I'm never quite sure when we stop saying Happy New Year to each other, but the wheels haven't completely fallen off this year yet so: Happy New Year to you all.
January is a quiet enough month for most farmers and it's the same here. We've still got a mob of 100 dry cows out at grass, which is the latest we've ever managed. I like to think it is brilliant planning and a side-effect of our mob-grazing regime that we've managed to stockpile a wedge of grazing in front of them. They do look happy, but we'll soon be bringing them in, otherwise we will compromise the fields we've set aside for early spring grazing. The ground is wet here now, but moving the mob daily and back-fencing, so they don't roam about too much, has resulted in minimal soil damage. And a great saving in the amount of straw and silage that we'd have used...
This is the kind of thinking that Groundswell fosters, we're producing healthy animals more cheaply. Really, what's not to like? We will be discussing the arable version of this at the Conference, with benchmarking figures from no-till farms which we hope will show just how much farmers can shave off their 'fixed' costs. When so many farmers are struggling to make any money, it is nice to see how you can show a profit at the same time as improving your land.
We nipped across to Oxford at the beginning of the month, to see what was going on at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. First up there was Michael Gove talking about no-till, the soil, natural capital and stewardship. He even suggested that Defra should be linked to the NHS, as healthy food is the best medicine. It is so refreshing to have a bright politician in that position. Here's hoping he still has the job come June and we aim to nurture political thinking at Groundswell 2018. We gather too, that Defra is recruiting the cleverest and most ambitious civil servants at the moment, as they all want to be part of restructuring a broken system (agricultural policy) that has effectively been off the menu since 1946.
We are busy coordinating plans and you should already have 27th and 28th June in the diary for Groundswell 2018 (tickets will go on sale 11th March). We welcome your thoughts on how to make the ground well and we are inspired by the groundswell of innovative farmers, sharing ideas and techniques to make this happen.
John Cherry, Host Farmer