Farmer-Led Innovation: Experiences and Opportunities for Support

This session will explore the thinking behind initiatives to support innovation by farmers, share experiences, and highlight opportunities to get involved. Tom MacMillan will address grassroots research and farmer-focused funding, Caroline Corsie will present on how farmers can turn from advice takers to advice makers.


Stephen Briggs, Abacus Organics
Stephen in principal consultant with “Abacus Organic Associates Ltd” providing sustainable farming consultancy throughout the UK and internationally. In 2011 he undertook a Nuffield Farming Scholar studying Agroforestry in North America, Europe, Australasia & China. Stephen is vice chairman of the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) and is active in influencing agricultural policy at UK and EU levels.

At home, Stephen farms 270 acres of land in Cambridgeshire & in Rutland growing cereals, root crops, vegetable and fruit crops and is pioneering agroforestry, with the UK’s largest system on 125 acres, growing apple trees and field crops together. Agroforestry – mixing trees with crops and or animals on the same plot, is a perfect example of ecological intensification.
Caroline Corsie, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust
Caroline is farm manager for Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. An agronomist, her aim is to encourage farmers to move towards more resilient farming systems. She firmly believes this begins with a focus on soil health and by encouraging farmers and their agronomists to adopt a field by field approach and shows how this doesn’t have to make the system horribly complicated, in fact it can free up time and the Field Lab has shown it can lead to big reductions in pesticide use e.g. for black grass and aphids, which in turn makes the farm a safer place for the farmer as well as wildlife and the environment.

Caroline has a view that honey bee hives are often over worked and has a bee in her bonnet about increasing the awareness of the contribution of native pollinators to our food production, and is currently working with farmers to appraise the ‘Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package’ within the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Tom MacMillan, Soil Assocaition
Tom MacMillan is Director of Innovation at the Soil Association. He runs the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, set up to recognise and support practical innovation by farmers and growers. The programme is in partnership with the Organic Research Centre, Waitrose and the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. Tom joined the Soil Association in November 2011, having been Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council since 2003. He has been a member of the expert advisory panel for the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit’s Food Matters report, a member of the BBSRC Science and Society Strategy Panel, a trustee of Sustain and a director of the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. His PhD examined the use and abuse of science in food regulation.





Tom MacMillan Presentation

Caroline Corsie Presentation