‘Soil regeneration on a sheep and tillage farm’. Join us for our next #Askthefarmer Q&A with Graham Harris on Tuesday 5th July at 8pm.
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Graham Harris took over the family farm in 2003 and continued to farm the land conventionally until about 5 years ago. Since then, he has been gradually moving away from intensive systems towards holistic, regenerative practices. Guided by biodynamic principles, Graham has been focusing on “removing as many harmful practices from his farming system as possible”. The farm is now certified organic. In order to bring the land back into balance, huge focus has been on rebuilding the soil microbiology – “I firmly believe if I can get the soil right, then I don’t have to worry about much else.”
The 170-acre farm is comprised of a mixed sheep and tillage enterprise. Cereals produced include organic oats, along with pea and barley combi-crops for animal feed. Graham uses a diverse variety of cover crops on the land throughout rotations – “incorporating cover crops that feed the soil and feed the pollinators.” Aiming to move away from mono-cropping, Graham has started experimenting with growing an understory of clover with the oat crops. Farmyard manure is composted and spread on the land as a fertilizer when necessary. Biodynamic preparations are also used on the land to regenerate the soil biology.
Graham runs a flock of 130 Belclare/Charollais ewes, producing organic spring lamb. He has incorporated herbal leys into the grassland to increase plant diversity and build soil biology. Graham produces his own hay, silage and straw for the livestock enterprise, thus reducing external inputs required on the farm and building farm resilience.
Where in the past nettles and weeds would have been sprayed, Graham now encourages wild patches of plants to grow around field boundaries which act as nature corridors and provide habitats for birds and insects. He believes that healthy, balanced soil is the foundation of the farm ecosystem and operates under the manta of “only taking as much as I need to take from the farm and leaving the rest for nature.”
More information on the Q&As here.