me when it came to considering the organic option because I wasn’t entrenched in any one system of farming.”
He converted the farm to organic in 1999. The farm was purely arable, up until about 2 years ago when he decided to diversify and introduce a flock of 500 sheep.
“Once you’ve had animals on the farm, I’d find it very difficult to get rid of them. I’ve been looking at a static landscape for a very long time, and now we’re looking at a moving one.”
In this podcast, John talks about the reasons why he introduced sheep to his arable rotation and the benefits he’s seeing. He also touches on competition with overseas imports in the organic feed market, the Innovative Farmers field labs that he has been involved with – looking at weed control and no-tillage methods and his thoughts on the future of farming.
Ep2: Coastal farming with David Eagle
Pictured above: Common Sea Buckthorn
David is a fourth-generation farmer from Kirby-le-Soken in Essex. His family have been farming here since the 1880s.
When David took over in the 1980s, it was a dairy farm; but the herd was sold in 2002 and the farm split in two, with half the land producing crops, and the other half set aside for higher land stewardship.
Devereux Farm has a long-term threat from the rise in sea level due to its low-lying position next to the Walton Backwaters.
“Climate change is starting to impact on sea walls from a surge-type perspective. The future doesn’t look rosy for people who’ve got coastal farms. It is possible that in the next generation that half our farm could go to sea.”
To get around this challenge of coastal farming, in 2009, David decided to put himself right at the forefront of innovation by growing and processing sea buckthorn. This hardy, berry-producing plant has the ability to survive extreme conditions, high or low temperatures and salty coastlines – it has also been known to fight soil erosion.
“As we now move forward into a different era, looking at soil health and cover crops and things, diversification is coming with that.”
In this podcast, David talks about the reasoning behind his decision to start growing sea buckthorn, the many reported uses for the different varieties and the market for this high-value crop.
Listen to the latest podcast here: