Update from Groundswell 2023

At the end of a record breaking hot June, it felt appropriate to get deep into regenerative agriculture at the Groundswell Ag Festival 2023, held in Cambridgeshire and now in it’s 7th year. Groundswell once again delivered on the promise to inspire and help re-focus on what’s important – the soil beneath our feet.

Having missed out last year, it was great to return, having first set foot at the event in 2019 when I was fresh faced and new to Kent Wildlife Trust. Southern Water then supplying the tickets for Upper Beult Cluster members each year from 2020. I was reminded of those early days with the cluster, just beginning to get to know many of you and the particulars of farming and the wildlife of the low weald.

Key highlights from this years event included the discussion on regenerative farming certification, key to the debate was defining regenerative farming, which is in fact only a set of principles with a broad level of interpretation. Most of the panel was able to conclude there was a spectrum of regenerative practice and it was far too early to box it into a set of standards.

Another discussion focused on Farmer Networks, which includes clusters, happily the consensus from the panel which included farmers, was that they are fantastic! Both with farmers feeling in control of setting local priorities and also in their value to new research and development. I’m particularly interested in how through clusters we can support new regen trials in Kent and help share the outcomes.

As Kent’s Vineyard population continues to grow, the impact on the environment, especially in areas of chalk downland is of concern, so it was fascinating to hear of regenerative practices to support a healthier soil-web of life in a vineyard context. Recommendations included: Longer grass, cover crops, mulching, wider rows and integrating grazing.

As well as the many talks and debates, getting round the various stands is an excellent way to catch up on all those people you’ve been meaning to speak to. As Kent Wildlife Trust is now an organisational member/supporter of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, I made sure to stop by their stand. The perfect opportunity to discuss their latest report ‘The sweet spot’ – how farming with nature can make you happier, healthier and wealthier! (Farming at the Sweet Spot_1.pdf (wildlifetrusts.org))

Rory Harding – Nature Recovery Manager at Kent Wildlife Trust

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