Manor Farm, Alton, Hants GU34 3BD
20 Apr 2020

April at Manor Farm and Covid 19

What a difference a month makes.  Last month I was lamenting about the wet ground conditions and implications for my cropping plans, whereas now I have perfect Spring planting conditions.  Sadly the crops I am planting now will not be for sale but will be grazed by our sheep, this will at least help to improve the soil fertility in the long term and in the short term it will help prepare the soil ready to plant wheat in the Autumn.

Lambing is in full swing and with our system being outdoors it has been a pleasure to check them at dawn each morning.  Life has the same routine for me at the moment but we live in extraordinary times and life is far from the same routine for most.  A month or so ago I would have taken an indoor job any day, now I count myself lucky to be working outside.

In previous articles I have discussed our broken food system where we have enough food but distribution is the issue and the current pandemic has highlighted this even more. With the temporary closure of the food service sector, most have struggled to offset food from this sector to where it is most needed in the retail sector .

On the one hand most of you are now used to queueing to enter a supermarket and having limited choice on the shelves.  Whilst we expected a surge in buying as people were worried about not being allowed out for weeks, the situation should have balanced itself.  This week the farming press have reported that some dairy farmers have no choice but to dump their milk as processors supplying the catering sector are not collecting it, the meat sector has also been affected with the food service sector being closed although this has been minimised as a lot of this was imported. By the way now is a great time to buy high value cuts as a lot of these would have gone to the restaurant trade. In the scheme of things this sounds incomprehensible in the current climate and it highlights the inflexibility of our food system that is dominated by big companies who cannot adjust their supply chains quick enough.

With this in mind I ask you to think about the way you buy food and the way it is supplied to you.

On a positive note it is fantastic to see how the more local supply chains e.g. veg box suppliers, bakers and local stores are suddenly back in fashion and long may this last, hooray for local and I just hope we all continue to support them when life returns to the new normal.

Look after yourselves and your neighbour’s and for those of you with more time on your hands, here is a list of my favourite agricultural related pod casts, go on try one they are quite inspiring:

Rock and Roll Farming – interviews with inspiring farmers.

Farming Today – Daily insight into farming.

Future of Agriculture – ideas that might shape the agriculture in the future.

Will Brock

25 Mar 2020

Coronavirus

To all our lovely camping guests, we had no choice but to close our Feather Down campsite for the whole of April.  We will reopen when allowed and will review on a monthly basis.  Rest assured as soon as we can we will be open for business.

For information on your bookings please contact Feather Down Farm Days 01420 80804.  Sending you all our very best wishes, please stay safe and we hope to see you all soon.  From all of us at Manor Farm.

Unfortunately one man’s loss is another sheep’s gain.

 

20 Mar 2020

Farming and Climate Change

A lot has been said about farming and climate change. For years some have argued against the scientific evidence but with 98% of scientists being convinced I tend to believe them especially as it have such a huge impact on what I do.

The general consensus is that world farming has contributed hugely to the emission of climate changing gases. Figures often used attribute 10-20% of all greenhouse emissions worldwide (12 billion tonnes of CO2) could be attributed to farming. As a rule most farmers regard their primary role as a food producer for the world but morally how do we up our production to feed a growing population and also reach the target of Net Zero emissions by 2040?

At present it is beef and milk production that are coming under the worst scrutiny. Certain pressure groups tell us that the methane producing cows are a massively wasteful way to produce food compared to vegetable and plant based food. Beef and dairy can produce up to the equivalent of 7.5tonnes of C02 for every hectare grazed. This could account for 15 million tonnes in the UK alone.Alarming I know but let’s look at the stats for crop production (veg and combinable crops) which can produce up to 7 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. Less you might be thinking but there is considerably more land under arable production in the UK so this would amount to over 18 million tonnes.

These are eye watering figures and could be a reason to panic which is what some pressure groups want us to do. The important words here are ‘up to’ and if we look into the matter in a bit more detail we can find hope.

These figures do not take into account the ‘method of farming’. The beef and milk figures are based on intensive systems used more widely elsewhere in the world e.g beef feedlot or mega dairies, whereas most of UK production is based on grazing systems. On the arable side the figures assume all land is ploughed which can release up to 90% of the total CO2 emissions from the soil itself. A lot of farms including us and our neighbouring farmers now use either minimal cultivation or zero till to plant crops. Both these examples have the potential to reduce the emissions by at least 2 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. Ironically organic farming releases more CO2 because they use the plough method more but they do mitigate this by using less fertiliser and herbicide.

Whilst this article is not full of the joys of spring after a very wet winter what I do want to convey is that when you read statistics on climate change and who is to blame there is more to the story.

I as a farmer feel comfortable that in some cases we should take a share of the blame but I am also proud and excited by the fact that farmers are taking the issue seriously and are leading the drive for change by using more holistic methods as well as new technology.

Who knows in a few years’ time, rather than being the villain we might be heroes and I think UK farmers are already well on their way.