Wishing our members and associates a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

As 2023 draws to a close, we reflect on a busy year and look forward to the future. David sums it up nicely below:

This is a brief note to thank you all for your support during the year and to take stock of where we are as a group and the direction of travel. I will not dwell for long on the past year, but I hope you will feel it has been successful. However, as my old school reports always said the boy could do better and following those words we will try harder next year!

Firstly, our activities have covered a wide range of subjects, including soil health, carbon sequestration, and new income streams such as Biodiversity Net Gain and Carbon Storage.

Much of this is new but sitting back and watching the single farm payment disappear with no action would be disastrous for many of us, so we need to learn all we can about these new options.

During the year we have seen the 2nd Phase of the North Norfolk Biodiversity Audit concluded and, if you have read it, you will have found some interesting facts and strong pointers for us to follow. For those of you that have not seen the final copy it is an easy read in a digital format. Do check it out here. It has been a pleasure working with Professor Paul Dolman and his team, and I hope that through the course of this coming year we can visit some of the outcomes of the report and put some suggestions into place.

One outcome will be the opportunity to taker a closer look at cultivated margins as highlighted in the report. Emily Swan of Natural England has kindly agreed to present a better understanding of this at a Workshop (date to follow).

More recently we have embarked on highlighting different interpretations of Regenerative Farming. We have one more meeting in this series planned on the 8th of February and then we will focus on other matters. But for those interested in this subject there will be subgroups where members can learn from one another. We have currently set up a composting group and others will follow as interest from group members dictates.

We have looked at mapping and the ability to map not just farm basics such as cropping but also biodiversity, nutrients, Carbon and other diversification opportunities. We will continue with this through our work with LandApp and others to improve the service to our members.

For those in the catchments of the rivers Glaven, Stiffkey, Burn and Hun we have the Landscape Recovery Pilot taking shape. We will update you with progress on this early in the new year. We are working closely with the Norfolk Rivers Trust and National Landscapes on the project.

As well as the Compost subgroup, the NNCG provided the building blocks for a Women That Farm group. This group, which currently has about 20 members, plans to meet regularly to discuss some of the issues around farming. At the most recent meeting, the group discussed the use of social media to promote farm businesses.

As farmers, we know the huge advantages of being able to share thoughts and ideas with our neighbours. We hope that our cluster group facilitates these interactions between neighbours. We are extending this principle to neighbouring cluster groups. We have already shared meetings with the Upper Wensum Group and one of my colleagues Sarah Juggins is now facilitating the new River Mun Group, so there is the opportunity for inter-group work there too. I currently chair the association of Norfolk and Suffolk Groups and we meet once a quarter to compare notes and assist one another. This also allows us to compare activities and business models and gives a real presence in that we cover collectively in excess of 350,000 hectares.

So, what is planned in 2024?

The Water for Wildlife project will be looking at ponds that have disappeared over time and examining how we can improve the ecology of our irrigation reservoirs in a safe and practical way as they have the potential for much more biodiversity. More to follow on this!

A practical day highlighting AI and Robotic Functions and Alternative Energy Sources. We would welcome contacts to help put this together!

A workshop looking at the establishment and management of Cultivated Margins and why they bring more diversity than some other alternative margins.
If anyone has further ideas for talks/workshops or small sub-groups, please do drop us a line and we will look at ways to make that happen.

Before we sign off, a few thank yous. Firstly to our Steering Group. This small group, which represents the larger NNCG, meets on a quarterly basis to discuss the direction of travel for the group. Our programme of activities, line-up of speakers and, quite often, the venues we meet at are all discussed, challenged and agreed at these meetings.

We also would like to thank our supporters and associates. This year we have been lucky enough to receive sponsorship from a number of companies that are willing to align themselves with the NNCG and its principles. We also receive on-going support from the many organisations that work with the farmed landscape – Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Rivers Trust, Natural England, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and many others. Returning to an earlier point, there are real benefits to such collaborations and we are very grateful to all our associate members and supportive friends.

And so to the true message within this newsletter: thank you for your ongoing support this year, and very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year,