SWFC has been working with Pete Cheek at Godminster Farm in Somerset for well over 12 years
Pete Cheek is the well-known and respected farm manager at Godminster Farm, situated on the outskirts of Bruton in Somerset.
Comprising around 1,110 acres, the farm has been certified organic with the Soil Association for over 20 years. The main enterprise is a 320-head organic dairy herd, with British Friesian cows and some Normande and Short Horn. Pete likes to experiment with different breeds for the organic system and has British Friesian, Normande, Short Horn and Scandinavian Reds. The organic milk is used to produce a range of organic cheeses, sold under the award-winning Godminster brand. Liquid milk is also sold to various outlets, including the local Bruton Dairy.
SWFC’s Tom Tolputt first met Pete at a farm event in Exeter in 2010 and they got talking. Pete runs a full TMR system at Godminster and Tom initially started working to improve specific diets (including dry cows, pre-calvers, high/low lactating cows) and monitor overall herd performance to increase milk from grass, with significant success over the years.
More recently, Tom has been helping Pete to explore ways to improve overall farm sustainability and to further enhance the Godminster brand, as well as to create a more resilient farming system for the future.
Pete Cheek hosting a farm tour at Godminster Farm
Record-keeping, organic certification and stewardship
SWFC’s Anna Heaton first met Pete in the early 2000s while she was working at the Soil Association. After becoming an independent consultant, Anna began working with Pete on record-keeping systems. The farm is not only organic but also in an NVZ, so good systems to transfer records from notebooks into easy-to-follow electronic reports were needed.
Anna has also worked through numerous Countryside Stewardship applications for Godminster, from OELS to Mid Tier, and has been doing the SPS and now the BPS claim since 2012.
Improving farm resilience
Self-sufficiency is a key driving principle at Godminster and Pete is focused on growing as much cereal feed as possible on the farm. Where feed is bought in, Pete works closely with Organic Arable to source blends of UK-based cereals and beans, wherever possible, and encourage the future viability and sustainability of UK organic cereal production.
Innovation and change with a healthy respect for nature and tradition has always been at the heart of Godminster Farm.
Godminster is quite a dry farm and it’s always been very difficult to get the grazing right. In 2016, Tom and Pete started exploring options to introduce herbal leys to the farm using trial mixes from Cotswold Seeds with the primary objective of improving grazing resilience, particularly in droughty times. In the same vein, Tom has been helping Pete to develop the rotational grazing system at the farm, introducing smaller paddocks to further improve grazing resilience.
One of the herbal ley trials at Godminster Farm
According to the Godminster website, “Innovation and change with a healthy respect for nature and tradition has always been at the heart of Godminster Farm.” And that’s certainly been the case when working with Pete Cheek, who is always looking at opportunities to improve the farm system and performance while minimising the farm’s environmental impact.
Over the next couple of years, we’ll continue to work with Pete to maximise soil fertility and soil carbon sequestration, further developing the regenerative approach for the Godminster brand, alongside our ongoing support for Countryside Stewardship and BPS applications, claims and grants.
Working alongside Becky at Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit, we will give Pete and the Godminster team a much clearer idea of the overall farm carbon footprint, advise on ways to reduce this and undertake monitoring so they can clearly demonstrate the journey of improvement in soil health and organic matter at Godminster Farm.
We’ll also continue to trial different strategies, including identifying specific herbal grazing mixes to suit the land and reduced tillage systems to retain more soil nutrients and soil carbon, while measuring and monitoring the outcomes so we can really understand where the positives are and identify problem areas.
We’re here to help
At SWFC, we see consulting as a long-term process and we aim to have an ongoing relationship with all our clients. Indeed, Pete regularly visits Tom’s farm in Cornwall to share ideas and see the regenerative strategies and trials in action.
With many years of practical organic farming experience and a commitment to sustainable and regenerative farming systems, we’re the right choice. Get in touch for a no-obligation chat on 01503 220002 or send us a message on our Contact Page.