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More than 6,500 visitors flocked to this summer's Groundswell show – the eighth annual regenerative agriculture event and festival in Hertfordshire. Sell-out Groundswell event is resounding success

• Two-day festival brings farmers together

• More than 200 speakers and 100 sessions

• Plots include cover crops and direct drills

More than 6,500 visitors flocked to this summer’s Groundswell show – the eighth annual regenerative agriculture event and festival in Hertfordshire.

Hosted by the Cherry family at Lannock Manor Farm, near Hitchin, the two-day festival on 28-29 June involved more than 200 speakers from across the world. They included technical experts, regenerative farmers, researchers, politicians, retailers and environmentalists.

Event director Alex Cherry said: “It’s been a monumental eighth Groundswell, welcoming old friends and new faces, and catching up with people about their evolving farms and projects, some of which were initiated at Groundswell.   

“When we first launched Groundswell, just 400 people joined us. Today thousands travel from across the world to look at how we can continue to develop and advance sustainable agriculture, improving our soils and enhancing our food production.

“It is really humbling that, together, we can create stimulating conversations that generate positive change.”

This year’s Groundswell theme addressed the question “What is regenerative agriculture?” Visitors and speakers came together to discuss the theoretical and practical applications of agroecology – and its role in mitigating climate change.

To ensure topics were accessible to everyone, sessions ranged from first principles for those considering a switch to regenerative farming methods, through to advanced sessions looking at integrated pest and disease management.

Across the site, demonstrations and crop plots illustrated the work of exhibitors, including herbal leys and cover cropping, direct drilling, mob grazing, composting and tree management – showing visitors how to integrate different practices into their own farming system.

Visitors included Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh; and Defra environment secretary Thérèse Coffey. Both were given a tour of the site to understand more about the transition towards regenerative agriculture and the challenges facing the farming sector.

Independent plant and soil consultant Joel Williams opened the event. “The term “regenerative” was still an open definition, allowing more people to connect with the concept of agroecology and conservation agriculture, he saud.

“We are still learning and developing the concept but it all stems from soil regeneration, and whilst we often talk about it as an emerging topic, regenerative agriculture is something many are rediscovering, rather than something new on-farm.

“It goes beyond the soil, and is also about regenerating our people, restoring the connections in our communities. That is why, for me, events on on-farm and peer-to-peer learning in the field, is key to generating action.”

Supply chain

Other speakers included biologist, Anne Biklé who explained the role of pasture-fed livestock for the health of humans. She showcased 22 studies, comparing grazing and concentrated cattle diets, concluding that phytochemical levels were 20 times higher in pasture-based diets.

A key focus this year was the need to shorten the food supply chain, with a “moveable slaughter unit” on site. Farmer and abattoir owner Luke Smith explained the investment required and the welfare and economic benefits to rural and agricultural communities.

Farmer and recognised regenerative advocate Richard Perkins felt that customer certification was vital for the future of his business, ensuring that he operates transparently to build a connection between food and farming.

He also highlighted the benefits of using technology and utilising existing tools to provide data for efficient management. One example he shared was the use of drones to teach his poultry to use down and up vision to protect themselves from predators.

Next year’s Groundswell event will take place on 26-27 June 2024.