Richard farms 800 acres with his family in County Durham - 500 acres are sown to arable crops, the rest woodland and permanent pasture. Richard has a 140-head pedigree herd of Limousin cattle. The cattle are fed on grass, silage and a cereal ration of which is 98% homegrown. They sell meat from the farm and via farmers markets. The family also has a large free-range egg unit from which the hen 'muck' has helped to cut artificial fertiliser use. Richard aims to stop using fertiliser altogether in the near future, uses no insecticides and hopes to stop using any fungicides.
Richard's farm biodiversity
Since adopting conservation agriculture techniques on the farm, we have noticed other benefits such as seeing birds in the middle of the fields rather than just round the edges. The stubbles seem to be ideal for grey partridge. We have just found out that we have been accepted for the 5 year Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship scheme - which means that we will use a wild bird seed mix on some of the poorer land - good for the birds but also for the soil as the plant roots will help improve the structure.
My route into conservation agriculture really started through buying a strip drill and being focused on looking after the soil. I joined BASE UK and things really developed from there - I met a guy called Steve Townsend (soil advisor) in 2011, did 99% of what he suggested and it worked! And have really expanded from there.
For me, looking after your soil is number one priority. I want to reduce usage of nitrogen fertiliser (which I see as in essence poisoning the soil), and I want to increase the mycorrhizae in the soil. I want to grow cover crops that act as fertilisers, smother weeds, and allow mycorrhizae to attach. I also want to be as efficient as possible - we are aiming to be self-sufficient in every aspect of the farm.
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