Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
An Essex farming couple says embracing regenerative farming methods is proving good for their livestock enterprise as well as for the environment. Husband-and-wife team... ‘Our livestock farm is good for the planet’

An Essex farming couple says embracing regenerative farming methods is proving good for their livestock enterprise as well as for the environment.

Husband-and-wife team Sam and Kate Squier are the driving force behind Humphreys Farm, at Great Waltham, near Chelmsford. They rear quality beef using a system which includes rotational grazing and herbal leys.

Cattle at Humphreys Farm follow a routine of twice-a-day rotation in small, concentrated groups, grazing on the herb-rich grasslands. But the farm’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond livestock management – there is public engagement too.

Mr Squier says “It is great to see how much interest there is from the public. We regularly get 30 to 40 people on our farm walks, with people asking questions about things like carbon sequestration.

“Roots in the soil are actively capturing and storing harmful carbon dioxide, rendering the farm carbon negative. This means that the farm removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it produces.”

The positive impact of these practices isn’t limited to carbon reduction – it has also led to a notable increase in biodiversity across the 78ha farm. The health of the farm’s 60 Aberdeen and Wagyu breeding cows has improved too.

Accolade

Recognition for their efforts came earlier this year when Humphreys Farm received the VetPartners Sustainable Beef Farm of the Year award. Chelmsford-based vet Mia Ellis nominated the farm for this accolade.

Cattle are often in the firing line for their impact on the environment and their methane emissions. But Mr Squier believes the couple’s approach shows that responsible livestock farming can be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

“I think the general perception of livestock farmers and their impact on the environment isn’t fair. With the right farming system in place, livestock farmers can make a really positive impact and I think we and, many other farmers, are showing that.”

Mr Squier also believes that a collaborative effort within the farming community industry can meet NFU’s voluntary target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture across England and Wales by 2040.

In addition to their achievements, the Squiers have adopted a local approach to selling their produce. All beef and free-range turkeys is sold direct to customers and to two local pubs, minimising food miles and reducing the farm’s environmental footprint.

FarmED course

Mr Squier’s journey into the environmental farming system began with a short video on grazing herbal leys, leading him to complete a 14-day course at FarmED, a farming and food education center in the Cotswolds.

“I knew straight away this is how I want to farm. I’ve been a farmer for 22 years and the last few years have by far been the most enjoyable. We decided to not make every business decision based on the bottom line, but to look at the bigger picture.”

By 2018, herbal leys had replaced arable cropping entirely under a Countryside Stewardship Scheme, supported by grant-funded fencing and water system for grazing livestock.

Mr Squier says: “That has actually made the business more profitable. The farming system means the farm is more drought resistant and we have no need for fertilisers. Vet fees have also been reduced as the cows are much healthier.

“There is some amazing work being done out there. It is so satisfying to see the impact of the changes we’ve made. I find it mind-blowing to see how quickly nature can regenerate if you give it the chance.

“It gives me a lot of hope for the future of environmental farming. I think there are lots of opportunities for young people with fresh ideas to join the farming industry.

“There will always be challenges that come along but there is a lot to be positive about.”