2nd August 2021
Date event held: 6th July 2021 Location: Shimpling Park Farm, Suffolk
Around 100 delegates joined the OF&G team and our hosts, John and Alice Pawsey on Shimpling Park Farm in Suffolk on 6 July this year.
The lower numbers than we’d usually welcome to the conference gave space for everybody to mix safely and helped us to ensure sure that all of the people who came could relax and enjoy the day.
The feedback from conference delegates has been very positive. NOCC gives everyone the chance to catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances and to learn about the latest developments in food and farming generally and organics in particular.
The day was divided as usual between talks in the morning and the guided farm walk in the afternoon.
A brief overview of the day
In the morning the talks were held in the farm’s large Grain Store.
OF&G’s Certification Manager, Stephen Clarkson welcomed everybody and gave OF&G’s thanks to hosts John and Alice Pawsey and their family and staff for their incredible hard work during the year and especially in the run up to the event.
Steve also gave apologies from our chief executive, Roger Kerr, who unfortunately couldn’t join us due to a meeting with an organic legal team and representatives of the European Commission to discuss issues relating the friction that organic businesses have been experiencing with cross border trade under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
Friend of NOCC, the respected broadcaster Charlotte Smith then took her place as conference convenor.
Charlotte began by making a point on the significance of good time keeping for the talks and with any questions from the audience.
The ambition, Charlotte said, was to get to lunch on time.
“Anyone who has been to this conference before knows that it is the best catered event in the farming calendar and so lunch is all important.”
OF&G’s business development manager, Steven Jacobs then stepped up in place of Annie Seeley from the Organic Trade Board. Annie unfortunately wasn’t able to join us as a pupil at her child’s school had received a positive C-19 test result and they were all having to self-isolate.
And so, it was for Steven to give us a brief overview of the OTB’s analysis of the organic grocery markets.
The Organic Trade Board is an independent, membership funded body that represents the whole of the organic sector.
Over 10 years the OTB ran a series of successful marketing campaigns partly funded by OTB members and with funding from the EU.
Now the UK has left the European Union the OTB is focused on member-only funded campaigns. And this now includes non-food.
From an online survey of 4343 adults in Great Britain conducted on 7th-9th April 2021
· 4 out of 10 people value food more since the pandemic
· 5 out of 10 people noticed cleaner air
· 3 out of 10 people noticed more wildlife
· Over a third of Millennials are more likely to buy organic than before Covid-19
· Over two thirds of Brits don’t regularly buy organic but would consider swapping items into their shop for Organic September
· Over half (51%) of Brits said organic means ‘better for environment’ to them
Additional data -
· Soil Association Organic Market report (SA OMR) and Organic Trade Board (OTB) Grocery Perspective report shows a growth of 12.6% and 14.1% respectively in organic spending.
· The organic category has grown consistently for the last few years and was worth £2.79bn in 2020
The Go Organic campaign is online at https://goorganicuk.com/
The OTB are online at https://www.organictradeboard.co.uk/
Charlotte then introduced Henrietta Inman of the the bakery at Wakelyns Organic Agroforestry farm.
Henrietta spoke about the importance of where the ingredients she uses come from and how they were produced.
“In our bakery we make use of all the produce from the crop and tree alleys. On today's menu we want to tell the story of Wakelyns, of Martin and Anne Wolfe and what they created there and what's continuing to evolve now thanks to their sons David and Toby Wolfe.
We want to celebrate the YQ - the Organic Research Centre Populations wheat, and the agroforestry, both of their vast diversity, resilience and productivity and total beauty and we hope that you see that in today's food”.
“And it's really wonderful to be here on an agroforestry farm as well and for you to see all of that this afternoon.”
Economics the Landowner's perspective;
Organics, Tenancies and New Farm Payment Schemes
Mark Russell is a Land Agent with Carter Jonas. Mark leads on the partnership’s thinking on Natural Capital with a focus on monetising the opportunities for clients including Carbon Trading and Biodiversity Net Gain.
Mark began his talk by explaining, “This talk comes from a conversation that was set by Steven, with John as well, which was to do with how the organic industry can encourage people like me in the land agency side of advice to bring organic farming more into our clients' minds and their mindsets and be open to organic farming on their land.”
Mark looked at the tender process with price ranges, rent review periods, and the farm cropping plan which as Mark said, “I think that is where you as organic farmers can bring something to the party, because you can be coming with alternative proposals and alternative markets which can show a premium. And that can go across Farm Business Tenancies and Contract Farm Arrangements.”
But the main theme Mark wanted to develop, “the confidence that the landowner will have in delivery on the farm.”
