Ten miles south of Lincoln, outside the village of Wellingore, Chestnut Tree Farm is trying to make a difference to the future of crop production.
Husband and wife Tom and Louise Hounsfield have spent the past decade practicing methods of farming which are mindful of the environment, in an attempt to make a difference for a cause they feel strongly about.
“I don’t believe you need to use processes which put bad materials into the atmosphere,” Tom says, explaining why they have made the changes. “We’re both into ecology and being as kind to the Earth as possible.”
His farm has undertaken no-till farming – a method which removes ploughing and turning of the soil. Instead, a drill is used to plant seeds straight into the soil after it has been combine harvested. This encourages bio-diversity in the soil which in turn helps nutrients to naturally develop. By not disturbing the soil, insects are free to live in the ground and add to the nutrients feeding the crops.
“We haven’t ploughed for seven years, and even before this we were cultivating our farming,” Tom says. The Genetic Literacy Project states some environmental benefits of no-till on its website, listing reduction of fuel-usage and CO2 emissions due to an absence of mechanical equipment.
This is now, perhaps more than ever, a crucial step forward. In this past year, the media has been ripe with reports and advice on how we can reduce our carbon footprint in an attempt to help the environment. The BBC recently published an article outlining ‘the diet to save the planet’, and last week the Guardian promoted ‘flexitarianism’ in a report on the impact of meat excessive meat consumption.
It seems that agriculture is the factor that crops up time and time again in conversations surrounding the environment – is this a new dawn for farming?
Furthermore, Tom is upfront about the farming industry’s future. They are currently in the process of opening a yoga retreat on part of their farming land, which will include glamping and a yoga dome, run by his wife. Tom explains: “Farming is not profitable so we have to think about diversification. We have a lovely space on our land for a yoga retreat.”
During this period of uncertainty for the future of farming, perhaps the industry can follow the example of the Hounsfields when crossing into the next generation of agriculture.