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Regenerative farming in the spotlight at Writtle

Published: 1 February 2024 at 14:02

A field of wheat

Farmer and former Groove Armada star amongst the speakers at conference

Farmers practising techniques that are kind to the environment will join leading academics to discuss the UK’s current food and farming landscape at the Writtle Farmers’ Club’s annual conference in Essex on Wednesday, 7 February.

Writtle University College, which will formally merge with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) later this month to become ARU Writtle, is a leading voice in regenerative agriculture, which is an alternative approach to farming that aims to grow food in a more restorative and sustainable way.

With a particular focus on soil health, regenerative agriculture looks to build resilient local food chains, improve ecosystems, and mitigate the impact of climate change. Writtle offers both the BSc (Hons) degrees in Agriculture (Regenerative Systems) and Agriculture (Regenerative Systems and Livestock), which were the first undergraduate degrees of their kind in the UK. 

Amongst the speakers at the Writtle Farmers’ Club’s annual conference will be Andy Cato, one half of the electronic music duo Groove Armada and the co-founder of Wildfarmed. 

Fifteen years ago, inspired by a news article about the environmental and health consequences of food production, the Grammy-nominated musician sold his rights to Groove Armada’s songs and bought a farm in France, with the aim of finding more sustainable ways of growing food. 

Now back in Britain, Andy and his Wildfarmed colleagues are on a mission to help farmers move towards soil-focused farming, and make real food grown in real soil available on the high street at affordable prices.

Andy, who is now farming as a tenant of the National Trust, said:

“In my years as a farmer, gaining first-hand experience of what an incredibly difficult and often very lonely profession it is, a key lesson was that knowledge exchange and collaboration are fundamental if we are to move towards systemic change. 

“For a long time, I’ve been immersed in the practical difficulties of farming that combines food and nature, and field to plate supply chains that can support it. So it’s fantastic to see that the dial is moving and Writtle are leading the way, both teaching and bringing together people who are trying to make a positive difference.”

Joining Andy in speaking at the conference will be no-till farming experts John and Joanna Cherry, from the host farm of the Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Festival in Hertfordshire, and Becky Mayhew, who has converted a once intensively farmed 500 acres in south Norfolk into a regenerative oasis.   

And amongst the academic voices will be Tim Lang, Emeritus Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London, and Peter Hobson, Professor in Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability at Writtle University College, which has been at the heart of the agricultural sector for over 130 years.

Conference organiser William Hudson, a Lecturer in Regenerative Agriculture at Writtle, said:

“The Writtle Farmers’ Club is for all those who care about the environment and are involved in the production of healthy, sustainable food.

“The conference will create a vision for agriculture that will be increasingly valuable for farmers seeking to produce healthy, sustainable and profitable produce.

“The conference will discuss how we can produce food with the lightest environmental footprint, how we can create a biodiverse countryside that enables all species to thrive including humans, how we can see strategies that will work for farmers for the future, and how we can all cooperate to create a resilient society.”

For more information and to book a free place at the Writtle Farmers’ Club’s 2024 conference, please visit https://writtle.ac.uk/farmers-club