Innovative Farmers is supported by the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund, and in that capacity, the former HRH Duke of Cornwall was welcomed by CEO Helen Browning and introduced to field lab participants and researchers, as well as members of the Soil Association’s farming and land use team.
Undertaking his official cake-cutting duties with good humour, the former Prince of Wales asked if he could make a short speech about his visit. He said he was “very proud” to have been able to support Innovative Farmers and that the event was a “wonderful opportunity” to see so many people doing “remarkable things all over the country”.
Farmers, researchers and practitioners enjoyed sessions ranging in subjects – from herbal leys and mob grazing, agroforestry and silvopasture, to reducing antibiotic use on dairy farms and holistic worm management. Representatives from Farm Net Zero, Rothamsted Research, Organic Research Centre, Royal Veterinary College and Riverford Organic Farmers led and participated in sessions.
Robert Dunn, Agroecological researcher from Rothamsted Research is working on the Innovative Farmers silvopasture trial in Devon. “Because I work for a research institute, we would normally go to farmers and say, ‘would you like to be involved in a trial?’, and this one has been the exact opposite. We were the last people to be included, so we know the people involved are really committed. They’re the ones that have stepped forward and have volunteered to have the trees planted on their farms, which is quite a brave decision. To come at it from that direction makes it really interesting” he said.
Edward Scott, Assistant Harvest Manager from Riverford Organic Farmers said “Innovative Farmers has been brilliant at connecting farmers and researchers, and giving farmers the confidence to try new things, and to do it in an organised manner. It’s about not being afraid of failure – an unsuccessful trial still teaches you so much.”
Daniel Kindred, Head of Agronomics, ADAS said “Innovative Farmers has really put the idea of farmer-centric, on-farm experimentation on the map. When we started talking to Innovative Farmers six or so years ago, we realised we had a shared vision for a way to generate and share knowledge, and that so much of the innovation that matters comes from farmers - those closest to the ground. Combining this with other processes has led us to develop Farm PEP (Performance Enhancement Platform). We wouldn’t be where we are had we not had those initial conversations”.
Field lab participant James Alexander says he’s loves being part of the Innovative Farmers network because “it brings like-minded people together. We’re all interested in the same type of trials so we can feed off each other and gain a lot of information more quickly - we can essentially do multiple year’s work in one year.”
The day was made especially enjoyable thanks to the hospitality of Pip and Matt Smith of Trefrank Farm, Launceston. Thanks also to the Waitrose and Partners team for their support on the day and their partnership over the last decade.