The farm and how we do our bit for climate change
I could possibly write a book on this subject but I will try and summarise as best I can.
The farm is mainly a grass farm of 250 acres.
There are 2 units. A 170 acre block here at West Town Farm, Ide and then a further 80 acres at the Barton, Shillingford Abbot.
Our main premise at the farm is to work with nature rather than controlling it with fertilisers and chemicals; to allow a balance with nature; to encourage a healthy soil; to allow our pastures to be diverse which not only provides a more diverse insect population but also provides a richer and diverse diet for the cattle that graze those pastures.
We are organic which means we don't use manufactured fertilisers and pesticides. By not using these products we are using less carbon than conventional farmers saving the manufacture and application of them. By encouraging the growth of white and red clovers in our pastures and using certain management techniques, we can keep our soil fertility high.
We try and promote nature and all that lives on the farm. During the last 25 years since we have been organic I think we have seen an increase in wildlife.
By keeping the soil natural we are encouraging the biology of that soil to be as active as possible. We encourage this by recycling the straw and cow dung from the cow sheds from their winter sheds and then compost this material and apply it to the fields. This is beneficial to the soil organisms and in itself helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
I know that we have hares, foxes and rabbits as well as badgers. Smaller animals such as voles have been encouraged by our orchards that were established 10 years ago. This provides ideal habitat for them.
During the summer we see swallows and swifts on the farm and during the winter there are winter migrants birds such as field fare and red wing feasting on the apple pips from the orchards and the field maple in the hedgerows.
Although we rear and care for farm animals that all eventually end up in the food chain as meat for us all to eat I feel that the way we produce this meat is of a very high quality. Evidence is beginning to emerge that by holding onto our pastures as a nation and not ploughing them up holds on to large amounts of carbon.
Also we at the farm are embracing the technique of 'mob grazing'. There is again evidence emerging that this technique is not only beneficial to wildlife in the form of insects but it improves the soil and also locks up more carbon.
Basically it is a technique that nature developed itself 1000's of years ago. On the plains and savannahs of the Americas large herbivores (In USA it was bison) would migrate in vast herds. Their method of survival was to graze an area of grassland for maybe a day or two and then move on to another area. During the time they were in that area they would partly graze the pasture, partly dung on the grass and partly flattened the pasture. Over the years this led to the level of humus increasing and consequently the depth of the soil and the capture of carbon to increase as well.
So in fact it is these techniques that we should be embracing worldwide and then there is a chance that vast amounts of carbon could be sequestered. I believe that cattle and sheep production on grassland pastures, if carried out with care, could be a solution to climate change.