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Future of Nature Friendly Farming panel: 18 September at Daylesford

By 23 August 2021May 24th, 2022No Comments

We are looking forward to an exciting Organic September with so many events and activities to attend and engage with.

OTB have come together with Daylesford, Countryside Link, Organic Farmers and Growers, Organic Research Centre and Soil Association to convene an expert panel session to discuss The Future of Nature Friendly Farming. It will be hosted at the Daylesford Harvest Festival on 18 September at 11.30am.

The Panel will:

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  • Define different nature friendly farming methods: Agroecology, Organic and Regenerative

  • Outline how these types of farming differ, align and support nature and biodiversity.

  • Identify whether or how these approaches to farming are recommended for adoption in the recently published National Food Strategy and the likelihood that this could happen

  • Give ideas on what we can do to support nature friendly farming.

  • Answer audience Q&As

The panel will be Chaired by Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming at Sustain and Author of Rebugging the Planet. It will include:

  • Jerry Alford: Soil Association

  • Dr Richard Benwell

  • Dr Ambrigio Costanzo: Organic Research Centre

  • Roger Kerr: Organic Farmers and Growers

  • Richard Smith, Senior Farm Manager: Daylesford

  • Lindsay Whistance: Organic Research Centre


Daylesford Harvest Festival

The Daylesford Harvest Festival will take place at their Kingham Farm Shop, nestled in the Cotswolds. It’s their first large event in nearly two years and there are going to be lots of great activities and opportunities to see what happens on this organic farm and of course plenty of organic produce and food and drink to sample. Find out more and register here.

If you cant make it to Daylesford, the panel session will be recorded and we will share it online before the end of Organic September.

Panel biographies:

Jerry Alford from the Soil Association has experience in arable and mixed farming having run the family farm in Devon for 25 years. The farm was initially a dairy farm eventually converting to organic and being run as a beef,  sheep and arable unit. At the same time he converted a range of farm buildings into a holiday cottage complex, was chairman of a local farmer owned co-op grain store and became involved in the grain supply chain nationally.

Jerry is interested in a systems approach to farming, and looks at farms as a whole system rather than just a mix of enterprises or a series of crops in rotation. He is also looking at options to reduce cultivations within organic rotations and the adoption of more agroecological and organic type systems in non-organic farms.

Dr Richard Benwell is chief executive of Wildlife & Countryside Link. Previously he has been policy adviser to the Secretary of State at Defra, worked on policy and advocacy at WWT and RSPB, and served as a director of Westmill Solar Cooperative and a clerk in the House of Commons Commission

Dr Ambrogio Costanzo is Head of Crops and Deputy Head of Research at the Organic Research Centre. Agricultural scientist specializing in agroecology, mostly focusing on arable cropping systems, with experience of liaising with farmers in participatory approaches, including tailored statistical methods. His first agro-ecological experience was to try to understand and improve silvo-arable systems in sub-Saharan Africa with local communities, as an MSc student. As a PhD and Post-Doc student he worked diversify organic arable cropping systems, including e.g. the use of populations instead of pure line varieties and of living mulches in wheat. Currently in his sixth year at ORC, he is coordinating the “LiveWheat” collective experiment on field-scale wheat varieties with British organic and low-input farmers. What he likes the most in his researcher role is to learn from farmers and from their fields, and then translate this learning into useful collective actions.

Vicki Hird MSc FRES is an award winning expert, author, strategist and senior manager who has been working on environment, food and farming issues for over 30 years. As part- time Head of Sustainable Farming at Sustain, Vicki manages the farm team, policy, research and related campaigning and provides comment and guidance on these issues.

Vicki’s new book: Rebugging the Planet will be published on 16 September, which is a homage to insects and other invertebrates, why they are so essential to our ecosystem and what we can do to help them.

Prior to this role, she was director of Campaigns and Policy at War on Want. Previously she was the Senior Campaigner heading up the Land use, Food and Water Programme for Friends of the Earth. She was Policy Director of Sustain, 1999 – 2004 which she founded in 2000 after merging SAFE alliance which she ran with the National Food Alliance. Vicki also runs an independent consultancy on campaign strategy and research (including for RSPB, WSPA, The Sustainable Development Commission, Greenpeace, The Plunkett Foundation and HEAL).

She has launched many major food and environment campaigns, from local to global in scope, has blogged frequently and published numerous reports and articles on the sustainability of food systems and a book, ‘Perfectly Safe to Eat?’ (Women’s Press 2000).

She has an academic background in pest management and is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. Vicki is on the board of the Eating Better Alliance and has sat on numerous charity boards and government advisory groups over the years.

Roger Kerr from Organic Farmers and Growers comes from a farming background and has worked at an executive level in the organic sector in both the agriculture and food production industry for the last 22 years and is CEO of Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G).

He is also the Chair of the U.K. Certifiers Group; UK representative on the IFOAM EU Council; Trustee of the Organic Research Centre; Director of the Organic Trade Board and a Director of the Pasture Fed Livestock Association.

Richard Smith is Senior Farm Manager at Daylesford. He is a passionate organic farmer and producer, who believes strongly that organic farming methods have a huge role to play in feeding our ever growing population in a healthy and sustainable way.

Richard grew up on a large mixed farm in Northamptonshire and after leaving school worked in the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland, where here he developed a real passion for livestock farming. He then spent several years working as a farm manager in Cornwall before emigrating to New Zealand in 1992 where he farmed beef, sheep and deer and specialised in the production of meat from grass-based diets.

Richard returned to England in 1999, where shortly after he took up the post of Farm Manager for the Oxford University Estates. In 2005 Richard was appointed Farm Manager here at Daylesford Farm and now oversees agriculture both at Daylesford and at our sister estate in Staffordshire.  Richard is passionate about breeding livestock fit for the environment in which they are expected to live and be farmed, and that self-sufficiency is achievable. Richard believes Daylesford Farm is without doubt one of the most forward thinking and innovative organic farms in the country and he is driven by the production of honest, transparently produced organic food.

Lindsay Whistance, is the senior livestock researcher at the Organic Research Centre in Cirencester UK and has worked on animal-centred research since 2003.

Lindsay comes from a farming background and worked for several years as a stockperson, primarily with dairy cows, before moving into research. After completing a BSc in Animal Science and a PhD in assessing the role of dairy cow behaviour in the management of faeces in different systems, she has worked on a variety of research projects associated with the welfare of farmed species and the benefits gained from managing animals in diverse farming systems. Areas of research have included European funded projects investigating how to minimise the use of antibiotics through animal health and welfare planning, the sustainability of the European sheep and goat industries, and how to feed pigs and poultry on 100 percent organic and regional feed.

Current research includes investigating the effects of herbal supplements on periparturient dairy cows and colostrum quality; the role of integrating herbal leys and grazing livestock in arable systems; and the welfare, nutritional and medicinal benefits of trees in silvopastoral systems.

Many of the past projects and current research areas that Lindsay engages with include working closely with farmers and other interested stakeholders. Facilitatory and participatory research is particularly valuable when working with complex, diverse farming systems where the landscape, soil health and biodiversity are key influencers of system design.

Further interests include natural behaviour patterns of major livestock species, the importance of good human-animal-relationships on animal and human well-being and how we might offer farm animals an environment in which they can live a good life where, they can contribute to greater biodiversity and landscape health