As the year draws to a close and, as the song says, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, it seems fitting to reflect for a brief moment on the year here at FCCT. It’s certainly been a busy one!
The year has seen some real highlights and fine examples of what FCCT strive to do; namely connect farmers and growers together to share ideas, have great conversations and highlight practical examples of how we can all reduce emissions, and improve efficiencies and ultimately profit.
Bringing together farmers
Our big conference in February brought some great farmers, people and speakers to talk about how we can farm profitably in a changing climate. Highlights from the morning included the fantastic Rebecca Audsley from Scotland who brought some really inspirational examples from the Climate Change Focus Farm programme that she has been running in Scotland. This showed bottom line benefits of reducing farm emissions, usually with minimal capital outlay.
The other thing that the FCCT team felt was of great benefit were the breakout sessions in the afternoon, which were facilitated by FCCT. Farmers who were doing something different were showcased, and provided a great opportunity for questions and conversations around practical issues and how things work at the farm level. This highlighted to FCCT that this role of ‘connecting likeminded individuals together’ and providing a space to explore these issues was something that we wanted to expand.
Focussing on organic matter in the soil
Recently great discussions were held at our organic matter event in Warwickshire, where it was amazing for me to see so many great farmers all together talking about carbon and building soil organic matter. Certainly the whole soil agenda, including organic matter and how it is intrinsically linked to carbon sequestration is gathering momentum. As the International Year of Soils draws to a close, it has helped highlight some of the issues, and the crucial role that we as farmers have to play in the management and care of our most precious resource.
Reading through some of the early entries to our Soil Farmer of the Year competition is inspirational. Seeing how committed many farmers are to managing their soil, and ensuring that its health is enhanced and safeguarded for future generations, makes me genuinely excited for activities that we have planned for next year. Our Soil carbon project has various meetings planned over the coming months, and if you are up for hosting or taking part in one of them, let me know and we’ll get something sorted.
Our demo farm project, which we have had funding from Esmee Fairbairn to set up is going to start properly next year. It has taken a while to get our demo farmers through the carbon foot printing process, and we have had numerous conversations about how, if we are going to be subject to more stringent targets in terms of emissions reductions and auditing, then we all have to work together to see how streamlined we can make the process. With all the advances in technology, it can’t be that difficult surely?!
There will be events happening at all three demo farms across England next year, so again keep your eye on the website and the events list for more details as we finalise the plans.
Joining in a global movement
As well as the Soil Farmer of the Year, we are asking all farmers and growers to join us in showing the world that #SoilsAreSexy and deserve our help. For those of you on social media – follow @FarmC02Toolkit on Twitter and upload a picture of your soil with the hashtag #SoilsAreSexy and join in with the fun. For those of you who aren’t on social media you can always email your images to me and I’ll add them to the gallery on the FCCT website.
The recent climate talks in Paris have focussed the world’s attention on the issues surrounding climate change, temperature rises and emissions. Surprisingly though, agriculture hasn’t played much of a part in the discussions. The agreement though signals the global commitment to do something, although as is always the way with these things, the devil is in the detail and the Paris pledge alone won’t meet the two degree target. Further negotiations (and tough decisions) will need to be made, and is bound to look more closely at farming and food production.
What was encouraging though, was to see some of the other initiatives that were launched, France’s '4 per mille' initiative that aims to adapt agricultural practices across France that store carbon more efficiently in the soil and to raise the organic matter level in French soils and wider across the globe by 0.4% per year. What this will mean is that we can direct more research into the most effective practices for achieving this, and by letting farmers into the conversation with the researchers (as at our event in Warwickshire a few weeks ago), try and bridge the gap between research and practice to deliver effective solutions.
Making farms part of the solution
What is different with agriculture though, when comparing it with other industries that have carbon reduction targets is the sheer diversity of enterprises, systems and environments that we as farmers have to deal with. Agriculture is unique in that there is no “one-size fits all” answer. Our farms that we manage are a unique mix of the earth beneath our feet, the weather that comes down from above and what we do as farmers working with the natural elements. It’s different and special, also because we need farmers to produce our three meals a day, as well as all the other benefits farming brings in terms of preserving the natural environment, safeguarding resources, providing clean water and air... the list could go on! However doing nothing is not an option any more. And it’s because of all these amazing things that we are in control of that we have to be part of the discussions.
So we have some challenging times ahead, with potentially more stringent GHG reduction targets, but it’s something that we should embrace head on, work together, share ideas and use the technology available to us to come up with new ideas! We’re certainly excited about the possibilities.
So from everyone here at FCCT, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year, and see you in 2016.