SWFC’s Anthony Ellis looks back at Groundswell 2021: arguably the most pioneering — and important — event on the UK farming calendar today
For some, it was a chance to get away from the farm for a couple of days and to catch up with friends; for others, a chance to check out the latest technological offerings from some of the biggest manufacturers.
But for everyone, Groundswell 2021: The Regenerative Agriculture Show and Conference was an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere at an event that has become synonymous with positive change in agriculture, and a relaxed atmosphere that encourages open and honest knowledge exchange.
Welcome to Groundswell
A ground-breaking event
With almost 100 speakers, dozens of trade stands, practical demonstrations and the best food and craft beer British farming can offer, it was a struggle to fit everything into the two days. The focus on soil, plant, animal and human health through improved management were themes that really strike a chord with us at SWFC.
Speakers and audience at Groundswell 2021
Particular highlights for me included the “What is the Future of Agronomy?” session. The impending loss of BPS and a move towards alternative funding streams means agronomists are likely going to have to work harder to justify their costs and contribution to farming businesses. Agronomists are likely to become key conduits of information and facilitators of effective change on-farm, and both grower and agronomist should be willing to engage with each other in discussion over new, old and challenging practices. It’s an exciting time in the industry and both growers and agronomists shouldn’t forget how the dictionary defines their role: “An agronomist, or crop scientist, studies plants and how they can be grown, modified, and used to benefit society. They use science to carry out experiments that create new techniques for agriculture production. Agronomy has existed and been important for humans since the invention of farming.”
“The Possibilities of Organic No-Till” with John Pawsey was another inspirational session, taking us all on a journey with a man who isn’t afraid of trying something that ‘conventional’ wisdom tells us is impossible. John has decided it is “possible” and has set about finding the system and tools that work towards this end. His frank and honest discussion about his own successes and failures was a breath of fresh air and proves that, with the right rotation and attention to detail, the ‘Holy Grail’ of regenerative agriculture is indeed achievable.
‘Networking’ seems such an odd term for our industry but the opportunity to meet and chat with some really inspiring people is one of the biggest attractions and benefits of Groundswell. One such pair was Catherine Chong and Cathy St Germans, who together helped to launch CLEAR – the Consortium for Labelling for Environment, Animal welfare and Regenerative farming, a new campaign for a food labelling system that clearly identifies the manner in which our food is produced, supported by a consortium of over 40 farming, food, animal welfare, environmental, social civic societies and businesses representing a diverse range of ecological, social, and governance interests and expertise — including our friends at PFLA. Not just where food was produced and its nutritional content, but also the system of production used. It was great to meet people so passionate about trying to improve the flow of information, giving consumers the opportunity to make informed choices when purchasing food. We wish them the best of luck in their campaign.
It was also great to catch up with Jeremy Gibbs (ex-Harper) who started the Forces Farming initiative a few years ago. He works really hard to integrate and guide ex-forces personnel into agricultural and rural careers. The industry can be a bit of a daunting place to transition into but Forces Farming aims to give ex-forces personnel the knowledge and experience to be able to apply for a rural job with confidence. We wish him — and everyone involved — the best of luck.
We also had a few beers with several existing clients and spoke to many farmers who were interested in our range of services.
Missed out? Watch again!
Much to their credit, the Groundswell team has already made several of the keynote sessions available on their YouTube page. Click on the link below and look for the ‘videos’ option at the top of the page.
Click here to visit the Groundswell Agriculture event website
If you haven’t been before, we’d highly recommend taking the time out to attend this hugely inspirational and truly pioneering event. We’re already looking forward to Groundswell 2022… maybe see you there!