How organics is seen in the landowners market.
Mark Russell, “This is where I hope most of you will disagree with me, particularly John, but organics is still seen and perceived as a type of farming that is going to increase the weed burden on a parcel of land.”
Mark went on to suggest that highlighting good examples of where weed control is successful and where gross margin increases are in evidence are critical to giving FBTs and CFAs the solidity needed to assure landowners that organic farming businesses can deliver positive returns financially as well as ecologically.
“Partnerships with other organic farmers within an area or even just a little bit further away confidence so that you can grow the confidence that you can deliver over a reasonably long period of time.
Because again you know our clients know that the most costly thing around the process is the setting up of the arrangement.
“Landowners don't want to be setting up a new Farm Business Tenancy every year, they certainly don't want to be changing contract farmers every other year. They want confidence that if they go down that route it's going to last for five-to-ten years and that frankly they don't have to pay us to do that work.”
Farm-based organic variety trials network
Two years ago at NOCC19 in East Yorkshire Dr Ambrogio Costanzo presented what this project was aiming for. And now they have the first set of results.
It came after a long discussion with official variety testing systems about the importance of doing variety testing for organic. And also trying to understand how to do them well.
“This is a collective experiment among a network of farmers. Varieties are the interface between two systems including two business models that diverge quite a bit. On one side the farms, each one is unique with own management and environment.
On the other side is the breeders who produce the variety. While each farm ideally would have their own varieties that is not practical for the breeders.
What we're trying to do in this project is to bring together the genetics, the environment and the management all at the same time.”
The data showed differences in weed suppressive ability, with a strong link between Nitrogen Use Efficiency and competitiveness against weeds.
For instance hoeing reduces weed pressure and also mobilises nitrogen for the crop and not for the weeds. One caveat is that in reducing weed pressure hoeing also reduces weed diversity. So, one weed will dominate for example with wild oats. A more diverse weed community will also have more balance and offer many more flowering varieties.
While there is a necessary focus in the wider agricultural community on Nitrogen Use Efficiency and with artificial inputs being withdrawn including ammonium nitrate as fertiliser but also chemical herbicides then this level of research can help to inform future policy.
Crop breeding must, therefore, take into account traits such as weed suppression. Organic farming then is at the heart of the debate with a fresh look and new knowledge on crop variety breeding in no or low input farming systems.
Also note - LiveWheat at Green Acres Farm 2020
Next was a Question and Answer session with a panel of contributors:
John Pawsey – (our host farmer)
Sue Walker – Relationship manager at Triodos Bank
Richard Gantlett – (farmer at Yatesbury House Farm, Wiltshire)
Josiah Meldrum – co-founder of food business, Hodemdods British Wholefoods
Janet Hughes – Programme Director for Defra’s Future Farming and Countryside Programme
During the next forty minutes discussion topics ranged across the economics of farming, a detailed discussion around new farming schemes, what agricultural approaches will help face the challenges presented to us by the climate crisis and the poositive effect of collaborative activity, with farmers and between government departments.
Janet Hughes outlined the Future Farming programme.
She spoke about their ambition “..these two outcomes of a prosperous resilient sector and better environment, climate and animal welfare outcomes. We think you can't have one without the other over the long term. Everything we do we're trying to support both of those things at the same time.”
Calling on Janet Hughes Josiah Meldrum said, “I think it's really important and we really do need that engagement across the network of supply but also with other government departments.
“And I wonder how much you're going into other departments, into health or into education and saying this is what's happening with food and farming how does your policy framework fit in with that to help us make this change happen.”
Janet replied, "It is such a good question. And it's so hard to do in government because government is massive and we're all trying to do our thing. Everything your incentivised to do really when you're delivering a programme like mine is to look into the programme and look at what you've got to deliver and get on with it. And I really try to not do that, and look out as much as I look in, and encourage colleagues do the same.
"We talk to Housing Communities and Local Government about the relationship between what we're doing and planning and housing development.
"We don't talk to health as much as perhaps we could, we talk to education sometimes, again not as much as we could. The interaction there is about colleges and what's on the syllabus. And we talk to BEIS, the Business Energy and Innovation department because they have overall responsibility for climate change and we have to fit in with that strategy."
Charlotte asked that with the new National Food Strategy... “Will that be a kick up the backside for talking to other departments?”
Janet said, “I'm not a politician so I can't speak politically, and it is up to Government to respond. But like I say it's difficult, it's difficult to join up, it's difficult to do that when you're under pressure to deliver things on time. Not to say that we don’t, and we do try to do it.
