2020 marks a stepping stone in UK agriculture as the industry seeks to move towards a new era of farming. This year it is vital that British farmers can be proud of the nutritious food they produce and the ecosystem services they provide. Join farmers and growers with an interest in regenerative farming practices for two information-filled days at Lannock Manor Farm in North Hertfordshire on 24th and 25th June.
It is clear the movement towards regenerative agriculture in the industry is upon us, hence Groundswell’s tagline has evolved from “No-till” to “Regenerative”. We have learnt that no-till alone is not sufficient to achieve healthy soil and that is why we are promoting the 5 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture as we see it: 1. Minimise soil disturbance, 2. Maintain permanent cover, 3. Maintain living roots, 4. Build diversity, 5. Integrate livestock
We are excited to announce some of the headline speakers for Groundswell 2020, as both new and familiar faces will be gracing the stage. David Montgomery and Anne Biklé (USA) are returning to update us on their remarkable journeys through writing such titles as “Dirt, The Erosion of Civilisations” and “Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life”. Their visit to England is timely, as their new book is soon to be launched, which will be looking at the connection between soil health and human health. Jill Clapperton (USA) is also returning, having opened the first No-Till Show back in 2016. She will be guiding us on how to create healthy productive soils that grow tasty nutrient dense food with environmental integrity.
Walter Jehne (Australia) is an internationally recognised soil microbiologist with an agenda to urgently restore agro-ecosystems and ecologies so as to help meet our water, food, habitat, carbon drawdown and rehydration imperative. Another fascinating speaker we are lucky to have is Jeff Moyer (USA) from the Rodale Institute, author of “Organic No-Till Farming – Advancing No-Till Agriculture Crops, Soil, Equipment”. Jan-Hendrik Cropp (Germany) will also be speaking from his wealth of experience in advancing organic no-till farming. Also from the States we have Courtney White who will be talking “Grass, Soil, Hope” as well as updating us on the fibreshed movement that is emerging on both sides of the Atlantic. Rhonda Sherman (USA) will be elaborating on the subject of her recent book, “The Worm Farmer’s Handbook”
With new agricultural policy in the process of formation, Groundswell will be hosting policy makers and advisors including Minette Batters and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Farming. This year it is especially important to engage the powers that be in how farmers are working with nature rather than against it. This critical message needs to be coherently passed to the public and Groundswell aims to facilitate this engagement. Affinity Water are the Headline Sponsor for the event, helping reinforce the significance of functioning soil in our wider landscape and water cycle.
The importance of integrating real food and farming is also on the agenda at Groundswell with various sessions looking at joining the paradigms of healthy soil, healthy plants and healthy humans. The Pasture for Life Association will be proudly represented on stage and on your plate with beef terroir tasting from The Ethical Butcher and others, promoting the vital message that pasture farmers need to be singing from the rooftops.
Our aim is for all attendees to be inspired and hence the range of sessions to delving into other topics such as: Direct Marketing, Heritage Grains, Ruminants, Biostiumants, Carbon Finance and Agritech. On top of this, we’ve had an abundance of session applicants this year, and we’re working to piece these together to represent the many fascinating topics that surround Regenerative Agriculture. Once you delve into them, you realise just how connected everything is- indeed whatever the question may be, the answer nearly always lies in the soil!
Due to popular demand, we are increasing the capacity of the show to around 3,000 total attendees. We’ve thought carefully about how to map the event which is expanding to a more fluid showground with a circular walkway around two new Pasture and Demo Fields. As you can see from the Event Map the Drill Demonstrations are heading North and South with trials and seminar areas dotted around the showground, so they will be better engaged with the demos and trials. The new main stage is a big top tent with capacity to seat 700 people. There’s another six seminar tents packed with sessions to choose from including the new Fungi Tent and Speaker’s Corner which will be in the Demo Field. The Discussion Tent is once again hosted by Agricology, who we are proud to collaborate with, to provide open discussions and breakouts throughout. NIAB are hosting the Seminar Tent this year and also running various different trials from their stand.
After a very dry Spring in 2019 the cover crop in the Demo field struggled to provide much of a challenge for the drill manufacturers. The Direct Drill Demonstrations this year will prove to be more of a trial, with 30m wide plots drilled with Kings Winter Rye and Vetch last autumn; they are romping away already. Some of the manufacturers have wider plots this year to demo more than one machine so there’s going to be plenty to compare and contrast against. The line up this year includes some familiar faces that are returning to Lannock Manor Farm including the Moore Uni-Drill with Agri-Linc and Mzuri with their strip-tillage drill. Sly has rebranded as Horizon and we can expect to see both no-till and strip-till demonstrations from their team. Aside from the Direct Drill Demonstrators there are also around 100 other organisations exhibiting in some shape or form who are involved in supporting regenerative practices, a full list and directory can be seen on the website.
Composting is becoming more and more popular as farmers start to feel empowered by the microbial life they can establish “in-house” – this year at Groundswell there will be a particular focus on the practicalities, science and wisdom behind nurturing your farmyard manure. There will be sessions and demonstrations both days with different compost turners mixing up the windrow – which should bring some heated discussions on how to get the perfect carbonnitrogen ratio.
With support from the Woodland Trust, we are undertaking a silvopasture trial at Lannock Manor Farm this Spring which will be available to visit. Agroforestry and Silvopasture sessions will be taking place on both days and of course there are plenty of people on hand to offer guidance to those interested in maximising the benefits of “3D farming”.
The Earthworm Arms is scaling up this year with a purple big top tent to house the bar and stage. This stage is not for speaking as you might expect. From experience of previous Groundswells, after a day of knowledge exchange it is comforting to let your hair down with an ale or local cider and for the first time there will be a band playing some tunes to keep you in the mood. Tim May is inviting any musically minded Groundsweller’s out there to bring their talents together for so please pack your ukulele if you want to be included. After the popularity of the Camping and Glamping last year we are partnering with Woodville Projects again, who provide the luxuriously kitted out Bell Tents that come with memory foam mattress, Egyptian cotton linen and a fluffy towel. They have also devised a way for you to book a single bed in a shared tent from £60 for the three nights.
Tickets to Groundswell sold out last year in advance of the event and sadly we had to turn some people away. With the new site we hope to be able to accommodate everyone comfortably but needless to say we recommend booking your ticket in advance and also planning your days by looking at the programme before you arrive. You also have the option when purchasing your ticket of adding your social media handle to your name badge, which might be useful if you want people to know who your secret Farming Forum alias is…or maybe not!
We are honoured to be working with so many like-minded and enthusiastic people and organisations on this year’s Groundswell. We thank you for your continued support and feedback and look forward to hosting you in June.
Alex Cherry, Event Director