Monday, 4 November 2013

Fossil-fuel Free Farming at Bicton: A model farm for the next generation

Further to the presentation given at the recent Science Festival
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Science Festival: fossil-fuel free farming: Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th October
Futures Forum: Fossil Free Farming: F3 at the Sidmouth Science Festival: the presentation
here is a further report about the Fossil-fuel Free Farming project at Bicton - led by Farm Manager Paul Redmore:

A model farm for the next generation

Date Posted: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
A model farm for the next generation
At a conference organised by Bicton College at its EaRTH Centre last week, over 100 scientists, agricultural professionals, councillors and representatives from a range of businesses heard from a number of speakers from different backgrounds and experiences, examining ways of reducing fossil-fuel use on the farm.  Having recently partnered with Dartington Hall Trust, Bicton College is positioning itself at the forefront of renewable energy technology for farms. 
Opening the conference were three of Bicton’s foundation degree students, Matt Holmes, Matthew Stone and Julian Taylor, who will themselves be farmers of the future.  Matt explained:  “I’m excited about the next 20 years in the agriculture industry. Some big changes are going to be happening, but with the help of projects such as F3 it’s going to be for the better.”   David Henley, Principal at Bicton College agreed:  “What we have here in terms of the F3 farming model, and the wider system approach that we are going to take I think is a unique approach in this country with a group of collaborators that will work powerfully together. We are delighted that so many people came, so many really important people, both stakeholders and influencers in the industry. We intend to stay in conversation with them and develop and build that collaboration as we go forward.”
Building on work started by Nick Cooper’s Challenge Fund project and Jody and Clare Scheckter’s vision at Laverstoke Park Farm, the catalyst for Bicton’s involvement came when Dartington Hall carried out a Land Use Review which prompted a search for a farm tenant who would re-energise the Trust’s great traditions in the exploration and development of innovative farming systems.  At the conference, Vaughan Lindsay, Chief Executive of Dartington Hall, praised the Bicton staff’s “passion to learn” and sees this as a perfect partnership. 
Work on the Parsonage Farm at Dartington, the subject of the Fossil Fuel Free Farming Project, will start when the tenancy begins in Autumn 2014.    Paul Redmore, the farm manager at Bicton who is overseeing the scheme explained: “We need to get serious and to experiment and keep on experimenting.  We need to set unrealistic targets to lead to innovation and problem solving.”  Jane Townsend, Deputy Principal said that new staff would be employed on the project as it developed, and local schools in the Totnes and South Devon area were already becoming involved. 
Professor Michael Winter, rural policy specialist and rural social scientist at Exeter University, keynote speaker at the conference called for a serious debate at national level to decide on the future of GM crops. He said:  “Farming cannot go back to being totally fossil-fuel free but we must look at more efficient machinery and perennial cropping to reduce tillage costs.”  At the end of the conference Professor Winter commented:  “It has been a tremendous day, very exciting to see what both Dartington and Bicton have got planned. It’s a challenge for all of us to reduce farming’s dependency on fossil fuels, so it’s the right partnership at the right time, and I wish the partnership the best of luck.”
A model farm for the next generation | Bicton College
Bicton Home Farm | Bicton College

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