“It has been a really valuable process, the Food Strategy. The way that Henry Dimbleby has approached it has been quite collaborative and we've had conversations all the way through what this might mean for the programme that I'm leading and the relationship with other things. The whole process has helped us to come together and think about these issues in a much broader way which is what we need to do.”
OF&G's Statement on the National Food Strategy - https://ofgorganic.org/news/national-food-strategy-of-g-statement
Organic dairy farmer Adam Westaway, speaking on behalf of the NFU Organic Forum asked a question of Janet on how organic farmers would best work with farming rules for water, considering the way the Environment Agency are applying the rules regarding autumn application of manures.
In Janet's respense she said, "The reason in my programme we have regulation and enforcement sitting alongside productivity alongside schemes is because what we're trying to do, for the first time I think, is to join those things up in a coherent way.
"So that you're not being told by one set of rules to do one thing and then by a scheme to do something different.
"That is quite a tricky thing to pull off. But one of the particular issues we're looking at is nutrient management – so we can see across the range of policy and interventions are we setting the right rules, are we enforcing them in the right way are we communicating them in the right way, are we incentivising the right behaviours."
Organic farmer Richard Gantlett went on to describe some of the issues that have changed British farming over recent decades, and how there is now an urgent need to put those in the context of our changing climate.
"The price of straw has been over a hundred pounds a tonne. It's putting the value of carbon where it needs to be for the future. We have devalued carbon in the past, now we're realising the value of carbon.
"But it has unintended consequences with more straw in the west more arable in the east. There's been a transit of straw from the east to the west held up by high prices.
"It really concerns me the impact that's going to have on dairy farmers. They're going to want to produce more slurry because the price of straw is going higher and higher. The impact on pollution, soil quality and on farm profitability for dairy farmers in the west is going to be enormous.
"Although I encourage the rising price of carbon, it really concerns me that farm specialisation has led to this conflict. And how we resolve that. Clearly organic farmers, like me and John have become more mixed farms. We understand the value of having a mixed farm."
Sue Walker from Triodos Bank spoke about how the bank looks at farm business accounts with the perspective of several years at a time,
“Every year creates a challenge in farming and in banking. You can never look at one year in isolation. We always have to look at five years. Looking at budgets now we are thinking about ELMS. And we’re asking our clients to do the same, to really think about what opportunities are available, to diversify their income.
"As a bank we’re looking at our lending book becoming net zero by 2030.
"That means looking at things that aren’t just farming but also have a positive impact on the environment".
Sue highlighted the need also to educate and to inform,
"Rewilding was mentioned earlier but also with public goods is public engagement to help the public have a better understanding.”
The NOCC 2021 Farm Walk
After a very good lunch everybody gathered in the courtyard and joined one of four groups and headed out to different parts of the farm. As we do every year, with an in-person event, each group rotates around the circuit so that everybody gets a chance to hear from each of our farm walk speakers.
2. Soil Health Score Cards - Dr Elizabeth Stockdale (NIAB)
3. Agroforestry - Jonny Ball - Woodland Trust
4. Machinery - John Pawsey
Early elevenses! from Wakelyns Bakery
Coffee from Aspro Sierra Cooperative, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Coop
Lost Malawi English Breakfast Tea from Rare Tea Company
Fen Farm Dairy raw milk and FlOat oat milk
Summer herb infusion of mint, lemon balm and fennel
Wakelyns elderflower cordial
Agroforestry tartlets with Wakelyns wholegrain YQ population wheat pastry and preserves made with fruit from the tree lines – tree line 43 Vranja quince jam; tree line 16 Victoria plum jam; trees and hedgerows jam with apple, pear and blackberry, served on Wakelyns sycamore
Cobnut, marigold and rhubarb cakes
Cheese and onion Wakelyns wholegrain YQ population wheat bread with Baron Bigod and St Helena cheeses and green sauce
