The return of the Society’s Farm Walk

On Friday 24 June, we were warmly welcomed back to Shuttleworth in Bedfordshire for the Society’s next instalment of our ‘Shuttleworth Series’. The series kicked off back in March with ‘The Carbon Conversation’ (read more about the event here) featuring a panel of experts sharing their approaches towards low-carbon agriculture as well as the highs and lows of the current carbon schemes. The plan for the farm walk was to further build on this foundation and explore approaches in a more practical setting. After three years without a Society farm walk, we were pleased to see it return to our calendar of events and it certainly ignited some brilliant discussion.

Our base for the walk was Kingshill farm (part of Shuttleworth College) as we were introduced to our host for the day, Peter Allen. Peter has been a tenant of the Shuttleworth estate for over 20 years and he talked us through his approach to low-carbon agriculture.

The first pit stop was with Jonny Ball, a woodland creation officer for the Forestry Commission. He described the current woodland creation offers stating that ‘opportunities with grants are the best they have ever been’. With the help of Phil Jarvis (chair of Albanwise Farming & Environment), we also explored how to maximise woodland carbon storage and also the pros and cons of tree guards.

Ian Gould from Oakbank Game & Conservation led our next section on making the most of stewardship options as long as they ‘fit in with your mindset and capabilities’. Ian reiterated the point that he hears lots of people asking how can they exploit the opportunities surrounding stewardship, but he wants to exploit it positively, not just financially. Peter then explained stewardship options he has taken advantage of on his farm and how these interact with his existing arable enterprises.

We next stepped into a crop of winter wheat where Peter explained his drill set-up, cultivations, establishment approach and areas he wished he could improve upon.

Shuttleworth Colleges’ own Anne-Marie Hamilton then took over the reins to talk us through their herd of Red Poll Cattle, grassland management and their research and experience of mechanical weeders led by one of their students.

We finally finished off back at the farm where Peter Allen discussed the differences in the establishment of various crops he has found between his disc and tine drills and how he has adjusted them to improve his establishment rate. Phil Jarvis and our new Society Vice-Chairman, James Parrish, then thanked everyone for their attendance and participation.

Then for the element that a lot of people had been looking forward to…food! Thank you very much to local caterers, Boss Hog Roasts for an excellent buffet and it was great to sit down for some networking time for our attendees.

Thank you very much to Peter Allen for hosting us, our speakers Phil Jarvis, Jonny Ball, Ian Gould and Anne-Marie Hamilton, and Shuttleworth College for letting us use Kingshill Farm as our base.

It was also great to have all of our Marshal Papworth short-course students in attendance asking several thought-provoking questions and spending plenty of time chatting with our other delegates.