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Shadow Defra minister visits The Grower

Together wtih Presingoll Farm, we recently hosted shadow Defra minister Toby Perkins and local Labour candidate Perran Moon for a farm tour and discussion on sustainable farming practices.

Toby Perkins, Mark Williams, , Perran Moon , Inez Williams-King, Andy Williams

Presingoll Farm and The Grower recently welcomed Toby Perkins, Shadow Minister for Nature and Rural Affairs, and local Labour candidate Perran Moon, along with their teams, for an engaging farm tour and discussion on sustainable farming practices. Mark and Andy Williams of Presingoll Farm, alongside Inez from The Grower, led the delegation through various aspects of their farming operations, focusing on the integration of nature conservation, water management, biodiversity, and tree cultivation.

During the visit, Toby and Perran delved into the intricacies of our approach to farming, which encompasses regenerative principles and a harmonious coexistence with nature. Mark and Andy shared insights into the farm's evolution over the past two decades, highlighting their commitment to balancing agricultural productivity with environmental sensitive land management and climate change. The visit provided a platform to highlight the farm's innovative approaches, including diversification into tree cultivation, succession planning, public access and addressing the pressing issues of the nature and climate emergency.

The group looked at tree planting on field-corners, to increase habvitat, slower water conveyance to nearby watercourses, and increase ecosystem services across the farm masterplan.

"We had a great discussion, delving into how we balance our need for actions to enhance access to the countryside with the challenges it presents," remarked Mark Williams. "Our commitment to regenerative principles, rotational management, and working harmoniously with nature for over two decades is yielding tangible results in adapting to climate change and socioeconomic shifts. Our positive actions to enhance access are focused around Paws at Presingoll dog exercise field, open farm activity such as community tree planting days along the footpaths, pick your own sunflowers and pumpkins"

Over the last three years The Grower and Presingoll Farm have increased access to the landscape by opening pick your own sunflowers fields and pumpkins fields, with plans to open a maize maze in the future. Community engagement has increased to include tree planting days and farm tours as well as monthly updates in the local community newsletter all as mechanisms to reach out to the local community and change the narrative around farming; illustrating the work behind the scenes and develop a community to help address some of the wider management challenges around fly tipping, anti-social behaviour, arson attacks and other rural crime which the family have seen an increase in over the last few years.

One of the key topics of discussion was the farm's response to climate change, particularly its experiences during the 2022 drought. By implementing a cropping systems, including brassicas, cereals, cover crops and trees, built on improved soil health, Presingoll Farm not only survived the drought but thrived, showcasing the resilience of regenerative farming practices.

"This winter, our balanced and sensitive approach enabled us to harvest trees and cauliflowers successfully while many others faced challenges," shared Andy Williams.

Left to right, Toby Perkins, Andy Williams, Inez Williams-King illustrating recent on farm field corner tree planting and seedling tree production

The recent increase in rainfall across the country brought attention to water runoff and conveyance issues. Presingoll Farm proudly showcased its investments in mitigating water runoff, such as creating field corners to slow water conveyance, planting trees, and enhancing field margins with grass and legume-rich mixes. The farm's proactive approach to addressing these challenges underscores its long-standing commitment to sustainable land management.

Mark and Andy emphasised that sustainable farming practices are not only beneficial for the environment but also essential for the long-term viability of farm businesses. "Investing in sustainable practices has been the cornerstone of our family farm's management for the past 25 years," affirmed Inez. "As stewards of the land, we recognise the imperative to adapt and innovate, ensuring the resilience of our farm business for future generations."

Left to right : Toby Perkins, Perrin Moon, Mark Williams, Inez Williams-King looking at the grading process and tree seedling production

Leading by example, we hope to inspire other growers in the county to adopt similar practices, contributing to a more resilient and environmentally conscious agricultural sector.

In their unique set up The Grower in partnership with Presingoll Farm were able to discuss in detail the difficulties presented to the rural economy for start ups accessing the agricultural and commercial horticulture industry. Both require heavy capital investment and land requirements so access to land, funding for start-ups, overdrafts to aid cash flow in the early years of trading are all issues in young people joining the industry and innovation.

“We've been successful with some of the capital funding that has been available to us over the last three years, and without this we would not have been able to grow as much as we have. However, we've found the grant funding can be too prescriptive and with very high upfront costs many smaller businesses wouldn’t be able to purchase high-cost capital items which offer the opportunity to become vastly more efficient and environmental more sustainable.” Shared Inez of The Grower.

Both business are looking to utilise drones and robotics to help mitigate some of the issues around climate change and access to staff, the rural sector is changing and training/education for young people needs to be aimed at the future of ag/horticulture eg, drones, robotics, autonomy, how these innovations can help enhance our ability to manage soil health and resilience in a changing climate.

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