Lunch with Lakshmi, Wakelyns Bakery and friends
Ann Wolfe’s rose fizz
Shimpling Farm mutton and summer herb kebabs
Wakelyns wholegrain YQ population wheat sourdough naan
Wakelyns coral lentil and fava bean dal makhani
Naked oat pilau
East Anglian summer leaf and fennel salad with apple vinaigrette
Bombay Mix with yellow pea flour, camelina seeds, roasted green peas and walnuts
Wakelyns plum chutney with dried Mirabelles and Damsons from tree line 41
Pickled kohlrabi with garlic scapes
Wakelyns YQ population wheat straw and rye fermented damsons
Cow’s curd cake with cherry and fig leaf jam
Afternoon tea with Halima and Wakelyns Bakery
Rare Afternoon Tea
Wakelyns nettle and dandelion tea
Fen Farm Dairy raw milk and FlOat oat milk
Turkish King’s cake with YQ breadcrumbs, Wakelyns walnuts and candied quince
Italian chocolate ‘chestnut’ cake with buckwheat, mascarpone and quinoa puff chocolate pieces
Sarawak cinnamon, barley and Olands wheat cake with lots of Wakleyns apples, Summer Gold Pippin, Egremont Russet, Bloody Ploughman, Ashmead’s Kernel, Discovery, Orange Goff, from Home and Water Fields
Farmers, growers, cheesemakers, millers, craftsmen, artists, bakers and cooks
Coffee from Aspro Sierra Cooperative, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Coop
Lost Malawi English breakfast tea and Rare Afternoon Tea from Rare Tea Company
Raw milk, butter, Baron Bigod brie, Skyr yoghurt and mascarpone, Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore, Fen Farm Dairy, Bungay, Suffolk
Elderflower cordial, Ann Wolfe’s rose fizz and tea infusions made with herbs, nettles, dandelions and elderflowers from Wakelyns and an old pink rose planted by Ann in the Wakelyns farmhouse garden
Herbs, summer leaves and other vegetables from producers all over East Anglia –
- RealVeg CSA, Holly, Chloe and Rachel, a new enterprise in Home Field at Wakelyns, with one alley that is soon to be three!
- Wakelyns polytunnel and herb garden looked after my Amanda, Marion and Jayne
- Bess and Jenny, growers at Maple Farm Kelsale, Suffolk
- Ben, Femke and Lughan, baker, miller and growers at Fellows Farm, Suffolk
- Tyler, grower at Dynamic Organics, Barton, Cambridge
- Sarah on her allotment in Essex, with rhubarb too!
Rapeseed oil, Stringer and Son’s, Yorkshire
Cobnuts, Alexander Hunt, Potash Farms, Kent
Guara almonds, Almendresa Association, Andalucia, Spain through Food and Forest, nut suppliers funding UK agroforestry
St Helena cheese and cow’s curd, Julie Cheyney at St Jude Cheese, Fen Farm Dairy, Bungay, Suffolk
Mutton, John and Alice Pawsey, Shimpling Farm, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
YQ population wheat flour, coral lentils, quince, apples, pears, plums, cherries, fig leaves, walnuts, Wakelyns Agroforestry, Suffolk
Peas, pea flour, quinoa puffs, camelina seeds from Hodmedod’s, Suffolk, grown by Adam Twine at Colleymore Farm, Oxford; Emily Addicott Sauvao at Corston Fields Farm, Somerset; Peter Fairs, Essex
Rye, Helen Holmes, Waterland Organics, Cambridge
Buckwheat, George Young, Fobbing Farms, Essex
Chocolate, Madagascar and Grenada, made at Pump Street Chocolate, Suffolk
Chris Park’s pure wildflower honey, made using natural beekeeping methods and skeps at his home apiary in Oxfordshire
Cinnamon, directly traded from Jason in Great Glemham from Pesta Nukenen, The Kelabit Highlands Food and Cultural Festival in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
Barley, Callum Wier, Wimpole Hall, Cambridge
Olands wheat, John and Guy Turner, Turners of Bytham, Grantham
Cider and perry vinegar, Robbie Crone’s, Norfolk
Wheats from the Story of Wheat plot and our mixed alley at Wakelyns, and the YQ and Q population wheats
Flowers from Wakelyns and Deborah Inman, Street Farm, Great Glemham, Suffolk
Henrietta Inman and Maisie Dyvig, cooks, bakers, growers, fruit harvesters, Wakelyns Bakery, Wakelyns
Fay Jones, artist and craftsman, The Woodland Haberdasher, Wakelyns
RealVeg CSA, Holly, Chloe and Rachel, Wakelyns
Lakshmi Yuvaraj, cook at The Wholefood Store, Essex
Lindsay Wright, cook and miller at Maple Farm Kelsale, Suffolk
Rosie Sykes, cook and author, Cambridge
Joe Gaze, cook, baker and Operations Manager at Hodmedod’s, Suffolk
Halima Hamza, trilingual interpreter, baker and graduate, of the School of Artisan Food, Nottingham
Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore, Fen Farm Dairy, Suffolk, farmers and cheesemakers
A Case Study focusing on John's business features in OF&G's Organic Arable Farming: Information for farmers considering conversion to organic production - https://assets.ofgorganic.org/tl-128-organic-arable-farming.3gwpfb.pdf