Optimising Productivity and Soil Health by Building Soil Organic Matter


This session will explore the thinking behind initiatives to support innovation by farmers, sharing experiences and highlighting opportunities to change practice. Thus Ian Wilkinson will explain about the use of green manures, Rob Richmond will describe his mob-grazing system, and Sara Cross the use of compost and no dig techniques.



Ben Raskin
Ben has been working in horticulture for 20 years. He is currently Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association and also works freelance as a horticultural advisor. He was a founding board member of the Community Farm near Bristol, for whom he also worked as horticultural advisor. Ben set up and ran the 10 acre horticultural production at Daylesford Organic Farm, before moving to the Welsh College of Horticulture as commercial manager. More recently Ben has managed the Soil Assocation’s Future Growers scheme to inspire and train a new generation of organic growers. Ben is also passionate about seeds and has been representing the Soil Association in recent consultations over the European Plant Reproductive Material Law. He is also the author of “Compost, a Family Guide to Making Soil from Scraps” aimed at young children and their parents.
Twitter @ben_raskin, @soilassociation

Sara Cross
Sara was trained in conventional livestock farming and after doing two stints of VSO in countries that had to follow low input methods came back to England looking for work along similar lines. A mutual friend introduced Sara to Andrew Cross. Andrew, after studying agriculture at Seal Hayne, met up with Charles Dowding and was converted to Organic Vegetable growing on a raised bed system with minimal dig. Andrew and Sara have been using this for 26 years on 47 beds (1ha), eight polytunnels and four hectares of field veg. The produce is sold through their farm shop, Castle Cary Market, Langridge Organics (wholesaler-Covent Garden) and a local box scheme. The farm is run totally by Andrew and Sara working full-time with one full-time worker and student helper in the summer.
Twitter @GoldhillOrganic

Ian Wilkinson
Ian studied farm and grassland management at Berkshire College of Agriculture and joined Cotswold Seeds 30 years ago. Since then he’s developed the business with a fundamental focus on the role of providing a bridge between farmers and the scientific community. A family business based in More-ton-in-Marsh, Cotswold Seeds has built its reputation on developing forage, green manures, and complex seed mixtures – as well as providing a personal service to its customers, which now number 10,000 farmers and landowners across the UK. If there’s one man who’s inspired and influenced the work of Cotswold Seeds and guided their product development it’s Frank Newman Turner, a pioneering farmer and author who believed in ‘health from the soil up’. It’s a subject which Ian is passionate about, and which Cotswold Seeds has produced a number of publications on – the latest being the ground-breaking ‘Sort out Your Soil’.
Twitter @CotswoldSeeds

Rob Richmond
Rob was born and brought up on a family farm in North Yorkshire. He gained an honours degree in Animal Science at Edinburgh University, before embarking on a career in farm management. Over the last decade he has gained an insight into holistic farm management, and recently became a Nuffield Scholar – looking at ‘The benefits of rebuilding soil carbon to agriculture and the environment’. The knowledge gained through his travels is now being applied to the dairy farm he manages in the Cotswolds. Robert Richmond is viewed by many as a leading light in the development of mob grazing systems in the UK.


Audio recording


Sara Cross – slides

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