On Tuesday this week several agroecologically-minded farmers attended a Niels Corfield Whole Farm Planning event, facilitated by the amazing team at Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) NI and hosted by the warm and welcoming-as-ever Bronagh O'Kane. Niels delivered an in-depth surgery on how to plan a biodynamic, stacked-enterprise farming model. With a real focus on how to embed principles of agroforestry, fermentation and agroecology into your model, I left with my brain itching to put my head down and design how our land could deliver the most for nature, the community and our business together.
One of the most rewarding things about these courses is the ability to meet similarly ambitious farmers who are acutely aware of the need for a re-think on how we produce and supply food - and more critically, just how important it is to value nutrition that is produced in regenerative, ecologically-rich landscapes. There were folk there from all backgrounds, medical research to agronomy, nature conservation to soil research.
The take home message for me was, incorporating trees and a range of other habitats such as ponds and biodiverse margins into your farm can be done in a way that prioritises both your current production whilst providing multiple other benefits from shelter/windbreaks, woody biomass for fuel and fibre, fruits and nuts, habitat to increase biodiversity, water management and flood control, and also biomass for becoming more independent in your own composting to further remove yourself from reliance on inorganic fertilisers.
The momentum that the guys and girls over at @nffnuk and @growing_innovation_network are building is so great to see and even better, feeling like a big family of farmers determined to create a brighter, more sustainable and healthy future of farming in NI is incredibly rewarding. We all have a favourite food, we all sit down to eat several times a day, we all share a landscape - and farming in a better way unlocks a lot of amazing possibilities for us and for those who come after us.