Soil, compost and fire safety – a mixed bag at Stanhoe

Participants in the NNCG May workshop were treated to three different opportunities to extend their knowledge as they gathered at Church Farm, Stanhoe.

The event was hosted by Andrew Ralli and, as part of the morning’s proceedings, the gathered throng of farmers were able to see first hand how his carefully managed composting system was adding to overall soil health on the farm. Among the takeaways from the composting demonstration was the importance of temperature in the process and getting the correct ingredients to suit the needs of particular soil was also vital to getting optimum benefit from the time spent preparing and turning the mixture.

The system itself was a simple one – three wire cages, with three different mixes. The cage, which was approximately 4ft x 2ft held enough compost to serve many hundreds of acres. A small amount would be added – in a tea-bag type system – to water and then applied to the fields.

The main speaker was regenerative farming advocate and soil expert Niels Corfield. The gathered group were taken through the fundamental elements of good soil health. Corfield used the analogy of a flour and sugar mix, when butter was added. From being a dry and lifeless product, the butter added crumb and texture – much as organic matter would do to soil. He also showed videos demonstrating the speed of water infiltration into soil that had a crumbly, texture. Compared to compacted soil through which water couldn’t travel, the increased speed of infiltration and the reduction in surface run-off was incredible and had major implications for dealing with heavy storms or hard-hitting drought conditions.

Charlie Ennals gave the opening presentation as she explained how WildFarmed is working with farmers to produce crops while taking care of their soil regeneratively. A higher selling price for WildFarmed produce; a safety net for failed crops and evidence that far less need to be spent on inputs were the main three takeaways from this presentation. Two farmers in the group had current WildFarmed contracts and reported successful results so far.

The final presentation was a talk by Community Fire Safety Officer Rigil Kent of Norfolk Fire Service. Rigil outlined many preventative measures that farmers could take to lessen the risk of rapidly spreading wild fires. Green margins, beetle banks to provide fire breaks, having bowsers of water and tractors with cultivators at the ready, avoiding combining when it is too hot – these were some of the practical measures. Kent also suggested that farmers create WhatsApp groups with their neighbours to set up an early warning system for any fires. And he asked that all farmers installed a fire information box in an easy to reach place. This should contain information regarding electrical points on the farm, chemical stores, water supplies and emergency procedures – such as where to move livestock in the event of a fire.

For more information on Fire Safety on the Farm, click here.