In 2016 Innovative Farmers began a partnership with Anglia Farmers to provide farmers with the professional backing and access to funds they need to develop sustainable solutions to the industry’s greatest challenges.
Innovative Farmers is unique because we focus on helping farmers develop practical solutions. Our vision is to build a movement of innovative farmers, driving more sustainable and resilient systems throughout the industry, backed by policy and research funding. We recognise that farmers already innovate, and help them share the risk and increase rigour through practical ‘field labs’.
Through this partnership the Anglia Farmers Arable Group was set up and farmers, advisors and researchers met for the first time to discuss their ideas on alternative techniques for terminating cover crops.
On November 2nd 2016, Anglia Farmers ran a new field lab, hosted by Shimpling Park Farms in Suffolk, which attracted attention from organic farmers looking to do more minimum or no tillage, and conventional farmers wishing to reduce their reliance on glyphosate. Many farmers rely on the chemical herbicide glyphosate to destroy unwanted crops at certain points within the crop rotation, but with uncertainty over its future availability there is a desire to find new methods. These Innovative Farmers are getting ahead of the curve and finding new ways to establish a successful minimum tillage system without the use of chemical sprays.
For organic farmers, finding ways to reduce their reliance on ploughing will help to enhance soil health further and potentially reduce overall use of fossil fuels for successful crop establishment.
Lara Clabburn, Anglia Farmers Group Coordinator said; “This field lab is very exciting as it unites all farmers in finding better ways to cultivate soil, establish crops, maintain or improve soil structure and ultimately increase profit margin. It is already catalysing new ideas for cover crop destruction and preparation for crop establishment. The aim is to find and develop new tools which will help us to reduce our reliance on glyphosate.”
In return for their support, Anglia Farmers' sponsorship has been promoted through Soil Association’s social media channels and website, as well as on the Innovative Farmers portal, in relevant Farming press and at events. They also receive reports on the activity and reported learning by participating farmers/growers within their network.
The latest independent evaluation of Innovative Farmers by the Countryside and Community Research Institute provides a strong endorsement of the field lab approach.
Of those surveyed, 86% report some or significant learning, and have found the experience useful. Half say they have already made (24%) or planned (26%) changes to their farming as a result. Ninety percent would recommend the field labs to a friend