With Mr Clarkson becoming the unlikely poster boy for UK Agriculture, his ability to create mass engagement and understanding has been widely welcomed. Whilst he has implemented some diversification (despite the locals) much of his profit still comes from traditional farming operations.
Contrary to this, there has been a demand to modernise established non-traditional farming processes, which have now become the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Spanning back centuries, these methods have faced ebbs and flows of traction but are now being readopted by farmers that are refocused on the environment, ecology, and long-term land management. But, like any industrial period, when methods become ‘vogue’, practices can be rushed, concepts misunderstood and careful planning can be overlooked, resulting in potentially harmful effects. So, it is imperative those looking to invest must seek professional advice before beginning the process.
As part of our Walk Around series, our farming and land expert, Will Langmead discusses these non-traditional farming methods and their potential.
Despite Viticulture arriving in the UK with the Romans, the U.K.’s ability to create top-quality wine has only recently seen a real surge in viability and success. With our south-facing soils for sparkling wines and the general effects of global warming, the UK is becoming a serious contender for wine production across the globe.
- Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of boxes to tick when it comes to viticulture. Historically, only certain soil types have been ideal for wine, although the improvement in rootstocks is enabling a wider variety of land to produce exceptional quality.
- A lot of knowledge and expertise goes into a successful vineyard and with the recent movements in immigration, it has become harder to hire highly skilled workers who have previously worked in European vineyards and have gained extensive experience.
- Previously, wine enthusiasts have turned their noses up to English wine. However, UK sparkling wine is soaring, and its popularity is showing no sign of decline. Langham Wine Estates recently won the International Wine & Spirit Competition Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year, a huge leap forward and proof that the UK is no longer being overlooked.
- The warming climate is obviously creating better conditions for growing but also reducing the potential for frost damage.
- With the right marketing and knowledge, viticulture can become a very profitable and successful business venture.
- Not only does it add value to your land but, viticulture creates real diversification.
Regenerative farming is a term used to describe practices that strive to improve the farm’s ecosystem by improving biodiversity, ecology, and soil structure alongside the production of food or fibre. The process of doing this could include reducing the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Predictions show that the push towards a healthier planet will lie less with those reducing their meat consumption but instead with consumers who attempt to source all their food products from as close as possible.
- If the aim is to source all produce locally, then inevitably seasonality will become more relevant and so the variety of food would become more restricted.
- From a consumer perspective, regenerative agriculture brings the potential for higher costs for food, which if not differentiated, could deter potential customers.
- Though it increases the farm’s productivity in the long run, these results can’t be seen overnight and require complete buy-in from multiple generations.
- One of regenerative agriculture’s core concepts is improving the soil’s health. There are many benefits to this with reduced erosion and increased fertility to highlight a couple.
- Reduces carbon footprint significantly. By reducing the passes of machinery and aiming to increase biodiversity there should be less carbon used and more ability to sequester it through the year.
- By improving soil health, the need for harsh chemicals and pesticides can be reduced. Furthermore, regenerative agriculture urges the integration of livestock, which can act as both a fertiliser and pesticide, reducing carbon emissions even more.
Rewilding is a conservation strategy that leaves the land to its natural processes and reintroduces animals, plants and insects that had previously been driven out. This could be to increase biodiversity, carbon capture or even water management. All of these aren’t mutually exclusive and can be interwoven with appropriate planning and objective revaluation.
- There is the potential for large swathes of land to be contributed to rewilding schemes without due care or careful planning. Greater understanding is required along with active management to support the natural ecosystem.
- In a similar vein, misuse of rewilding can alienate communities and harm existing biodiversity.
- Just ‘closing the gates’ on monoculture will not actively increase wildlife and biodiversity long term. A closed gate will enviably cause a spike in biodiversity but is unlikely to be a long-term solution.
- If done properly, rewilding can restore ecosystems and improve the yields on commercial food production.
- Reduces leaching of manmade agrichemicals thus preserving linked ecosystems.
- Large potential for carbon sequestration.
Dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, around 90% of all Britain’s timber and forest products were imported (according to Conservation Handbook), This proved hugely problematic when the First World War erupted as enemy action prevented imports from international sources. To combat this, the Forestry Commission dedicated large acreages of land to forest growth. Post WW2, however, food production was at a low rate and there was a resounding demand for Britain to become a self-sufficient nation for all fruit and veg production. The government encouraged landowners to rip up their woodland to replace it with arable land to feed the country. In more recent years, various farmers have shifted their concerns towards helping the environment and in doing so, afforestation has seen a revival.
- By swapping arable land for woodlands, farmers could face reduced profits. Reports show that this method of farming tends to appeal to philanthropists whose main goal is less monetarily driven, but more motivated by greener living.
- Service requirement for employment associated with forestry is dramatically reduced in comparison to traditional farming.
- Alongside the environmental benefits woodland can often create the opportunity for diversification. This could be in the form of open access or even a well-thought-through wellness retreat.
- Forests are important for the wildlife’s habitat as it protects various plant, animal and insect species populated there. This not only has a positive impact on biodiversity but also reduces carbon emissions considerably.
For any farming and land management questions, click here to speak to Will directly.