Groundswell 2023, a Dorset Farmer’s view

Here is the abbreviated programme, possibly a bit small to read, but perhaps you can zoom in. I have circles in red the ones I attended.

For the full programme, look here on their website:

Wednesday. Left home at 5.30am, rolled into site 140 miles later at 8.15, not a bad result, a great run through N Dorset and Wilts to the M3, suddenly into traffic, but kept moving. M25 could have been a lot worse at 7.30am. Found family campsite, was welcomed with a cuppa, then headed off into festival for first session at 9, via a bacon butty. The food stands here are an eclectic mix, from hard core steak to the fluffiest veggie stuff, via curry and who knows what else. The main bar is the Earthworm Arms, what else could it be? First talk is three farmers discussing their journey to a more regenerative style of farming, all focussed first and foremost on improving soils. Dougal gives a great account of what we’ve been trying here, from the early days of reduced cultivations as we gave up ploughing in 2002, to the importing of vast quantities of muck, digestate and biosolids. Pictures of our flowery margins, stewardship options and cover crops look good on screen. The other two farmers have interesting stories to tell, and Ian the chair for the session probes with good questions. The audience ask plenty in the final quarter.

After a tea break and a quick runaround some of the stands, it’s back to the soil tent for Neil Fuller’s session “Can we eat our way to a brighter future”. This was a hell of a romp through vast quantities of information relating to the ‘Science based target initiative’. It sounds pretty dull, but is actually a tightly focussed mechanism intended to enable consumers through their food buying decisions to influence farming methods positively. His slides were detailed and clever.

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