Regen farmers welcome green support

1 Jul 2024

Two farming brothers, Paul and John Cherry, and their wider family, set up one of the world’s most influential events in regenerative farming nine years ago.  

The Groundswell Event ran on Wednesday and Thursday of this week in Hertfordshire. It is a lovely example of a passionate belief turning into a diversified farm ‘enterprise’ and, in-turn, a movement for change. Unlike a lot of farmers that I speak to, the majority of those attending Groundswell are championing the greening of farming support payments and talk to each other about how to maximise these income streams. 

Groundswell is like a cross between the Glastonbury music festival and the Cereals Event and is one of the most positive and uplifting farming shows (besides Turriff) that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  

Some 8,000 people walked through the farm’s gates, including the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Edinburgh and the ‘godfather’ of regen agriculture, John Kempf, an Amish farmer from Ohio who preaches the road to using less and making more.  

Over 300 speakers – from GPs to body builders, farmers, horticulturalists, scientists, bakers, brewers, economists and ecologists – spoke about human health, soil, livestock, agroforestry, profit, cover crops, reducing inputs and everything in between.  

The farmers attending ranged from the novices – those thinking about changing how they farm – to those who are honing their well-oiled regen practices.  

The thing I love about this event is that it is positive, its speakers and attendees look outward into society to see what their farms could be doing for it, and what will make their businesses pay. There are also people from wider society looking into farming and having their say in what happens within.  

Eddie Abbew, a body builder, spoke to a packed big top – he is a huge advocate of meat, eggs and dairy – encouraging people to eat f***ing meat. Henry Dimbleby, Founder of the Leon restaurant chain, anticipates a big shift in the food debate, saying that he foresees a battle ground between junk food manufacturers and appetite suppressing drug makers and that there is a prime spot for farmers to escalate the importance of whole, quality foods within this landscape.   

In every conversation that I had, farmers talked about what farmers do – drainage, drills, cover crops, rotations, variety choice – but also about a lot of collaboration, diversity in everything and the importance of knowing how healthy your soil is. There were so many prompts made to encourage farmers to get more curious, to try new things, to fail and to try again.  

There was no ego, bravado nor competition between the farmers there, just friendly conversation, beer drinking and learning. The whole experience left me feeling positive, happy and hopeful. 

Paul’s son, Alex Cherry said of the event, “As a family, we’ve been on an extraordinary journey, we are constantly surfing the groundswell of ideas that have risen up from a farmer revolution. The sense of community is what people seem to love about this event. It’s really heartening for us to be playing a part in the sharing of ideas and practices to help farmers change and develop what they are doing.” 

For those who have never been, I’d urge you to go. Pack your shorts, sunglasses and a tent. Relax into it and I can predict that you will love it, eat some amazing food – mostly produced by farmers, dance to some great music – including Andy Cato’s Groove Armada – and meet some fascinating people. 

As I was leaving, I asked myself, how many farm diversifications have had this much influence to change so many hearts and minds. Very few I would suggest.