Our farming methods

Farm management to preserve wildlife and land for the benefit of future generations

Farming, by its very nature influences the surrounding environment and in turn is greatly influenced by it. We consider part of our role as farmers is to be caretakers of the land and environment in which we work every day of the year. We believe responsible farming practices should work alongside nature to protect and preserve it for future generations, whilst maintaining productivity.

Read on to learn about how the decisions we make about our 1250 acres of farmland are taken with care. We understand how our methods impact nature and the environment, whilst appreciating the fine balance that exists between sustainable food production and the preservation of natural resources for future generations.

Conservation tillage improves soils and captures carbon

Growing crops requires manipulating the soil. Our farming methods use minimum or conservation tillage, whereby the aim is to manipulate the soil as little as possible to allow a successful crop to grow, but fundamentally to preserve soil quality, reduce erosion, fuel usage and carbon emissions.

'Reduced tillage intensity is one of the key components of conservation agricultural systems promoted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to conserve, improve and make more efficient use of natural resources.'

'To Plough or not to plough' Soil Association Briefing, November 2018

Conservation tillage results in an increase in the earthworm population. These amazing little workers act like natures plough, moving soil and converting plant debris into fertile topsoil, improving the soil structure and drainage for successful plant/crop growth. We have been using minimum tillage methods for over 15 years now and the soils on our farms are healthy, with good structure and full of earthworms and other fauna. This help crops grow successfully and of course provides food for wild birds and other mammals. 

Research shows evidence that minimum tillage increases soil carbon sequestration (storage) in soils compared to conventional tillage (ploughing) methods (Yuan Li et al 2020). An important consideration when considering intensive farming and possible effects on climate change.

In the late 1800’s Darwin established through experimentation that approximately 54,000 earthworms inhabit 1 acre of land and they will turn over 15 tons of soil per acre each year in a process called ‘bioturbation’.

'It may be doubted whether there are any other animals which have played such a part in the history of the world as have these lowly, organised creatures.' Darwin 1881

References;

https://www.soilassociation.org/media/17472/to-plough-or-not-to-plough-policy-briefing.pdf

Yan Li et al (2020), Residue retention promotes soil carbon acculmulation in minimum tillage systems:Implications for conservation agriculture. Science of the Total Environment. Volume 740, 20th October 2020 140147.

Darwin. C (1881). The formation of Vegetable Mould Through the action of Worms, with observations on worms (Worms).

Cover crops improve soil structure, provide habitats and food

We use cover crops as part of our soil management strategy on our farms. Grown in between the harvesting one crop and the planting of the next crop, they are grown not for the purpose of harvesting a crop, but to improve soil quality and productivity. The benefits are far reaching; 

Acres of dense flowering vegetation provide habitats, food and shelter for wild birds, mammals, insects and many different pollinators.

Fresh organic matter is returned to the soil because these crops are not taken away as a ‘harvested’ crop. This acts as a ‘green manure’, increases carbon sequestration, increases soil organism population (biota)  and reduces soil erosion.

References;

https://www.agrii.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Cover-Crops-Technical-Guide.pdf

Soil conservation Practices. R.L.Baumhardt, H. Blanco-Canqui, in Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 2014

Nearly 7 miles of hedgerows provide food and habitats

After World War II miles of hedgerow were removed form farmland to create larger fields for food production. In some areas of the UK up to 50% may have disappeared, with much more managed badly and unable to support the wildlife that they should. With renewed focus on the importance of hedgerows farmers have planted 50,000km since the 1990’s (ref. NFU fact file; farming and the environment) . 

There may be up to 2070 different species in just one 85m stretch (ref. nbn.org))and hedgerows reduce air pollution and soil erosion, help with flooding and store carbon.

We have planted miles of native species hedgerow on our farms over the last 15 years, replacing hedges that once stood but had been removed. Creating continuous thick hedgerows that can support diverse wildlife populations.

Now, nearly 7 miles (6.9miles) of hedgerows stretch throughout our farms. We manage them correctly to provide food, breeding habitats and shelter for birds and animals. 

Berries are a valuable food source in the colder months for wildlife, they only form on the 2nd years growth on many hedgerow plants, including hawthorn. We leave significant parts untrimmed each year to allow for berries to grow.

Hedges are not trimmed during the nesting seasons to allow birds to breed successfully in peace

References;

https://nbn.org.uk/news/help-fill-the-gap-in-hedgerow-knowledge/

https://www.nfuonline.com/cross-sector/environment/wildlife/wildlife-news/factfile-farming-and-the-environment/

38 Acres dedicated to wildlife habitats and winter bird feeding stations

Historically we have left selected pieces of land uncultivated on farm for the benefit of wildlife. We have identified 38 Acres of land to provide areas for birds and wildlife to forage and take shelter.

Spread out across 1000 acres, and yet close enough for wildlife to travel between them these parcels will grow native flowering plants and grasses rather than crops for harvest. This will provide ongoing food, shelter and breeding habitats for wild birds, insects and wild animals, across our farm.

From 2021 we will bird feeding stations through the winter on our farms. 8 tonnes of bird seed is spread each year, throughout the winter months to help birds survive and remain fit enough to breed successfully in the spring. This will particularly benefit declining species such as tree sparrows and yellowhammers.

Yellow hammer sitting in a hedgerow

Solar powered farm buildings

Solar electricity panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity.

Solar PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon.When light shines on the material, electrons are knocked loose, creating a flow of electricity. The cells don’t need direct sunlight to work, they can work on a cloudy day. However, the stronger the sunshine, the more electricity generated.

We use this sun capturing technology to power all the buildings on one of our larger farms.

Safe and Responsible Farming Practices

Our farms operate to high standards. Our cereals and production premises are annually inspected and approved as ‘Red Tractor certified’

You have the assurance of traceability of our home grown grains and that safe, responsible farming practices are in place.

Giddy Gate Farm 01 PNG JUST BIRD

Relax and enjoy your garden birds.

Provide them with a quality food source, from a responsible family business.

We care about giving wild birds better chances for survival.

Love feeding your garden birds?

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