Food for thought at spring workshops

The NNCG event programme has swung into being with an informative workshop in April on alternative fertiliser, cover cropping and on-farm composting setting a high bar. The next course will focus on two distinct but equally valuable areas – soil health and fire prevention. Details are below and NNCG members are urged to sign up quickly as places are limited.

At the most recent NNCG event, attendees heard three presentations all with a similar theme – how to make our soils as healthy as possible in a sustainable way.

The event, which was held at Stephen Temples farm at Wighton, began with a demonstration of Stephen’s anaerobic digester (AD) at work. The AD plant processes manure from his herd of Swiss Brown dairy cattle, along with maize, silage and whey from the Mrs Temple Cheese making business. Stephen says the energy produced – in the form of biogas – quickly outweighed the high costs of installing the AD plant. Energy produced from the manure and waste products powers operations on the farm as well as the farm vehicles.

After the demonstration, which took place under the watchful gaze of some beautiful Swiss Brown cattle, the group moved indoors to listen to a presentation from Pawel Kisielewski, CEO of CCm Technologies.

For the past decade, CCm has been trialling the transformation of industrial and agricultural waste into fertiliser. As more than one attendee said as they left the meeting: ‘This sounds almost too good to be true.’ Certainly, the results so far look good, with the major problem being the capacity to produce as much as is required. A fuller report on CCm and its operation can be read here:

The third presentation was by Ian Gould, co-owner of Oakbank Game and Conservation. His talk explained the immense value of cover crops within an arable farm, in terms of soil health, biodiversity and habitat for species. While Ian explained that there was still a lot of work to be done relating to how cover crops impact soil health, the research was beginning to yield answers. One point Ian was keen to make was that there was no one size fits all. What might work on one farm could prove to be a nightmare on another farm, so it is best to talk to an expert and get tailor-made advice.

Anyone wishing to talk to Ian about the most suitable cover crops for their land and their ambitions to increase biodiversity across their farm can contact him here.

The next event will take place on 11 May at Andrew Ralli’s farm in Stanhoe. The event starts at 9am and finishes at 1pm. Over the course of the morning the group will hear from Charlie Ennals and Andrew about the work being done on Andrew’s farm as well as information about WildFarmed standards and community. This will be followed by a presentation by soil health expert Niels Corfield.

After a quick break, during which participants can discuss issues and questions with Neils and Charlie, there will be a farm walk with Neils and Andrew offering the opportunity to see the different methods of farming in operation. (Andrew has been experimenting with different methods of farming to boost soil biology and overall soil health alongside Nick Padwick and Andy Cooper and is currently growing wheat for Wildfarmed).

When we return back to the farm we will be joined by Rigil Kent of Norfolk Fire Service who will be giving out some practical and potentially invaluable advice on preventing fires this summer.

The day’s schedule
9:00 – Sign in, teas & coffees
9:30 – Charlie Ennals Introduction – Introduce Andrew Ralli and explain about Wild Farmed standards & community
9:50 – Niels Corfield presentation
11am – Quick break
11:10 – Farm walk with Andrew to talk about various projects and look at machinery. Niels Corfield will be doing a practical session in the field
12:30 Back to the yard for presentation on fire safety
13:00 Finish/networking

If you would like to join this course please contact NNCG on sarah@nncg.org.uk – spaces are limited so booking your place is essential.