Reflections on Norfolk farming

Nikki Yoxall’s research is taking her the length and breadth of the UK. The farmer and academic, who is currently a PhD researcher at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), is meeting with farmers to get a clearer picture of how the UK’s farming sector is adapting to changes in agricultural policy. While the results are a way off publication, Nikki took time to share her reflections after a three-day whistle stop tour of Norfolk, which saw her spending time in the company of 12 famers from the region, most of whom are also members of the North Norfolk Coastal Group (NNCG)

Her are her thoughts:

I was delighted to have the opportunity to spend some time in North and West Norfolk during July to interview farmers as part of my PhD Project – Agroecological Transitions: How connection with nature influences farmer decision making. 

I spend a lot of my time with livestock farmers, mostly on upland beef and sheep farms, so time spent on East Anglian arable farms was always going to be fascinating, giving me a lot to think about not only in terms of answering my research question, but also broadening my farm knowledge horizons. 

Whilst I can’t go into the detail of outcomes from the interviews at this stage, I have been reflecting a lot on the general themes of the conversations and the obvious commitment to a sustainable agricultural future that was present on every farm I went to. The creativity in how stewardship and SFI schemes were being utilised to underpin production was so impressive, and seeing how that was woven into creating a complex, abundant and diverse agroecosystem was phenomenal. The squaring off of fields and use of production blocks surrounded or intersected by diversity strips gave me so much hope for a future agrifood system where government schemes don’t just deliver public goods, but can also enhance production spaces to create farm level benefits of healthier soil, integrated pest management and happier farmers. I’ve also never seen such impressive compost windrows! 

Everyone I spoke to was able to eloquently reflect on their farming journey up to now, seemed full of hope and optimism for the sector as whole and the positive story to be told to the public. 

A huge thank you to the farmers and land managers who took the time to walk around their land with me, answer all my questions, and most importantly share their favourite place on the farm with me – it was a joy and a privilege.