140 farmers, landowners and advisers travelled from as far afield as Cornwall and Galloway to attend the first Agricology ‘Open Day’ at Daylesford Farm in Gloucestershire.
The day highlighted that access to best practice information is crucial for successful, sustainable agriculture.
Using Agricology as an information sharing platform, farmers can be helped to address issues such as animal and plant disease, pest management, soil degradation, environmental damage, rising costs and dipping yields.
The aim of this first on-farm event was to bring Agricology to life, encourage the exchange of practical information and experiences from all farming approaches, as well as showcasing examples of the excellent farmer-led innovation and research currently being hosted on Agricology.
Andrew Burgess, who runs Produce World Group Ltd, a family business in East Anglia and one of 21 expert speakers on the day, outlined the successes of his large-scale vegetable-growing business that now employs more than 500 people.
Andrew gave his view on how organic can successfully meet conventional agriculture. He said, "The Agricology programme makes such sense to me and I love the tag line ‘regardless of labels’.
"Science has always played a strong part in my decision making, whether that be understanding a pest or disease lifecycle to reduce risk or the efficacy and risk of resorting to an artificial input.
"In agriculture we are facing huge challenges, poor returns and political uncertainty and I am very pleased to support this initiative and stand here as both a LEAF and an organic farmer and to show that the sensible way forward is to use the best of both."
Huge amount of common ground
Professor Nic Lampkin, from the Organic Research Centre concluded the day by saying: "A lot of the ideas about alternatives in farming, whether they are shaped by the organic or integrated end, share a huge amount of common ground.
"Agroecology is an umbrella term that picks up a lot of these ideas and it is about using ecology to manage farming systems in a more environmentally sensitive way as well as making good business sense."
He continues: "The other critical thing for me is knowledge. If you don’t have knowledge then things don’t work as well as they should. We have struggled for years to help farmers access good advice and information."
Richard Smith, who led the day at Daylesford said: "It is gratifying that there is a rapidly growing band of farmers that are finding Agricology such an invaluable and comprehensive information resource.
"I certainly benefited from the day and it was apparent that those attending all took home some valuable ideas for their own businesses.
"We hope that this will be the first of many ‘Open Days’ and we look forward to offering similar events in other parts of the country in the future."